RALEIGH, N.C. — The death toll in the Israel-Hamas war continues to climb since the fighting started Saturday, when Hamas launched an attack against Israel. Israel responded by sending a barrage of air strikes toward the Gaza Strip and cutting off deliveries of food, water and fuel to the area where more than two million Palestinians live.
Organizations across North Carolina have been working to support communities feeling the impacts of the war, locally.
Monday night, the Greater Jewish Federation of Raleigh held a gathering for people to stand in solidarity with Israel.
“We just love Israel. It's just the most amazing place. And these last few days have been some of the hardest days of my life,” Susan Goldhaber, who lives in Raleigh, said.
At least 200 people gathered at Monday’s event, finding community amidst an unprecedented situation between Israel and Hamas.
“It's really our homeland. Even if we don't live there. We live all over the world. So it's just been very, very difficult,” Goldhaber said. “My mother-in-law was an Auschwitz survivor. After the war, she did come to the United States. America took her, but only because she had relatives here and Israel. And so Israel is a safety zone. And it's been the place that. Yes, we love America, but (Israel has) always been the place that you could rely on.”
Interfaith religious leaders, elected officials and people with varying ties to the Jewish community all showed up to the gathering.
Aviah Feder, who was born and raised in Israel, spoke at the event about serving in Israel’s military in 2014 before moving to North Carolina.
“It’s my home at heart, but my real home is over here. You know, I have a family, I have a house, I have two kids over here. I'm very, very conflicted. And I think a lot of people can understand,” Feder said.
It’s a complicated situation to say the least. Feder believes he’ll soon go back to Israel to protect the country again.
“Only one bad thing needs to happen, and that takes all the focus. The 1% that is not interested in peace, they're taking all the focus,” Feder said.
In the meantime, he’s thankful for a community in North Carolina that has welcomed him with open arms.
“It's amazing. It's amazing. You know, we moved here to Raleigh knowing that there's not a big Jewish community over here. We didn't know how it's going to be. And then you see this,” Feder said.
U.S. Reps. Deborah Ross and Wiley Nickel and state Attorney General Josh Stein were among the elected officials who attended Monday’s event in Raleigh.
Spectrum News 1 also reached out to Voices for Justice in Palestine, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that says it's working for “just and lasting peace” for all people in Palestine.
Rev. J Mark Davidson, the organization’s executive director, shared a statement with Spectrum News 1 that reads, “We unequivocally condemn all acts of violence against civilians by any party in Israel-Palestine. Every human life is precious, and we mourn the deaths caused by these tragic cycles of violence and retaliation, and call for an immediate ceasefire.”
The statement also reads, “It is nonsense to claim that the Hamas attack was ‘unprovoked.’ The Palestinian people have endured a century-long war against their humanity and dignity.”
It goes on to say, “Many of us in Voices for Justice in Palestine favor nonviolent social change …That said, we have no idea what it is like to live under military occupation for 56 years, or under siege in an ‘open air prison’ for 16 years, to be bombed repeatedly, to witness your family members maimed or murdered, to have no job or prospects, to subsist in misery with no end in sight. Or, if these were the conditions of our existence, what that rage and despair could lead us to do.”
Rabbi Eric Solomon, with Beth Meyer Synagogue, also attended Monday’s gathering in Raleigh.
“We're in crisis. We are determined and resilient. And we stand in great solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel. I have family in Israel, direct family, cousins. I've lived in Israel several years. We just led a congregational trip to Israel this summer,” Solomon said. “A part of us, an absolute part of us, is under threat. And we are, we are in a state of emergency.”
Solomon admits he has not always agreed with the political actions of Israel but still believes there’s no justification for what Hamas is reportedly doing to Israelis.
“As someone who is, prior to this, no fan of Prime Minister Netanyahu and at times deeply critical of different administrations of Israel's policy. But that is no matter right now. This is war. This is a massacre. This is against the Jewish people. Sadly, it also included some who are not Jewish, including Palestinian-Israelis and even foreign workers who have been kidnapped or killed,” Solomon said. “This is indiscriminate. Hamas is an evil enemy. and Israel must be given the opportunity to get our people back, please God. And to ensure that Hamas understands this unacceptable and is just the beginning of what this feels like.”
Solomon said the situation is nuanced, and he is sympathetic to people in Palestine territories but believes violence is not the answer.
“We decry violence on anyone, on any innocent person. Violence and violence against civilians is never going to be acceptable. It only will set back the vision that we pray for of a two-state solution of freedom and a Palestinian state standing by an Israeli state. That will never happen under these circumstances and will never come with Hamas,” Solomon said.