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Wracked with violence, Israel has full support from majority of L.A. Jews

Maty Baruch was wearing a hamsa necklace and pushing an overflowing shopping cart down Elat Market’s produce aisle before Shabbat on Oct. 16 when she was approached by a reporter, asking how she feels about the current terrorism in her native Israel. Baruch, a preschool teacher at Temple Isaiah and mother of four, said she is certain the Israeli people will carry on despite the stabbings, shootings and car rammings that have killed nine Israelis — and the retribution that has led to the deaths of dozens of Palestinians — over the past couple of weeks.

“Israeli people are the happiest and healthiest [people in the world],” Baruch said. “We’ve been through a lot and have to stay strong.” 

Her response is an indicator of the immediacy of the events unfolding thousands of miles away.

Other shoppers were eager to talk, as well, many expressing anger at the Muslim population. “The problem is Islam, that’s the problem. Who can live with Muslims? Nobody,” Yaron, 49, a Beersheba native who declined to give his last name, told the Journal. 

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles CEO and President Jay Sanderson spoke to the Journal shortly before Federation released a statement titled “Israel in Our Thoughts and Actions.” According to the statement, Federation is raising funds to support the Israeli Trauma Coalition, a direct-response initiative of UJA Federation of Greater New York, as well as a terror-relief fund at the Jewish Agency for Israel.

The goal is to support those who don’t receive government support at a time of crisis in Israel, Sanderson said.

“If you are a knifing victim and you are in the hospital, then the government is there. If you are a bystander to a knifing and you are suffering from trauma-related issues, the government isn’t there so much. We created a partnership with the Israel Trauma Coalition to [help with] that,” Sanderson said. “As you can imagine, [because of] what is happening in Israel right now and in Jerusalem, there is high anxiety. We are on the ground.”

However, not all Jews are standing with Israel at this time. The Los Angeles chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace — an organization that supports boycotting, divesting from and enacting sanctions against Israel — was among those that signed a statement titled “Stop the Killing — End the Occupation,” released Oct. 17.

“As a group of Jews from around the world, we believe that immediate change needs to come from the Israeli government and Israeli people,” the statement says. On Oct. 16, dozens of Palestinian supporters staged a demonstration outside the office of the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, at Wilshire Boulevard and Barrington Avenue.

The majority of rabbis, nonprofit leaders and others weighing in on the violence are supporting Israel, however.

“It’s tragic and it’s deplorable, but at the heart it’s because of the refusal of Islamic fanatics to recognize we have to share holy places,” Rabbi David Baron of Temple of the Arts said in an interview. He was referring to tension over access by Jews to the Temple Mount, also known as Al-Aqsa. “I shouldn’t deny you the right to pray at a holy place … that whole concept, denying the right to someone to say a holy prayer, just doesn’t fit into our mentality. It’s just not acceptable.”

Rabbi Yonah Bookstein was among the many rabbis who have been expressing spiritual support for Israel. 

“This Shabbat, we’re going to recite extra prayers and psalms,” Bookstein said in a phone interview shortly before his synagogue, Pico Shul, participated in what organizers described as a “Sabbath of solidarity With Israel.” 

Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued the call for Jewish communities across the denominational spectrum to participate in a “Sabbath of Solidarity With Israel” on Oct. 16 and 17. Helping raise awareness about the effort, the Board of Rabbis of Southern California sent an email about the initiative out to local leaders.

“We can’t let this terrible violence defeat our hope and prayers for a peaceful resolution of conflict, and we need to seek solace in the strength of unity in these trying times,” Bookstein said.

Sam Yebri, president of 30 Years After, which serves Iranian-American Jewish young professionals, said the Iranian community stands behind Israel during this time of violence in the Jewish homeland.

“It’s a unique opportunity for all aspects and denominations of the Jewish community to come together because the experience Israelis are dealing with goes beyond politics. It’s just completely outrageous and unacceptable,” he said. “It should bring great pain to any Jew living anywhere in the world.”

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