Effects from attacks in Israel felt throughout Rio Grande Valleydfwnewsa | October 13, 2023 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News
What occurred in Israel last Saturday has had a resounding impact worldwide, and the Rio Grande Valley is no exception.
On Oct. 7, Hamas militants attacked Israeli towns and killed 250 people and injured 1,500 others in the deadliest attack in Israel in decades.
Since the outbreak of war, the Associated Press reports that 1,300 Israeli citizens have been killed and that 1,800 Palestinian citizens have been killed in Gaza.
The attack came in the midst of one of the most important holidays in the Jewish faith, Shemini Atzeret, when the reading of the Torah is completed and then started again.
“It’s a very joyous holiday and holy day,” Rosalie Weisfeld, of McAllen, said. “That was the day that Hamas attacked, on Saturday.”
Weisfeld is the chair of the Texas Democratic Jewish Caucus. She described the events of that day as devastating, horrific and shocking.
She said that she frequently travels to Israel for family events, vacation and had just recently returned from a trip in August. Some of those family members were in the Rio Grande Valley to visit their children and grandchildren during the chagim, or the Jewish high holidays.
“They had planned to leave on Wednesday after the holidays to go back to Israel after the holidays,” she explained. “Their flight was canceled, as were many others, and they were desperate to get back.”
Weisfeld said that at the time of the interview, those family members were stuck in the United Kingdom trying to find a way back to their home in Israel since flights in and out of the country have been canceled as a result of the attack and the ongoing war.
“Most people think that the Jewish people are a huge population, and we’re not,” she said. “When something happens to one, it happens to all.”
Since the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Israel to be at war and ordered the mobilization of more than 100,000 Israeli forces.
Fernando Russek, of Harlingen, has paid especially close attention to any news coming out of Israel since the attack. For him, he holds a close connection to the ongoing situation given that his daughter and his brother are both members of the Israeli military.
“We have two people who grew up in the Valley who are now forced to live their daily lives and defend their country in Israel,” Russek said.
He said that his family were celebrating Simchat Torah, the celebration of the completion of the reading of the Torah — the first five books of Moses, when word first began to spread about the attacks in Israel.
“We were in the middle of services when somebody called and starts telling us about the horrible massacres that were being committed by Palestinian terrorists to innocent civilians,” he recalled. “You can only imagine — to have your own daughter on the other side of the world and there’s no news.”
He said that he was eventually able to hear from his daughter, who was safe. He has yet to hear from his brother.
“We are very concerned, but we have faith,” he said. “We know that God is with Israel. We’re going to be better after this.”
In the days following the attacks, many in the Rio Grande Valley have offered support to Israel through donations and prayer gatherings, including a prayer vigil at Temple Emanuel Wednesday evening and an impromptu prayer service hosted by Chabad RGV.
“In a time like this, coming together and supporting one another is important,” Rabbi Asher Hecht said. “Our community is all going through a hard time. We’re pained in what’s happening in Israel. When you’re there for each other, you’re able to lean on each other and support each other. That’s what’s important at a time like this.”
He said that he hoped to bring the community together through prayer and offer comfort to those who have lost loved ones as a result of attacks.
“The world has to understand — and that includes every single citizen of the Rio Grande Valley — that we are now experiencing anti-Semitism at its worst,” Hecht said. “What Hamas did this week is pure hatred against the Jewish people.”
He described that day as being among the darkest days for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. He said that the world needs to be aware of what is taking place in Israel and that Jewish voices need to be heard.
“It’s amazing to see the tremendous influx of support outside of the Jewish community, and I think that’s beautiful,” Hecht said. “I am encouraging everyone to have their voices heard louder and broader in so many ways that we have the capabilities of doing that today through social media and so on and so forth. It’s comforting.”
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