THE 1,000-seat Temple Emanuel sanctuary was filled to overflowing for an Israel solidarity rally, Monday, July 14. The rally was organized by JEWISHcolorado and the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council. It was co-sponsored by many community organizations, including two in Colorado Springs.
JEWISHcolorado President and CEO Doug Seserman noted that this was the third time in three weeks that the community had come together on behalf of Israel.
The first event was a vigil, June 24 at the Loup JCC for the plight of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers.
Hope and fear turned to grief at a memorial service for the teenage boys, July 2, at BMH-BJ.
Simultaneous with the kidnappings, Hamas intensified its firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza. Israel’s began responding by hitting strategic targets in Gaza, only three weeks later on July 8.
The rally, intended to allow members of the Front Range Jewish community and other friends of Israel to come together during a period of war and uncertainty in Israel, was multi-faceted.
Punctuated with song, the event was part prayer service, part news update, part fundraiser and part inspirational messages.
Rabbi Joe Black, senior rabbi of Temple Emanuel, welcomed the attendees. He spoke of the recent trip he led to Israel.
“There will always been an unbroken link between the Jewish people who live in the land of Israel and who live outside the land of Israel,” Rabbi Black said.
“When Israel grieves, we grieve. When Israel celebrates, we celebrate.”
AS he had for the previous Denver gatherings, Israel Consul General David Siegel in Los Angeles addressed the crowd via teleconference.
He updated the attendees, stating that well over 1,000 rockets had been fired at Israel in the eight days of fighting.
He said that the majority of the Israeli population was facing air raids and was in the line of fire.
The crowd gasped when he announced there had been an attack on Eilat in the middle of the night Monday, and that several civilian children were in hospitals.
He also said there was rocket fire from Lebanon into the Galilee, and from Syria into the Golan Heights, “and of course massive and indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel’s large cities and population centers, non-stop over the last eight days.
“Imagine every city in the United States, from Los Angeles to Philadelphia being bombarded by rockets at the same time. This would be unacceptable to the American people, and it’s unacceptable to any country. And it should be unacceptable to the State of Israel, as well.”
Siegel spoke of the trauma of having to scramble to bomb shelters in 15 seconds to a minute and a half, for children, families, the elderly and the infirm, “an impossible situation that no country should allow.”
He declared each and every rocket fired by Hamas at Israel “a war crime.” Hamas, he said, is committing “a double war crime” by using the people of Gaza as human shields by shooting the rockets from homes, schools and hospitals in Gaza.
“Israel uses its civil defense to protect its civilians, while they’re using their civilians to protect their missile launching sites.”
Siegel also noted that Israel had been providing “daily humanitarian aid” to Gaza in the way of medical supplies, food, livestock feed, electricity and other necessities.
MUSICAL offerings included “Oseh Shalom” by Georgie Seserman and Cantor Elizabeth Sacks, and “Tefillat Medinat Yisrael” (Prayer for the State of Israel) by Cantors Sacks, Regina Heit, Joel Lichterman and Roberta Becker.
Rabbi Bernard Gerson of Rodef Shalom read Psalm 126.
A personal perspective was shared by Michal Peleg Uziyahu, JEWISHcolorado’s shlicha, Jewish Agency emissary from Israel.
Uziyahu spoke not only as an Israeli representative to Colorado but as an Israeli mother.
As she delivered her remarks, Uziyahu’s husband and three children, Shira, 9, and twin boys, Ron and Ofri, 8, were at her home in a small community on the Israel-Gaza border, under constant rocket attack.
“Unfortunately, I’m here, far away from them.”
She said she could imagine that the people in the audience see the Israeli’s situation as “impossible.”
“I was raised to deal with this impossible situation.”
Uziyahu was an eighth-grader during the first Gulf War, and was terrified of a chemical attack. When she told her father she was terrified and asked if they could “fly somewhere,” her father told her, “You have nowhere else to go. You have only this land.”
As a child, she repeatedly said goodbye to her father as he left for his military service. As a child, she was trained to look for suspicious items.
“I lost people dear to me in terror attacks and in defense of the land of Israel.”
Uziyahu said it is now time to teach her own kids, “and make sure they are resilient.”
“I gave birth to my kids during the Second Lebanon War, under rocket attack in 2006. In their preschool, my kids learned songs that teach them how to run in 15 seconds or less to the shelters, and how to relax and to breathe.”
Uziyahu expressed her appreciation the Denver Jewish community, “dear friends abroad who care about us.”
She said she felt bittersweet about her children coming to Denver the following day.
She didn’t want her children to grow up thinking anytime things get stressful in Israel they can run away to America.
“America is not our refuge. We do not have another land.
“Only a strong Israel will be our refuge.”
Uziyahu’s remarks were met with a standing ovation.
ELANA Kaufman, who had just returned to Denver the previous day with the Israel Study Tour (IST), spoke. Her fellow ISTers sat together in the audience.
She noted that their trip had started with the kidnapping and concluded with an alteration in their itinerary to move the Denver teens to a safer place in northern Israel.
Kaufman said the line from The Star Spangled Banner “ . . . and the rockets’ red glare the bombs bursting in air . . . ” took on special meaning for ISTers on July 4 this year when they saw the Iron Dome system intercept a rocket shot into the skies over Israel from Gaza.
This summer, Kaufman and her peers had a unique IST experience. “We saw a side to Israel that many do not understand.”
Kaufman, too, received a standing ovation for her remarks.
The event concluded with articulate and impassioned pleas from JEWISHcolorado Emergency Campaign Co-Chairs Elaine Asarch and Bettina Kurowski.
Asarch said the Denver Jewish community had been asked to advance $70,000 to the national, Stop the Sirens $10 million campaign conducted by the Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with the Union of Reform Judaism and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
Asarch expressed her concern for the plight of the elderly and disadvantaged in Israel during this stressful period of warfare, and said that financial support is a way to help meet their special needs.
Kurowski, a newcomer to the Denver Jewish community, is a former campaign chair for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. She said she was gratified by the Denver Jewish community’s response to the recent crises in Israel and urged continued generosity toward the emergency campaign.
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