Don’t Dismiss the Power of Prayer


This week, a mass shooter in Texas walked into a Baptist church and murdered 26 people, including more than a dozen children. Many conservatives — and many religious people more generally — immediately offered their thoughts and prayers. The most controversial figure to do so was Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who tweeted, “The people of Sutherland Springs need our prayers right now.”

This drove a tsunami of rage from gun control advocates. Actor Wil Wheaton tweeted, “The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive, you worthless sack of s***.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted, “We have pastors, priests and rabbis to offer thoughts and prayers. What we need from Republicans in D.C. is to do something. Lead.” Keith Olbermann of GQ tweeted in less temperate fashion, “shove your prayers up your ass AND DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIFE BESIDES PLATITUDES AND POWER GRABS.”

It’s questionable whether some additional law would have prevented the massacre in Sutherland Springs. It’s clear from the evidence that the shooter never should have had a gun: He was convicted of domestic violence, including cracking the skull of his infant stepchild; he’d pleaded guilty to animal abuse; he’d been sending threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, who attended the church he shot up. The Air Force has openly admitted that it didn’t send his criminal record to the FBI, which would have prevented him from buying weapons under current law.

But there’s something deeper going on here with the anti-prayer tweets — something more troubling. First, dismissing prayer dismisses the value of religion more generally; second, conflating prayer-driven-action with action you like makes religion irrelevant, and your political agenda paramount.

To dismisss the value of prayer after horrific events demonstrates a lack of knowledge about prayer itself — or worse, an antipathy toward the values prayer promotes. Prayer is designed for several purposes. Prayer reminds us that while we must strive each day to prevent evil from succeeding, God’s plan is not ours; we will not always succeed in stopping evil’s victory. That knowledge suggests a certain humility, an unwillingness to surrender to the foolish optimism of utopianism. It’s why Jews say, “Baruch Dayan Emet” (“Blessed is the true judge), upon learning of a death.

Prayer also helps us see the value in others, and convey that we understand that value to others. Atheists say that prayer is nothing but empty verbiage, but how many people have been changed because they entered a prayerful community? The people who died in the church were attempting to reach out to one another and provide one another support. That’s why we pray with a minyan. It’s why we pray communally.

Finally, prayer reminds us that we must better ourselves: We must treat our friends, neighbors and family members better, correct our mistakes. We cannot change God, but we can change how God responds to us if we change ourselves. In this sense, prayer provides the impetus to action.

We have a reactionary tendency to credit our opponent’s worst intentions.

It’s this last rationale for prayer that many on the left have seized upon to the exclusion of the other two. They say, rightly, that action is one of the anticipated outcomes of prayer. That’s fine so far as it goes — but it doesn’t go particularly far when you are making the secular case for gun control, then demanding religious support for it. Just because someone disagrees with you on a remedy to a problem doesn’t mean that their prayers are insincere — or that the goal of their prayers is the same as yours.

Recognizing that simple truth would go a long way toward healing wounds that seem to be festering. We have a reactionary tendency to credit our opponents with the worst intentions, up to and including insincere use of prayer, in order to press them to embrace us, but the opposite is usually the outcome. If you alienate religious people who disagree with you by stating that their prayers are insufficient, they’re likely to stop seeking common ground. That will be your fault, not theirs: You’re cutting them off at the knees.

Just because we disagree on gun control doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray, or that our prayers lack merit. And ripping prayer itself after dozens of Americans are murdered while praying is disrespectful to our fellow citizens and to the religious victims.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of the conservative podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show.”

Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, of Braunfels, Texas, U.S., involved in the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, is shown in this undated Texas Department of Safety driver license photo, provided November 6, 2017. Texas Department of Safety/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Texas Shooter


At least 26 people were killed and 20 others were injured at Sunday’s shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, TX. The shooter has been identified as Devin Kelley, 26, who is now dead. Who is Kelley, and what was his motive?

Kelley, a former unarmed security guard at a waterpark, has a rap sheet of alleged violence. He plead guilty in 2012 to assaulting his then-wife and stepson; the latter suffered a fractured skull as a result of Kelley’s violence. Kelley was serving in the Air Force at the time and was dishonorably discharged as a result of his actions.

Additionally, Kelley was accused of punching a dog in 2014, an allegation he denied and the charges against him were dropped. Some women have accused Kelley of stalking them, including one who claimed he stalked her when she was 13 years old.

Those who knew in high school described him as being socially awkward and creepy. One former classmate of his told the Daily Mail that Kelley “always creeped me out.” Another wrote on Facebook that Kelley “got in an argument with me in school and tried to punch me several times.”

Other former classmates noted that Kelley frequently berated people online who didn’t subscribe to his atheist worldview.

“He was always talking about how people who believe in God we’re stupid and trying to preach his atheism,” Nina Rose Nava, a former classmate of Kelley’s, wrote on Facebook.

Kelley also recently posted a photo of a firearm resembling an AR-15 to his now deleted Facebook profile, writing “She’s a bad b*tch.” Kelley had an AR-15 and a handgun on him during the shooting.

Under federal law, it is illegal for those who have assaulted or attempted to assault a family member to own a firearm. But Kelley was able to obtain his firearms because the Air Force didn’t provide the FBI with Kelley’s violent history, thus resulting in his background checks to come back clean.

However, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) told CNN that Texas denied Kelley from obtaining a right-to-carry permit.

Prior to the shooting, Kelley had reportedly been texting threats to his mother-in-law, Michelle Shields, who is a member of the First Baptist Church in which the shooting took place. Shields was not present at the church at the day of the shooting, but Kelley’s grandmother-in-law, Lula Woicinski White, was at the church and killed by Kelley.

Kelley and his current wife Danielle are reportedly separated.

Kelley fled the scene of his crime after Stephen Willeford, a former National Rifle Association (NRA) instructor, heard the gunshots from across the street and fired his gun at Kelley.

“I know I hit him,” Willeford told a local news station. “He got into his vehicle, and he fired another couple rounds through his side window. When the window dropped, I fired another round at him again.”

Willeford hopped into another man’s truck and they chased down Kelley. Kelley’s car crashed, and it is believed that he shot himself before law enforcement arrived.

The area around a site of a mass shooting is taped out in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017, in this picture obtained via social media. MAX MASSEY/ KSAT 12/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

27 Dead in Texas Church Shooting


As many as 27 people are dead and 24 others injured in a shooting that occurred Sunday morning in a Texas church. It is the deadliest church shooting in modern U.S. history.

The gunman, identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, entered First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs at 11:30 am local time and fired around 20 shots. The gunman fled the scene and was chased by a local resident into Guadalupe County. It is not known if he killed himself or was killed by the resident.

One of the victims include Annabelle Pomeroy, the 14-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy. Pomeroy told ABC that his daughter “was one very beautiful, special child.”

Multiple others are being treated in nearby hospitals, including three children who are in critical condition.

“My heart is broken,” Wilson County Commissioner Albert Gamez Jr. told CNN. “We never think where it can happen, and it does happen. It doesn’t matter where you’re at. In a small community, real quiet and everything, and look at this, what can happen.”

Sutherland Springs is a small town of less than 400 people that is about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio. Alena Berlanga, who lives close to Sutherland Springs, told the Associated Press that the shooting was “horrific for our tiny little tight-knit town.”

“Everybody’s going to be affected and everybody knows someone who’s affected,” said Berlanga.

President Trump gave his condolences on Twitter:

The Texas senators also issued tweets responding to the situation:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said in a statement, “While the details of this horrific act are still under investigation, Cecilia and I want to send our sincerest thoughts and prayers to all those who have been affected by this evil act. I want to thank law enforcement for their response and ask that all Texans pray for the Sutherland Springs community during this time of mourning and loss.”

Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow are raising money for Vegas victims


Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow are joining comedic forces for “Judd & Adam for Vegas,” a fundraiser to be held at Largo at the Coronet on Friday, Nov 3. Tickets are $250 and proceeds will go to the National Compassion Fund, benefiting victims of the recent Las Vegas shooting, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

If this dynamic duo (with the promise of special guests) doesn’t do it for you, feast your eyes on this masterpiece of a poster – caricature at its finest, with an homage to Las Vegas  icons Siegfried and Roy.

Sandler and Apatow have collaborated on flicks like “Funny People,” but their bromance predates their celebrity. Before getting their big break, the two were roommates in the Valley, splitting a $900/month unit (Sandler slept on the couch). During an interview with 60 Minutes, the two revealed that they’d frequent the restaurant chain Red Lobster (which has the best cheese biscuits, period) once a month. “That was a big night out,” Sandler added. “That was like, ‘We’re fancy now,’” said Apatow.

Find out more about “Judd & Adam for Vegas” here.

A candlelight vigil is pictured on the Las Vegas strip following a mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 2, 2017. Picture taken October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

A Plea After Vegas Shooting: Let Us Bring Light Into Darkness


It’s everyone’s worst nightmare. Our spouse, child, sibling, parent or friend is missing, and we don’t know if they are dead or alive. Families in Las Vegas are living this nightmare right now, moving through hospitals, hoping to find their loved ones and praying that “missing” does not mean an unidentified body.

On Oct. 2, Rabba Ramie Smith and I drove to Las Vegas to be a source of support wherever we were needed after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. We donated food and water — sponsored by Yeshivat Maharat, the first school to ordain Jewish Orthodox female spiritual leaders, from which we both graduated — to a local church that delivered truckloads of supplies to victims, their families and local volunteers and first responders. We participated in a prayer vigil for people of all faiths. And we provided pastoral care for families waiting to hear from authorities about the fate of their loved ones, living this nightmare.

Local police, trauma and grief counselors, chaplains and lay volunteers are doing the holy and excruciating work of walking families through this horrific time, bringing a little bit of light into immense darkness. We are grateful for their service and can and should explore ways to also be of support with them.

But after reading the news, donating things such as food, water, blood and money, and even volunteering, how do we personally process the reality of loss and terror in the world? And especially right now, how do we as Jews celebrate Sukkot, the holiday of prescribed joy, when it seems that our year has started with tragedy?

I believe we can begin to find answers, resilience and even hope when we focus on the sukkah. The sukkah is a place we invite guests (ushpizin), a physical representation of opening our tents, like Abraham and Sarah, to connect with others. At this time of year, God tells us we cannot stay in our homes and avoid the world, we cannot be insular. We have to see our family as bigger than it usually is. Instead, we build a space that is naturally open, that welcomes others to enter, which means bringing strangers into our hearts. This act creates the simcha (joy) of this season because it unites us, making us love one another and see the goodness and Godliness in one another. Joy is an outgrowth of generosity, love and gratitude.

“We are hurt, but we will never be broken. In Vegas, we welcome people from around the world to our home every day. This makes it more horrifying that one of us — a local — did this. Some people think Vegas is a filthy place. But that’s not what it is. It’s my home and it’s hospitality. We will still continue to welcome people. We are strong. People here help each other. This is the Las Vegas that I love. This it the America I love.”

I heard these words from a woman who opened her restaurant in the middle of the night to survivors of the shooting who had nowhere else to go. She made her space — her home — everyone’s home.

This is the message of the sukkah. It is a message we desperately need at times when we would otherwise be isolated, lost and divided — a reality we see right now far too often. It is the response God gave us — the tool He equipped us with — for moments like this when we face unfathomable suffering and tragedy caused by human hatred.

This year, we must respond to the reality of terror, to the horrors of the shooting in Las Vegas, davka by celebrating Sukkot. The sukkah answers loss, terror and tragedy with love, warmth and welcoming arms. It is the antithesis to evil and, God-willing, it will end the nightmare.

This year, as we enter into the sukkah, may God give us the strength and courage to open our tents to those in need, the inspiration and drive to volunteer or donate to efforts supporting the victims and families of Las Vegas, and the joy to be people who make our home everyone’s home.


RABBANIT ALISSA THOMAS-NEWBORN is a member of the spiritual leadership team at B’nai David-Judea Congregation in Los Angeles. Read more about her visit to Las Vegas after the shooting at our partner site JTA.

Las Vegas Metro Police officers after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 1. Photo by Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

Massive Shabbat Dinner On Pico Boulevard Canceled After Las Vegas Shooting


After the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, organizers of a Shabbat dinner gala here in Los Angeles canceled an event that they expected to draw a record-breaking crowd of 5,000.

“Shabbat 5,000,” scheduled for Oct. 27, would have shut down Pico Boulevard between Doheny Drive and Beverly Drive for an open-air Friday night dinner on the asphalt. But after a gunman on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel opened fire on a country music concert on Oct. 1, leaving at least 59 dead and more than 500 others injured, Shabbat 5,000 organizer Joshua Golcheh began to have second thoughts.  

“It was really just about thinking ahead, and being safe rather than sorry,” Golcheh, 27, said.

Golcheh said he spoke with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on Oct. 2 while he and fellow organizer Dara Abaei were deciding whether to cancel the dinner.

Although the LAPD would not tell him to cancel the event, he said officers urged him to proceed with the utmost caution. Golcheh already had plans for barricades, aerial surveillance and a security staff of 60, including armed guards, in addition to an LAPD detail.

But ultimately, he said, he didn’t feel he could rule out an attack such as the Las Vegas shooting.

“There’s no place for putting anyone in harm’s way in my mission statement,” he said. “Therefore we decided to cancel the event.”

The Oct. 27 dinner would have coincided with The Shabbat Project, a global network of community events aimed at bringing together Jews around the world for one Shabbat.

A real estate developer who organizes Jewish unity events under the auspices of his community group, United Nation of Hashem, Golcheh and Abaei organized a Shabbat dinner on Pico Boulevard in October 2015 that attracted more than 3,000 people.

At the time, he told the Journal he wanted to follow up the dinner with a “bigger and better” Shabbat event.

But speaking with the Journal on Oct. 3, Golcheh said he no longer saw an open-air Shabbat dinner as an option.

“I do not foresee an event like this happening ever again,” he said. “I do have creative ideas of how we can have Jews in large audiences together for meals. However, I would never do it in an open-air setting.”

Nationwide, the Las Vegas shooting put the Jewish community on alert.

In an Oct. 2 statement, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said that ADL’s Las Vegas chapter is coordinating with local law enforcement and monitoring the situation closely.

“While we are still learning details and do not know the impetus for the killings, one thing is clear: The threat of mass violence against innocent civilians in America has not abated,” he said. “This threat must be taken seriously.”

Golcheh said he would look for other ways to accomplish the goals of Shabbat 5,000.

“The hope of the event was to bring Jews together,” he said. “And even without having the event, I still hope that Jews throughout Los Angeles can unite and come together and show how strong we are as a nation.

Am Yisrael chai,” he added — long live Israel.

A makeshift memorial is seen next to the site of the Route 91 music festival mass shooting outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on Oct. 3. Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Las Vegas Jewish community rallies to help in aftermath of shooting


Two Las Vegas synagogue held special evening prayers and a GoFundMe page raised over $50,000 for an injured Jewish woman as the city’s Jewish community rallied to help in the aftermath of the mass shooting on the Strip.

Chabad Rabbi Mendy Harlig, a chaplain with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, told the Chabad.org website that he spent time on Monday at a local hospital with the husband and mother-in-law of Natalie Grumet, a Jewish California resident who was injured in the shooting, The Times of Israel reported.

The GoFundMe page established to help Grumet return to California for further treatment had surpassed its $50,000 goal by Tuesday.

Samantha Arjune, daughter of the recently retired superintendent of the Ramaz Jewish day school in New York City, also was injured in the attack. On Monday, she underwent surgery on her leg; Arjune is not in a life-threatening situation.

The two women were among the more than 500 injured in the attack by a lone gunman shooting Sunday night at a concert from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. At least 58 were killed.

Harlig said he spent Sunday night at the scene of the attack offering support to police officers in dealing with the horrors they witnessed and the following day at hospitals providing support to victims and their families. He also worked with Israel’s consul general to help find Israelis visiting or living in Las Vegas who had been unaccounted for; they have all been found and none were injured.

Temple Sinai in Las Vegas on Monday evening held a special service to help the community come to grips with the attack. More than 100 members, young and old, attended the service, the Forward reported. Synagogue members said they planned to visit the injured and their families at local hospitals.

Midbar Kodesh Temple also held special evening prayers and a nighttime vigil.

Todd Polikoff, president and CEO of Jewish Nevada, the state’s Jewish community federation, told The Times of Israel that his staff had been bringing supplies to the blood service sites and sending food to the trauma center.

“Once the physical wounds heal, there are going to be a lot of people who need a lot of care dealing with this in a mental way,” he said. “There were 22,000 people there. We know there were a number of members of Jewish community who were there who got out unscathed physically. But know they’re going to need help.”

A post on the Jewish Nevada Facebook page from Monday said, “As the sun rises on Las Vegas today, we will be a changed city. What will not change is our compassion for one another, our ability to embrace millions of visitors every year, and our resilience in the face of challenging circumstances. This is the greatness that we know persists, in spite of the tragedy that we saw this evening.

“We must now turn to our attention those friends, family, and strangers who are in the most need. They are the ones who will need to see and experience all of the greatness that we embody in our community. Now, more than ever, we need to remind our fellow community members, the rest of the country, and the world that we are #VegasStrong.”

We are incredibly saddened by the violence and loss of life tonight on the Strip. We are also very thankful for the men…

Posted by Jewish Nevada on Monday, October 2, 2017

Las Vegas Metro Police and medical workers stage in the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 1. Photo by Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

Israelis missing in wake of Las Vegas attack accounted for


The Israelis considered as missing in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Las Vegas have been located and none were injured.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel on Tuesday morning that Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles, Avner Saban, and other embassy staff had reached out to Israelis living in Las Vegas and that all were accounted for following the Sunday.

Saban had traveled to Las Vegas to oversee efforts to reach the 18 Israelis unaccounted for and considered missing by the Foreign Ministry following the attack on a country music festival that killed at least 58 and injured more than 500.

Some 7,000 Israelis live in Las Vegas, Saban told the Israeli news website Walla.

Also Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement of solidarity with the United States.

“Las Vegas and the American people experienced a day of horror; the hearts of the people of Israel go out to the scores of innocent people murdered in cold blood,” he said. “Our hearts go out also to the hundreds who are wounded; we pray for their speedy recovery. The people of Israel stand with the people of America this time and anytime, but especially in this time. We will overcome, together.”

President Reuven Rivlin in a letter to President Donald Trump expressed condolences to the families of the dead and wished for the recovery of the injured.

“We stand with you as you mourn the terrible loss of life and injury following this senseless attack on people who had merely gathered together to listen to music,” Rivlin wrote.

Tel Aviv City Hall lit up its rectangular-shaped building in the shape of an American flag using red, white and blue lights.

Concertgoers taking cover at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip following a mass shooting attack on Oct. 1. Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

After Las Vegas shooting, rabbi uses High Holy Days poem to protest gun violence


In the wake of the shooting Sunday night in Las Vegas that left at least 58 people dead, a New Jersey rabbi has used a Jewish poem as a vehicle to argue against gun violence.

Those who attended synagogue during the recent High Holy Days likely chanted or read the “Unetanah Tokef,” which describes how God decides at the beginning of each Jewish New Year who will live and who will die.

“On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed/ And on Yom Kippur it is sealed/ How many shall pass away and how many shall be born/ Who shall live and who shall die/ Who shall reach the end of his days and who shall not/ Who shall perish by water and who by fire,” reads the most recognizable part of the poem, which goes on to list different ways people can die.

The version by Rabbi Douglas Sagal of Temple Emanu-El, in the central New Jersey town of Westfield, substitutes gun models and makes for the causes of death: “who by full automatic fire, and who by semi auto; who by AR, and who by AK; who by pistol and who by revolver.”

But unlike the “Unetanah Tokef,” in which the reader is comforted to know that “repentance, prayer and righteousness avert the severe decree,” Sagal ends by saying that those actions “will do absolutely nothing to avert the decree, nothing, for our politicians are too frightened.”

Read Sagal’s poem here:

Unetaneh Tokef for AmericaToday it is written, today it is sealed in the United States of America-Who shall die, and…

Posted by Douglas Sagal on Monday, October 2, 2017

FBI agents ride an armored vehicle to a staging area on the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 2. Photo by Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

Enough with your thoughts and prayers. People are dying.


As of the most recent count, 58 people were senselessly murdered in Las Vegas last night, and more than 500 wounded. Another horrific mass shooting tragedy on American soil. This is a sad day for our country—and I am heartbroken for the many families whose lives have been irrevocably upended by this act of terror. But for all of those thinking and praying for the souls of the dead and their bereaved families, think and pray on this: we, as a nation, have once again failed to protect our citizens from preventable tragedy.

There is so much we don’t yet know about this shooting. What does seem clear is that the gunman used at least one fully automatic assault weapon and had ten rifles in his hotel room. These are weapons of war, easily accessible in America. There have been 1,400 mass shootings since Sandy Hook, and yet we have failed to think or pray up a way to pass legislation that would change this reality. And even worse, after highly publicized mass shootings, there tends to be a loosening of gun laws. Right now, Congress is considering legislation that would make it easier to obtain silencers. Just imagine the increased scope of the carnage last night had the shooter possessed a silencer. It is criminal that Congress has failed to act in the face of the epidemic of mass shootings over the past many years; it is obscene that they are considering legislation that will exacerbate the problem.

This is not rocket science. A ban on weapons designed for battlefield use and a ban on high capacity magazines. Universal background checks for all gun buyers. Expanded mental health treatment. Restricted gun sales to anyone with a history of violence—especially a history of domestic violence—or mental illness. The overwhelming majority of Americans support these measures. So what exactly are we waiting for? Maybe we should pray on it?

Charles Clymer wrote this morning: “Being in this country, right now, is living in a terrible lottery. At anytime, at any place—a church, a school, a concert, at work, on a random street—we are at risk of being in a massacre. And our Congress continues to do nothing. They have failed us.”

One of these days, our nation will hit a tipping point. I dread the calamity that finally awakens us to the need to extricate our political system from the craven grip of the NRA and take real action to protect people from weapons of war. In the meantime, shame on us for not mustering the political will and the moral outrage to effectively address this crisis. Shame on us for letting our elected officials off the hook.

The news cycle will move on from this in a couple of days. It always does. And the only ones left to dwell in the tragedy will be those who lost loved ones or whose lives are forever altered by injury and trauma.

I am a person of faith, someone with a real prayer life. But I also know the limits of prayer: we cannot pray our way out of this endless loop of devastation and distraction. The only way out is collective spiritual and political action. That means saying NO to the diversionary tactics, NO to the empty excuses, NO to the bald-faced lies that will inevitably follow on the heels of this tragedy, as they always do. We have to use our voices, our resources, our connections, whatever public platform and political capital we have to call out the insanity of easy access to deadly weapons. This will not end until we end it.


Enough with your thoughts and prayers. TAKE ACTION: Call your members of congress.
Tell your House Member to oppose the Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act (SHARE Act) which would deregulate gun silencers.
Tell your Senators to oppose Senate Bill 446, the concealed carry reciprocity bill.
Learn more here: https://everytown.org/act/
Find your rep here: https://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep


Sharon Brous is senior rabbi and founder of IKAR.

People run outside the Mandalay Bay Hotel after a gunman opened fire on attendees of the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1. Photo from Twitter

An Israeli trauma expert predicted a Las Vegas attack three years ago


When Dr. Avi Rivkind landed in Las Vegas three years ago to lecture as a trauma care expert, he saw something that troubled him.

The airport, McCarran International, felt too open, almost exposed.

He felt no less comfortable on the city’s Strip while watching crowds flow from hotels to casinos to shops to the street — with little security in sight.

“I felt there was a lack of presence, from the ease of getting around there, from the casinos, from how easy it is to enter all the malls,” he told JTA on Monday. “I felt very uncomfortable.”

Rivkind, who heads the Shock Trauma Unit at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, is a pioneer in treating victims of mass-casualty terror attacks. He gained his experience treating terror victims in Israel, and his techniques were used in 2013 to save the lives of some of the injured in the Boston Marathon bombing.

He came to Las Vegas in the summer of 2014 to speak at a Hadassah conference, but cut his trip short when Israel’s most recent war with Hamas broke out.

Before he left, however, Rivkind delivered a warning to a local TV channel: Get ready for a potential terror attack.

“With all the casinos and people are coming here from all over the world, I think you should take a huge situation,” Rivkind told Channel 8, the local CBS affiliate. “I don’t want to give anybody any ideas. However, you should be well prepared. In my mind, it’s a question of time.”

Rivkind’s words feel ominous today after a gunman rained bullets from a Las Vegas hotel room window, killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 500 at a concert Sunday in the worst mass shooting in American history. Police said the gunman, Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada — killed himself and appears to have acted alone.

Rivkind had spent stints living in Los Angeles and Baltimore, so he was familiar with the scale of an American metropolis. But he hadn’t felt scared in those cities.

Although he can’t remember details now, Rivkind said something felt more dangerous about the public spaces in Las Vegas. He noted that some of the 9/11 hijackers met in the city before carrying out their 2001 attack.

The doctor said he offered to advise local government officials on emergency preparedness but never heard back.

“It was clear, I don’t know why, that it was destined for calamity,” he told JTA.

His specialty is blast trauma, or how to care for victims of a bombing attack, honed during the bloody years of the second intifada at the beginning of the century. Rivkind has taught at hospitals around the world how to save victims from massive blood loss and injuries to vital organs. In one instance he revived a soldier who had been shot in the heart and was pronounced dead in the field.

Rivkind also invented the “accordion method” of efficiently moving patients through stages of assessment in a crowded emergency room. He was the personal physician for the late Israeli President Ezer Weizman, and helped care for Ariel Sharon when the former prime minister fell into a coma in 2006 following a stroke.

But Rivkind cautioned that medical care after a mass shooting like Sunday’s is different from treatment following a bombing. Besides, he said, “this is a time to turn inside yourself and feel the pain. This is not a time to give suggestions.”

But after a career saving the lives of terror victims, Rivkind said the news of the Las Vegas attack hit especially hard.

“On one hand, you do exceptional things to save a human life,” he said. “Then one crazy piece of shit comes to kill without blinking an eye.”

Police and rescue personnel at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Ave after a shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Oct. 2, 2017. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

At least 58 dead, over 500 wounded in shooting attack in Las Vegas


At least 58 people are dead and more than 500 wounded in Las Vegas in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The attack took place at a country music festival outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Strip late Sunday night.

The gunman has been identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, who apparently killed himself in a standoff with police. Paddock reportedly shot at the crowd with automatic weapons from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay at around 10 p.m. while singer Jason Aldean was performing. Police said at least 10 firearms were found in the hotel room. Aldean was the final performer of the night and of the festival.

Some 22,000 people were at the venue at the time of the shooting, though not all were at the concert. Among the dead and injured are police officers.

President Donald Trump in a nationally televised news conference called the attack “an act of pure evil.” He offered his and wife Melania’s condolences to the families of the victims of the attack and prayers for the recovery of the injured.

Trump said the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are working with local officials to investigate the attack. The president said he would visit Las Vegas on Wednesday to meet with investigators, first responders and families of the victims.

Anna Rubin, director of media affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, which serves the entire region of the southwest United States, including Nevada, told the Journal five Israelis were unaccounted for in the wake of the attack.

“We are monitoring the situation,” Rubin said, explaining that the consulate was notified by the missing individuals’ families. Additional information on the missing Israelis, whose parents are in Israel, was not immediately available.

Emmanuel Nachshon, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, in a tweet sent “love and solidarity from Jerusalem.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement of solidarity with Americans.

“On this terrible day, the people of Israel stand shoulder to shoulder with the American people in mourning and sorrow. Our hearts go out to the victims’ families and we wish a speedy recovery to the wounded. We grieve with you.”

Some 7,000 Israelis live in Las Vegas, Avner Saban, Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles, told the Israeli news website Walla. Saban traveled to Las Vegas to help locate the missing Israelis.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that Paddock converted to Islam several months ago, but did not offer any proof, The Associated Press reported. Senior U.S. officials have dismissed the claim. An FBI official at a media briefing in Las Vegas also also said the investigation has determined there was no connection to any international terrorist group but the probe would continue.

The Jewish mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman, in a tweet asked her followers to “Pray for Las Vegas.” She also thanked the first responders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement of solidarity with Americans.

“On this terrible day, the people of Israel stand shoulder to shoulder with the American people in mourning and sorrow. Our hearts go out to the victims’ families and we wish a speedy recovery to the wounded. We grieve with you.”

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that Paddock converted to Islam several months ago, but did not offer any proof, The Associated Press reported. Senior U.S. officials have dismissed the claim. An FBI official at a media briefing in Las Vegas also also said the investigation has determined there was no connection to any international terrorist group but the probe would continue.

The Jewish mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman, in a tweet asked her followers to “Pray for Las Vegas.” She also thanked the first responders.

Sheriff Joe Lombardo in a news conference said that Paddock was a “local individual” and police were assessing whether the shooting was an act of terrorism. Several news outlets later identified Paddock as being from Mesquite, Nevada, about 80 miles from Las Vegas, along Nevada’s border with Arizona.

Paddock reportedly was not known to police, was not a veteran of the military and lived in a retirement community.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, in the wake of the attack called for gun control legislation.

“This latest mass shooting cannot be termed a random act of violence,” he said in a statement. “Even before all the facts are known we know this: rather than revere gun rights our country must finally revere human life.”

“We mourn those callously slaughtered in Las Vegas and pray for the wounded. But our prayers must be followed by action, long overdue limits to the easy access to fire arms.”

There are over 70,000 Jews and at least 19 synagogues located in Las Vegas, according to the JewishVegas.com website.

The mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, near the scene of a shooting near the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 14. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Jerusalem’s top Muslim cleric detained following deadly Old City shooting


Israeli police detained the senior Muslim cleric of Jerusalem after a terrorist attack in the city that left two Israeli police officers dead, a son of the mufti of Jerusalem said.

The grand mufti of the city, Mohammed Hussein, was detained for questioning Friday at a police station in the Old City, his son, Omar, told The Associated Press.

According to the news site NRG, the mufti was called in to answer questions over his call to worshippers after the attack to ignore a temporary ban on prayer and public gathering at the Temple Mount compound and the Haram al Sharif mosque. Police closed the area after two Israeli police officers were killed there and another was wounded, allegedly by three Arab-Israeli men of Palestinian heritage whom security forces killed at the scene of the attack.

Hussein called the closure “an escalation and aggression against al-Aqsa,” the Arab-language name of the compound.

In the aftermath of the attack, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem instructed government employees and their family members not to enter the Old City of Jerusalem, without prior approval, until 8 a.m. Saturday.

Private U.S. citizens should “take into consideration these restrictions and the additional guidance contained in the Department of State’s travel warning for Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank when making decisions regarding their travel in the Old City and in Jerusalem,” the statement also read.

The American ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, wrote on Twitter about the attack: “Shocked and horrified by the despicable attack.” He added: “Terrorism must be condemned by all and defeated. We pray for the victims.”

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, condemned the attack in a telephone conversation he initiated with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Anti-Defamation League praised Abbas for acting “appropriately,” but blamed the attack on Palestinian incitement under his watch.

“For decades, there has been unceasing incitement against Israel, rife with false allegations about policies and actions in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount, from Palestinian and Israeli Arab religious and political leaders,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO, and Carole Nuriel, the director of its Israel office, wrote in a joint statement.

They said Abbas and other “Arab political and religious leaders must now take concrete action to curb anti-Israel incitement.”

Israeli medical personnel taking away the dead body of one of the terrorists involved in a shooting attack near the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 14. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90

2 Israeli police officers killed in Jerusalem terrorist attack


Two Israeli police officers were killed and another one was injured by Arab Israelis of Palestinian origin who opened fire on security forces in Jerusalem’s Old City.

At least three armed terrorists were killed in a gunfight with security forces on Friday at the Lions’ Gate, which is situated directly northeast of the Temple Mount compound, the Israeli Broadcasting Corp., or IBC, reported.

The officers killed were Kamil Shanan, 22, and Hail Satawi, 30, Army Radio reported. The officers were Druze, according to a statement condemning the attack by Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister. The third officer hurt in the attack is in stable condition.

The attack was considerably bloodier and better organized than the dozens of terrorist attacks that Israel’s security services record each month in Jerusalem. Featuring semi-automatic weapons and multiple assailants, it constituted a substantial escalation compared to most of the attacks, which feature the use of knives and homemade firebombs.

The attack occurred at around 7 a.m., police told the IBC, when the Temple Mount compound was largely empty. The gunmen fired on the police officers before fleeing into an area housing several mosques before they were shot dead by security forces in pursuit. They were carrying a handgun and two Carlo assault rifles — makeshift weapons favored by Palestinian terrorists that are produced in metal workshops in the West Bank and Gaza.

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, condemned the attack during a telephone conversation he initiated with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.

Attacks rarely occur so close to the Temple Mount compound, which also houses the Haram a Sharif mosque.

The suspected assailants were from Umm al Fahm, the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, said in a statement. The agency identified them as Mohammed Hammed Abed al-Latif and Mohammed Ahmed Mafdl Jadarin, both 19, and Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed Jabarin, 29. They had no previous record of terrorist activity.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s interior security minister, told Army Radio that the “unusual and severe incident may require Israel to review its security arrangements around the Temple Mount.” And Zeev Elkin, the Cabinet minister responsible for issues connected with Jerusalem, told the radio station the attack was possible because of Israel’s desire to allow freedom of worship to Muslims and others at the site.

“Though we want to allow freedom of worship to Muslims at the Temple Mount, we need to balance that with the desire to prevent the cynical use of precisely this holy site for staging terrorist attacks,” Elkin said.

Separately, an 18-year-old Palestinian was killed Friday morning during clashes with Israeli troops near Bethlehem, IBC reported. The Palestinian Maan news agency identified him as Baraa Hamamda. An Israeli army spokesman told Maan that during a detention raid in Bethlehem’s al-Duheisha neighborhood, Palestinians threw “explosive devices and blocks” at Israeli forces, who fired toward the youth.

The Israel Security Service recorded a total of 94 terrorist attacks against Israelis in June – a 35 percent drop over the previous month. Of those, 21 occurred in Jerusalem, compared to 29 in May. One victim was killed in terrorist attacks in June, an Israel Border Police agent, and three other security personnel were wounded.

Investigators at Eugene Simpson Field in Alexandria, Va., the site where a gunman opened fire on June 14. Photo by McNamee/Getty Images

Suspect in shooting at Republicans baseball practice was Bernie Sanders backer


James T. Hodgkinson, the suspect in the shooting at a Republican team’s baseball practice for a charity game against congressional Democrats, backed Bernie Sanders, according to his social media account.

Police say it is too early to determine a motive in the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, that wounded Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the third-ranked Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, and others. The media scrambled to provide biographical details about Hodgkinson, reporting that he owned a home inspection business and was described by a friend as “really progressive” in his politics.

A portrait of Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont and the first Jewish candidate to win major nominating contests in a presidential primary season when he vied last year for the Democratic presidential nod, is the background photo on Hodgkinson’s Facebook page. The Washington Post quoted an acquaintance of Hodgkinson as saying they met campaigning for Sanders.

Hodgkinson, who reportedly opened fire with an automatic weapon, was shot in return fire by Capitol Police officers who were present at the practice for Thursday’s game against the Democrats. President Donald Trump said Hodgkinson died of the injuries he sustained during the shooting.

Sanders in a statement said that he was praying for the recovery of Scalise, who is in stable condition. Two Capitol Police officers and at least two others present were wounded.

“Our prayers go out for a full recovery of Rep. Scalise, the congressional aides and police officers who were injured,” said Sanders. “We’ve got to stop the violence.”

Later, after learning that Hodgkinson had apparently backed his candidacy, Sanders added to his statement.

“I am sickened by this despicable act,” he said. “Let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values.”

Hodgkinson, 66, a resident of Belleville, Illinois, filled his Facebook page with screeds against Trump and last year against Hillary Clinton, the Democrat who won the nomination but lost the general election to Trump. He signed a petition urging the Senate to remove Trump from office for treason.

In an impromptu news conference, Trump sent best wishes to Scalise and the others wounded.

“Please take a moment today to cherish those you love and always remember those who serve and keep us safe,” he said.

The Democratic team was practicing nearby. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed their grief and well wishes.

Gabrielle Giffords, a former Democratic congresswoman from Arizona who is Jewish and was seriously wounded in a deadly January 2011 attack by a gunman, was among the well-wishers.

“My heart is with my former colleagues, their families & staff, and the US Capitol Police – public servants and heroes today and every day,” Giffords, who has since become a leading advocate for gun ownership reform, said on Twitter.

Houston gunman was wearing Nazi paraphernalia, sources say


The gunman who carried out Monday morning's shooting that wounded nine people was wearing what appeared to be Nazi paraphernalia, two law enforcement sources told Channel 2 Investigates' Robert Arnold.

The shooting was reported just after 6 a.m. near a shopping center on the northwest corner of Weslayan and Bissonnet streets.

Read more at click2houston.com.

Multiple deaths reported at shooting in Munich shopping mall


Gunmen went on a shooting rampage in a shopping mall in the southern German city of Munich on Friday, killing and wounding many people, police said.

It was the third major act of violence against civilian targets to take place in Western Europe in eight days. Previous attacks in France and Germany were claimed by the Islamic State militant group.

Munich police said they suspected it was a terrorist attack.

Authorities were evacuating people from the Olympia mall but many others were hiding inside. Munich's main railway station was also being evacuated.

A Munich police spokeswoman said multiple people were killed or wounded. No suspects had been arrested yet, she said.

“We believe we are dealing with a shooting rampage,” the spokeswoman said.

Bavarian broadcaster BR said six people were dead and many wounded in the shopping mall.

NTV television had reported the Bavarian Interior Ministry as saying three people were dead, but the ministry said later it would not confirm this.

More than one gunman was believed to be involved, the police spokeswoman said.

“We believe there was more than one perpetrator. The first reports came at 6 p.m., the shooting apparently began at a McDonald's in the shopping centre. There are still people in the shopping centre. We are trying to get the people out and take care of them,” she said.

Police special forces had arrived at the scene, NTV said.

Munich police said on Facebook that witnesses reported three different people with weapons. Shooting was also reported on Hanauer Street and Ries Streetet, near the mall.

The police told people to stay in their homes or take cover in buildings. Authorities were evacuating people from the Olympia mall. But many others were hiding inside, an employee told Reuters by telephone.

“Many shots were fired, I can't say how many but it's been a lot,” the employee, who declined to be identified, said from the mall.

“All the people from outside came streaming into the store and I only saw one person on the ground who was so severely injured that he definitely didn't survive,”

“We have no further information, we're just staying in the back in the storage rooms. No police have approached us yet.”

Munich transport authorities said they had halted several bus, train and tram lines.

The shopping center is next to the Munich Olympic stadium, where the Palestinian militant group Black September took 11 Israeli athletes hostage and eventually killed them during the 1972 Olympic Games.

IS SUPPORTERS CELEBRATE

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but supporters of Islamic State celebrated the rampage on social media.

“Thank God, may God bring prosperity to our Islamic State men,” read one tweet.

“The Islamic state is expanding in Europe,” read another.

Friday's attack took place a week after a 17-year-old asylum-seeker wounded passengers on a German train in an axe rampage. Bavarian police shot dead the teenager after he wounded four people from Hong Kong on the train and injured a local resident while fleeing.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told Bild newspaper's Friday edition before the mall attack that there was “no reason to panic but it's clear that Germany remains a possible target”.

The incidents in Germany follow an attack in Nice, France, on Bastille Day in which a Tunisian drove a truck into crowds, killing 84. Islamic State also claimed responsibility for that attack.

Friday is also the five-year anniversary of the massacre by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway. Breivik is a hero for far-right extremists in Europe and America.

The Munich assault was also reminiscent of Islamist militant attacks in a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2013 and on a hotel in Mumbai, India, in November 2008.

Israeli man shot in West Bank while in car with wife, 6 kids


An Israeli man was injured when his car was hit by multiple gun shots in the West Bank on Saturday evening.

Eitan Finkel, 30, of the southern Israeli city of Netivot, was driving with his wife and six children when his vehicle was hit near the Tekoa settlement, the Israel Defense Forces told the Israeli media. Finkel continued driving to the Efrat settlement, where he was taken by ambulance to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Speaking from the hospital, Finkel told the Hamodia newspaper that he was surprised when a gunman “standing right across from us” did not shoot.

 

“It was a tremendous miracle. Only after we turned did he open fire on our car,” he said. “I managed to come out alive, and my wife screamed, ‘Drive, drive, hit the gas.’

“I asked my wife right away how the children are. I kept driving for another 10 minutes, until I saw an army jeep and stopped. During the whole drive I didn’t feel my leg, or that my shoe was filled with blood. My wife jumped out of the car and called the soldiers over, and from there I was evacuated to the hospital.”

The family had been heading home after visiting the settlement of Metzad, The Times of Israel reported.

On Sunday, two West Bank Palestinian villages remained under a military closure as Israeli troops searched for the shooters.

Israeli man killed, wife badly hurt in shooting attack on family car


An Israeli man was killed and his wife was severely wounded in a shooting attack near a West Bank settlement.

The attack Friday near Beit Hagai was against a family traveling in their car on Route 60, Army Radio reported. Two of the family’s children were wounded: A 15-year-old boy, Pedayah, who sustained moderate wounds and his 13-year-old sister, Tehilah, who was lightly wounded. The man killed was identified as Michi Mark, a man in his 40s from the West Bank settlement of Otniel, situated eight miles southwest of Hebron. His wife, Havah, was wounded in her head and is not conscious, Army Radio reported.

A car with Palestinian license plates overtook the family car on the road when individuals inside the overtaking car opened fire from automatic weapons on the family car. Israel Defense Forces troops, who are searching the area in a massive manhunt for the shooters, discovered 19 bullet casings at the scene of the attack. A picture of the car after the attack showed it overturned on the road, its front badly damaged. The couple had nine children.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday ordered that the amount of money being transferred by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and their families be deducted from tax revenue collected by Israel, which it then transfers to the Palestinian Authority.

Earlier on Friday, Israeli troops killed a Palestinian woman whom they said had tried to stab them in Hebron. In a separate incident, a Palestinian man died from inhaling tear gas at a riot near Ramallah.

The woman, identified on Ynet as Sara Hajaj, 27, on Friday tried to carry out a stabbing attack near the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Old City of Hebron, Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said. Border Police shot her after she had tried to stab an officer at a checkpoint with a knife, Israeli police said.

Palestinian media did not immediately identify the man who reportedly died of tear gas inhalation on Friday.

Hajaj was a native of the village of Bani Naim in the Hebron area, Ma’an news reported. On Thursday, a teenage boy from the same village, 17-year-old Muhammad Nasser Tarayrah, stabbed and murdered a 13-year-old girl, Hallel Yaffa Ariel, in Kiryat Arba — a Jewish settlement near Hebron. He was killed by security services in Ariel’s house, where he stabbed her to death in her bedroom. The Israel Defense Forces imposed a curfew on the village.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to strengthen Kiryat Arba, a major friction point between Palestinians and settlers in the West Bank, following the murder. On Friday, his office said in a statement, Netanyahu spoke with the parents and other family members and said: “We strengthen this place. Apart from the fighting, we will make it stronger. I will sit with the Defense Minister and we will decide how to strengthen the community.”

To see Ariel’s room, “to see the blood stains next to her bed and the books and clothes of a small child, this is shocking,” Netanyahu added during his visit to the settlement Friday. “It reminds us again who we are facing. They want to uproot what has been planted and we will deepen the roots. They will not make us leave here. I was impressed by this splendid family. Their spirit will not break and neither will ours. We will deepen the roots.”

In a second attack on Thursday, an armed Israeli civilian shot dead a Palestinian man in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya after he allegedly carried out a stabbing attack, leaving two Israelis wounded.

Israeli police Friday detained a 30-year-old resident of Jaffa on suspicions that the man assisted a now slain Palestinian to carry out a stabbing attack in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya on Thursday, according to Israel’s police spokesperson.

An attack on my Israeli neighborhood, 6,000 miles away


Had the attack happened two weeks ago, I would have jumped out of my chair, thrown my laptop and camera in my bag, grabbed two pens and run across the street — straight to the scene of the shooting.

It was a drill that became second nature to me during four years of reporting in Israel. I was at the scenes of bus bombings and rocket attacks. I took taxi after taxi to the hospital to interview victims.

“What happened?” I would ask, along with a gaggle of reporters all scribbling into their phones and notepads. “What do you remember? Can you describe how you felt?”

When the attacks took place in my adopted hometown of Tel Aviv, like Wednesday’s shooting that left four people dead and five injured, the news was personal too. Friends texted each other and posted on Facebook that they were OK. Social media feeds clogged with anger, sadness and relief.

Two weeks ago, I lived a two-minute walk from the scene of Wednesday’s attack. Sarona, a chic pedestrian mall filled with shops, restaurants and play areas, was where my wife and I took weekend walks with our newborn son in his stroller. It was where I met colleagues for a mid-afternoon coffee. Occasionally, it was where we splurged on a nice dinner, as many Israelis were doing when the shooting began Wednesday.

Reporting on terror attacks in Tel Aviv was never gratifying and rarely original. My colleagues and I all inevitably wrote the same stories and quoted the same people. Three times in four years, I wrote news features about terrorism shattering Tel Aviv’s purported bubble of calm.

But producing those articles, as boilerplate as they sometimes felt, also gave me a way to process the tragedy. Getting all the facts straight as they emerged, recording all the quotes, writing it all out, allowed me to create some distance from the attacks so close to home.

Now, having moved to New York to cover the Jewish beat here, I find myself thousands of miles removed from a shooting that, so recently, would have been almost at my doorstep. I feel a sense of relief, knowing that my family and I are shielded by an ocean from the violence that used to be part of my job and our lives.

But as my Facebook feed fills again with reassurances and despair, all I can do is nervously sit and watch — my laptop in front of me and my notepad by my side.

BREAKING: UCLA campus remains on lockdown after shooting; Two killed


This story is developing

LAPD confirms two dead in UCLA shooting. It is unknown if the two male victims were students, faculty or visitors.

The shooting was first reported at Boelter Hall.

The event is being considered an active shooter situation while police search for the suspect. The FBI and ATF are both responding.

The Daily Bruin's twitter feed  says the shooter has been described as a white male, roughly 6 feet tall wearing a black jacket and black pants. 

According to the LAPD Dispatch scanner, a student has reported possibly seeing the suspect walk by a UCLA residence hall wearing a flak jacket. 

There are also uncomfirmed reports that there was a separate shooting in the Mathematical Sciences building. 

The entire campus remains on lockdown. 

UCLA transportation and LAPD are asking people to avoid the area. All buses are being routed away from campus.

LAPD is on city-wide tactical alert while shooter remains at large.

Four Israeli soldiers injured in two West Bank attacks


Four Israeli soldiers were injured in two car-ramming and shooting attacks in the West Bank.

Two Palestinians drove into a group of Israeli soldiers early Monday morning at a traffic junction in front of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, then exited the car and opened fire, injuring one soldier, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Soldiers at the scene shot and killed the assailants, the IDF said. The shooters had a pistol and a rifle in their possession.

A few minutes later, a second car driven by a Palestinian driver rammed into the soldiers at the same junction, wounding one, according to the IDF. Soldiers killed the driver as he attempted to exit his vehicle. He was found to be carrying two knives, the IDF said.

Two other soldiers were wounded in the attacks.

Two of the assailants were from Hebron and one was from a nearby Palestinian village, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

Columbine shooters had tense moment over Passover seder, mother recalls


Columbine school shooter Dylan Klebold revealed he was Jewish when he mentioned dreading a family Passover seder — creating a tense moment with his fellow shooter, his mother said.

Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had openly admired Adolf Hitler. They opened fire on students and teachers at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado, on the Nazi leader’s birthday in 1999, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 23 people before taking their own lives.

Dylan’s mother, Sue Klebold, confirmed to radio host Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” Tuesday that she is Jewish, and her now ex-husband, Dylan Klebold’s father, is Lutheran, and said her son had not wanted to attend the family’s Passover seder, which took place weeks before the shooting.

She recalled seeing a video after the shooting in which Dylan Klebold mentioned the upcoming seder, leading to a tense moment with Harris, who she thinks was previously unaware Klebold had Jewish family.

“What was surprising and shocking about that component of the tapes was that it was obvious to Eric that he didn’t know that Dylan had Jewish family members – that it was a surprise to Eric. And I remember Dylan sort of backpedaling and saying, ‘Well, she’s not really Jewish. She’s really just sort of an eighth Jewish, or maybe a fourth Jewish,’” Sue Klebold said.

“And Eric stared at him in the tapes. And there is a moment in observing those where you really wonder what Eric is going to do, if he is going to extend sort of a condemnation to Dylan or to me. And it’s very quiet for a moment. And you can see that Dylan is visibly shaken by having to reveal this.”

The exchange was recorded on the “basement tapes,” in which the shooters express their wide-ranging hatreds – including of Jews – and lay out their violent plans. The tapes were destroyed by a local sheriff; something Klebold advocated for.

Ultimately, Klebold said, Harris chose not to hold Dylan’s Jewish heritage against him.

“But then Eric says you know, ‘That’s a bummer,’ or you know, ‘I’m sorry man,’ or something that’s expressing his sympathy for having to deal with this,” she said.

Klebold is promoting “A Mother’s Reckoning,” an account of how she has dealt with her son’s murder-suicide. (All of the author revenues from the book, minus expenses, will be donated to research and charitable foundations focusing on mental health issues).

Dylan Klebold relented and attended the seder, where he read the Four Questions.

Five dead, suspect held in Canada school shooting


Five people were killed in a school shooting in a remote part of Saskatchewan on Friday and a suspect is in custody, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. 

Two people are in critical condition after the shooting in La Loche, which is about 600 km (375 miles) north of the city of Saskatoon.

“Obviously this is every parent's worst nightmare,” Trudeau said. 

Mass shootings are relatively rare in Canada, which has stricter gun laws than the United States. In the country's worst school shooting, 14 college students were killed at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique in 1989. 

Extra doctors and nurses have been sent to treat patients in Keewatin Yatthe Regional Health Authority's 16-bed hospital, said spokesman Dale West.

Teddy Clark, chief of the Clearwater River Dene Nation, said that his daughter told him about the shooting, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

“I know there are some casualties and there are some people that are in critical condition that are being medivaced to the nearest cities, I would imagine Fort McMurray or Saskatoon.”

La Loche Grade 10 student Noel Desjarlais told the CBC that he heard multiple shots fired at the school.

“I ran outside the school,” Desjarlais said. “There was lots of screaming, there was about six, seven shots before I got outside. I believe there was more shots by the time I did get out.”

A cellphone video taken by one resident and broadcast by the CBC showed students walking away from the school through the snow-covered ground and emergency personnel moving in. 

La Loche Community School is a pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 school, which houses about 900 students in two buildings. 

There was an emergency at the building that houses grades 7 to 12, the school district's Facebook page said. Both that building and the elementary school were put on lockdown. 

In 2014, a teacher expressed concern about violence at the La Loche school, citing an incident where a student who had tried to stab her was put back in her classroom after serving his sentence, and another attacked her at her home.

“That student got 10 months,” Janice Wilson told the CBC of the student who tried to stab her in class. “And when he was released he was returned to the school and was put in my classroom.”

One father loves Israel, the other hates it. Guess which one is Arab?


I was struck by the contrasting reactions of the fathers of two accused terrorists, both Israelis. One son shot up a Tel Aviv pub, murdering two and wounding seven, while the other firebombed a house killing an infant boy and his parents and severely injuring his 4-year-old brother. Both sons have records for hate crimes.

One father quickly alerted police when he suspected his son's involvement, and publicly expressed deep regrets over the incident, offering condolences to the victims and their families.  He declared his “loyalty” and “love” for Israel.

The other father insisted his son was innocent and that his confession was tortured out of him.  He denounced the State of Israel and declared his hatred for it.  He called the country's president “the fuhrer.”

The father who called on his son to surrender is an Israeli Arab who has been a volunteer with the Israeli police for more than 30 years. 

The other father, who called Israel the “most anti-Semitic country in the world,” is the ultra-Orthodox rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Karmel Zur.     

The Arab suspect in the shooting on Dizengoff Street, Nishat Milhem, 31, is still at large as of this writing. Early Tuesday, his father, who has called on his son to surrender, and five other relatives and family friends were arrested as possible accessories, but some reports suggest they were being used as bait to get Nishat to turn himself in. 

The Jew, Amiram Ben-Uliel, 21, was indicted last week for the July 31 fatal firebombing of the Dawabsha family home in the village of Duma while they slept. 

A third father sought to take political advantage of the tragedies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, noting that his sons were about the same age as the pub shooting victims, tried to spread the blame over all Israeli Arabs and exploit the tragedy for political gain.  

Six months earlier he condemned the Duma arson as “Jewish terrorism” but dismissed the killers as “extreme and marginal, and [they] certainly don't represent religious Zionism.” 

But on Dizengoff Street this weekend the Israeli leader played his customary race card with a verbal assault on Israel's Arab citizens. 

He blamed the killings on “wild incitement of radical Islam,” and lectured one fifth of the nation's population about its responsibilities as citizens. He demanded all Arab Knesset members, “without exception…condemn the murder clearly and unequivocally.” There was no such demand of Jewish MK's after the Duma murders.

Netanyahu cemented his position as Israel's inciter-in-chief with his wholesale indictment of Israel's Arabs and dismissal of Jewish terrorists as an almost irrelevant fringe group.

In terror attacks when he was out of power, Netanyahu was quick to blame the sitting prime minister for lax security. But now that Bibi's in charge, it's always someone else's fault.

Netanyahu has that Trumpian penchant for taking credit for what works and blaming others for what goes wrong.  

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said the PM smeared all Israeli Arabs because of his own inability to provide security.  

With gunman still at large, Tel Aviv streets go quiet


Until Friday, this city had been largely untouched by the recent wave of near-daily attacks by Palestinians on Israeli civilians.

Several incidents had struck Tel Aviv — a soldier was stabbed with a screwdriver outside Israel Defense Forces headquarters in October and, the following month, two Israelis were killed in a stabbing attack at an office building. But its residents had largely been spared the stabbing and car-ramming attacks centered in Jerusalem in the West Bank.

On Friday, however, the so-called Tel Aviv bubble was definitively punctured when a gunman opened fire on Dizengoff Street, one of the busiest arteries in the city and a popular hangout for both locals and tourists. The shooting spree began at the crowded Simta Bar, where young Israelis were gathered for a birthday party, then continued at a restaurant next door before ending at the bustling Sidewalk Cafe.

The suspected gunman, a 31-year-old Arab-Israeli citizen named Nashat Milhem, killed two people — Alon Bakal, 26, and Shimon Ruimi, 30 — and wounded seven others before fleeing the scene. On Sunday, Israeli media reported that police now believe Milhem was also responsible for the murder of Amin Shaaban, an Arab-Israeli taxi driver whose body was discovered an hour after the Dizengoff shooting.

Since the shooting, Tel Aviv has been cloaked in a gloomy silence. Milhem’s escape has triggered an unprecedented manhunt, with thousands of security personnel combing the city looking for him. On Friday night, normally packed cafes and bars were eerily empty. The usual lines outside popular nightclubs were missing. Police patrols were on nearly every street, and many residents stayed home with their doors locked, fearful of the gunman on the loose.

When schools reopened Sunday, many parents chose to keep their kids at home, despite an increase in security across the city.

“Something definitely changed in the Tel Aviv bubble,” said Arik Rudnitszky of Tel Aviv University’s Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation. “Maybe now we’re in the reality that Jerusalem has lived in since October.”

Maya Dratwa was having lunch at the Sidewalk Cafe with her husband and two young children when the shooter began firing on patrons there. With her 3-year-old son in his stroller and her 5-year-old daughter in her arms, Dratwa crouched under the table as chaos erupted.

“Everyone was screaming, and everything fell on top of us — our food, our tea,” Dratwa recalled Sunday, saying she was still in shock.

Saturday was her 31st birthday, but instead of celebrating as planned, she stayed home with her family.

“I was too afraid,” Dratwa said. “I never expected this would happen here.”

While Israel has faced constant terror attacks since October, nearly everything about the Dizengoff shooting was unique. The seemingly random targeting of bar patrons hearkened back to earlier waves of terrorism that aimed to inflict mass casualties on buses and other places of public gathering. Mira Marcus, the Tel Aviv municipality spokeswoman, said there has never been a manhunt for a terrorist in Tel Aviv.

The fact that Milhem escaped, rather than embracing martyrdom as many terrorists do, was a surprise to security experts, who note that terrorists often seek to inflict as much damage as possible until they are stopped by force. Police believe that after Milhem fled on foot, he hailed a cab to northern Tel Aviv driven by Shaaban. He is then believed to have driven the taxi to Namir Road, a major thoroughfare in the area, and left it near a bus stop.

Milhem’s sophistication also sets him apart. In security footage released hours after the attack, he was seen entering a health food store and using a plastic bag to pick up some nuts. He placed the nuts back but kept the bag, apparently to protect his hand from leaving fingerprints on his gun.

A former Shin Bet official who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was possible the attacker was inspired by ISIS.

“There are a few dozen Arab citizens of Israel who’ve joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and there are dozens of others who support these ideas,” the official told JTA. “These ideas cross borders. We see it in Europe and can see it anywhere, and there’s no doubt we’ll see it in Israel, too.”

Israeli media reported that the gun was stolen from his father, a volunteer with the Israeli police, who identified Milhem as the gunman after seeing the health food store footage on television. Over the weekend, security officials seized the family’s computers, arrested the suspect’s brother on suspicion of aiding and abetting, and have maintained a heavy presence in Arara, the northern Israeli Arab village where Milhem lived.

According to news reports, Milhem was arrested in 2007 for stabbing a soldier with a screwdriver and served five years in jail. His cousin was killed in an Israeli police raid in 2006. Several family members told Israeli news outlets that he exhibited signs of mental illness.

A prayer of healing from tragedy


Our hearts are breaking, God,
As our nation buries the innocent and the brave.
The loss is overwhelming.
Send comfort and strength, God, to grieving parents,
To siblings, family and friends in this time of shock and mourning.
Shield them from despair.
Send healing to the schoolchildren who are lost and frightened
Whose eyes witnessed unfathomable horrors.
Ease their pain, God,
Let their fears give way to hope.
Let their cries give way once more to laughter.

Bless us, God,
Work through us.
Turn our helplessness into action.
Teach us to believe that we can rise up from this tragedy
With a renewed faith in the goodness of our society.
Shield us from indifference
And from our tendency to forget.
Open our hearts, open our hands.
Innocent blood is calling out to us to act.
Remind us that we must commit ourselves to prevent further bloodshed
With all our hearts and souls.
Teach us perseverance and dedication.
Let us rise up as one in a time of soul-searching and repair
So that all children can go to school in peace, God,
Let them be safe.

God of the brokenhearted,
God of the living, God of the dead,
Gather the souls of the victims
Into Your eternal shelter.
Let them find peace in Your presence, God.
Their lives have ended
But their lights can never be extinguished.
May they shine on us always
And illuminate our way.
Amen.


Rabbi Naomi Levy is the founder and spiritual leader of Nashuva: The Jewish Spiritual Outreach Center. Her books include Talking to God: Personal Prayers for Times of Joy, Sadness, Struggle, and Celebration.

Beyond prayer, we must take action on gun violence


We are in anguish in the aftermath of another mass shooting – this one in our own backyard. To our community members who live, work or have family in San Bernardino, we stand with you in sorrow, grieving for the souls of the victims and praying for healing for those wounded.

At the same time, we are aware of the gross insufficiency of the now ubiquitous expressions of grief, calls for prayer and sterile condemnations. Prayer devoid of moral action is idolatry. Our failure, as a society, to take action to address the scourge of gun violence is a desecration of all that we hold holy. 

Many of us have been in this fight for decades – mobilizing, rallying, protesting, lobbying. Now, some are despairing. Today we have to make a choice: will we continue to fight the insanity that has gripped this nation – will we get smarter, stronger, better resourced – or will we turn our lives and our country over to a deadly distortion of our Constitution and its promise of freedom? 

Our community will fight. Our weapons are love and justice. Our fuel is the belief that all human beings are created in God’s image and deserve to live with dignity, in peace. Our fellow soldiers – our partners – are good people of all faiths and no faith who see that the toxic combination of hatred and easy access to weapons of war endangers all of us and threatens the very foundation of this nation. Make no mistake: we will win. The only question is how many more innocents will die before that day comes.

While the facts of yesterday’s massacre are still coming to light, it appears that the shooters were Muslim-American. It is incumbent upon us that we resist the rising tide of small minded bigotry that characterizes all Muslims by the behavior of the few, just as we resist when others do the same to us, as Jews.

Let us stand together. That is the only way we will effect change. Visit www.everytown.org to take immediate national action on gun violence prevention, and stay tuned to IKAR for local coalitional organizing. If you are able to take a leadership role, please let us know asap.

L’shalom –

Rabbi Sharon Brous


Rabbi Sharon Brous is the the founding rabbi of IKAR, a spiritual community in Los Angeles.

Elan Carr on the San Bernardino shooting


Like all Americans, Dahlia and I are outraged and heartbroken over yesterday’s murders in San Bernardino. Our prayers are with the many families affected by this heinous attack.  We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends who lost their loved ones, and we pray for a speedy and complete recovery for those who were injured. We also salute the brave police officers and sheriff’s deputies who displayed exemplary professionalism in bringing the crisis to a conclusion. 

 A government’s most important job is to keep people safe. This was a planned, premeditated attack on county employees in a county facility. All Americans understand how vulnerable we are in the face of dramatically increasing threats from crime and terrorism. I call upon the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to make public safety their absolute top priority.

ADL: Searching for motives in the San Bernardino shooting


The motive for yesterday’s shoot­ing in San Bernardino, CA remains unknown. In the spec­u­la­tion for causes, though, sev­eral details stand out.

That one of the alleged shoot­ers, Syed Rizwan Farooq, appar­ently tar­geted his pro­fes­sional col­leagues, might indi­cate an instance of work­place vio­lence, as does the rel­a­tively non­de­script, apo­lit­i­cal and pri­vate nature of the loca­tion tar­geted. How­ever, the degree of prepa­ra­tion that went into the shoot­ing appears more in line with polit­i­cally or ide­o­log­i­cally moti­vated vio­lence. More­over, inci­dents of work­place shoot­ings rarely ever involve mul­ti­ple per­pe­tra­tors but there were appar­ently two shoot­ers in San Bernardino.

Future evi­dence will be nec­es­sary to under­stand whether or not extrem­ism, or extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda may have played any role in the San Bernardino shoot­ings; at this time, it is entirely pos­si­ble that there is no link at all, although inves­ti­ga­tors are indi­cat­ing that Farooq had links to sus­pected extrem­ists abroad.

A com­bi­na­tion of work­place vio­lence and extremist-inspired vio­lence has played out in the U.S. in the past.

In Sep­tem­ber 2014, Okla­homa res­i­dent Alton Nolen was sus­pended from his work­place, a food pro­cess­ing plant. Nolen, who had a prior crim­i­nal record that included vio­lent inci­dents, went home and then returned to the food pro­cess­ing plant with “a large bladed knife,” with which he beheaded a for­mer col­league and attacked a second.

Nolen’s social media feed indi­cated an inter­est in vio­lent extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda, and par­tic­u­larly the vio­lence asso­ci­ated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), even as it became clear that he had no actual links to extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions or com­pre­hen­sive adher­ence to extrem­ist ideology.

His online activ­ity sug­gested that his inter­est in extrem­ist vio­lence may have informed his deci­sion to under­take a behead­ing, rather than another form of vio­lence, and spoke to a sec­ondary effect of vio­lent extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda. His activ­ity did not appear to be polit­i­cally moti­vated and he was not respond­ing to ter­ror­ist calls for vio­lence, but he was nonethe­less influ­enced by vio­lent extrem­ist con­tent that he found online.

A sim­i­lar case indi­cat­ing sec­ondary effects of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda took place in New Jer­sey in August 2014. The accused per­pe­tra­tor in that case, Ali Muhammed Brown, had a pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal record and is also accused of killing three indi­vid­u­als in Cal­i­for­nia in June. In August, he was allegedly engaged in a rob­bery when he shot a man in a car. When appre­hended, Brown claimed that the mur­der was revenge for U.S. actions in the Mid­dle East.

Pres­i­dent Obama has sug­gested that there may be a com­bi­na­tion of motives in yesterday’s shoot­ing although, again, more evi­dence needs to be found to uncover the per­pe­tra­tors’ actual rationales.

But the Nolen case teaches that vio­lence and ratio­nale are not singularly-faceted issues, and that vio­lent pro­pa­ganda online has the poten­tial to influ­ence peo­ple who may not them­selves be extremists.

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