More than 3,000 gather in-person and online to show their support for Israel
By Sharon Wisch-Ray
The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas coordinated a communitywide solidarity gathering in response to the horrific attack on Israeli communities near the Gaza border by Hamas terrorists which began early Saturday, Oct. 7.
The program drew some 2,000 people in person at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas and another 1,100 online Tuesday night. Among the dignitaries in attendance were Senator Ted Cruz, Mayor Eric Johnson, many Dallas City Council members and clergy members both Jewish and non-Jewish from across the community.
The casualties from the Hamas attack have grown daily, numbering more than 1,200 dead, 2,600-plus injured and more than 130 missing or presumed to be hostages. It is the worst loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust; the numbers are expected to grow. Fourteen Americans are among those who were murdered and there are Americans likely among the hostages as well, according to U.S. and Israel officials.
Israel is at war with Hamas after the unprovoked barbaric attack.
The speakers for the evening were Mayor Eric Johnson, Israel Consul General Livia Link-Raviv, Temple Emanu-El Rabbi David Stern and Jewish Agency for Israel Community Shlichah Aya Margalit.
The City of Dallas, an example for all to follow
In his powerful message, Johnson said that at Wednesday’s City Council meeting he was proposing a resolution that would outline where Dallas stood with regard to the Oct. 7 attack.
“What I’m asking that body to do, is to do our small part…to add — well, I’ll just call it moral clarity — to a situation that you would like to think would be clear to everyone, but isn’t apparently,” the mayor said.
He read the proposed resolution aloud to the crowd. The resolution states, “Be it resolved by the Council of the City of Dallas, that the City of Dallas unequivocally condemns Hamas for this deplorable and unprovoked attack on Israel.
“That the City of Dallas stands with Israel in its fight against Hamas, prays for those who have lost family members and friends, calls for the swift return of all hostages, and hopes for a lasting resolution.”
As Johnson hoped, the resolution pass unanimously at the Wednesday morning Council meeting.
A barbaric attack of unimaginable proportion
The consul general explained in graphic detail what she said “can only be described as one of the most shocking pogroms since the Shoah.”
“From the land, air and sea, hundreds of terrorists infiltrated into Israeli towns and communities. They opened fire onto hundreds of young people at a music festival. They went house to house, door by door, murdering in cold blood, men, women and children, the elderly and the disabled. They massacred entire families in moments and shared it on their own social media accounts bragging about it. They raped women, dragged them through the streets of Gaza, all while thousands of rockets rained down into Israel.”
This unprovoked attack is why Israel finds itself at war with Hamas, Link-Raviv explained, wanting to be clear that it this wasn’t just a military exercise or operation.
“What is taking place in Israel right now is not another military operation. This is war being declared on Israel. This is Israel’s 9/11. Let there be no confusion. This is not about politics. This is not about territorial disputes. This is about the murder of Jews simply because they are Jews.”
Link-Raviv said that Israel would see the war to the end and do whatever it took to keep its citizens safe and rid Gaza of Hamas. “We are determined and we are resilient and I assure you Israel will prevail,” she said.
A second front of the war that Israel fights is that of public opinion and of truth. She said there would be a time, as the war progressed, when difficult images from Gaza would come out, and that times would get more challenging.
She urged those gathered to remember the graphic description of the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians she had described and remember the truth.
“Remember this moment. Remember how appalled and outraged you felt. Seeing the atrocities fill your TV screens. Remember this moment, when hypocrites of the world will start talking about proportion and about context. I just shared with you the context in a very graphic way and the proportion is 9/11 times 10.”
Sorrow, mourning and prayer
Rabbi David Stern encapsulated the grief felt by Jews in Dallas and the world over.
“How many times can one say ‘heartbreaking’ until the shards choke us down?”
Rabbi Stern offered a prayer for all involved.
“We pray for the ones offering shelters to the desperate and displaced; the volunteers who have lined up around the block at the blood banks, who drove from north to south with food and supplies and bravery and love.
“We pray for the wisdom for Israel’s leaders to pursue this war towards just ends and with just means.
“We pray to end the reign of terror, the horrific evil of Hamas and to limit the suffering of the innocent. The courage to wage war and then the courage to wage peace for Israel and her neighbors,” Rabbi Stern said.
Aya Margalit is a Jewish Agency shaliach to Temple Emanu-El and URJ Greene Family Camp. The Jewish Agency for Israel describes a shaliach’s role on its website: “…they engage with Jewish and non-Jewish people about Israel, teach Jewish heritage, and speak about issues of national and religious identity. After having this transformative professional and personal experience, Shlichim return to Israel motivated in new ways to effect positive change in their lives and for all of Israel.”
Margalit, her husband Erez and their three children left their home, Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak in Gaza, two months ago to move to the United States. The kibbutz is two miles from the Gaza border.
On Friday night they left Temple Emanu-El after a joyful Simchat Torah celebration. They returned home happy; within hours, that changed.
“After being in heaven, we discovered that our home was in hell,” she said.
She explained that they, as members of various WhatsApp group chats, began to witness firsthand what was happening at their kibbutz: frantic texts, panic and fear.
“We saw people saying,
“‘They’re breaking the windows.
“‘They’re shooting the door.
“‘Help us, help.’
“And there was nothing we could do. We saw people respond crying for their name, saying, ‘Please answer, please answer back.’ And no one did.”
Kibbbutz Nir Yitzhak was decimated. Some were murdered; others were taken hostage.
Margalit said, “Our beautiful, amazing community is hurting — is wounded. Israel is wounded, but we are here to stay. And we are not going to lose this. We can’t. This is our only home.”
She added that Israel is not just for Israelis and the Jewish people but for the whole world.
“That’s where religion started. That’s where our history started.”
She said that when a tragedy like this occurs, standing by isn’t an option; people must take a stand.
Margalit shared additional information she learned about her friends at the kibbutz and the horror they faced Oct. 7. Her pain was palpable.
In addition to the four speakers, Dot Haymann, Federation board chair; Rabbi Shira Wallach, of Congregation Shearith Israel; Rabbi Stefan Weinberg, of Congregation Anshai Torah; Igor Alterman, Federation president and CEO; and Debbi Levy, Federation vice chair, participated in the program. Temple Emanu-El Cantor Vicky Glikin arranged the music and led the gathering in “Eli, Eli” and “Oseh Shalom.”
Th Federation has launched an Emergency Campaign for Israel. There is a matching grant up to $250,000 that has already been pledged by lead donors. Alterman assured that 100% of the funds raised for the Emergency Campaign will go to Israel.
To donate to the Israel Emergency Campaign, visit https://www.jewishdallas.org/crisis.
The evening ended with the many clergy in attendance, both Jewish and non-Jewish, leading “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah” from the bimah.
Watch the entire solidarity program here.