‘Horrifying’ war abroad worries New Orleans’ Jewish, Arabic communities
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Protesters concerned about Palestinian relatives marched in New Orleans, while hundreds of Jewish worshippers gathered in Metairie on Monday night (Oct. 9) to grieve those lost in the weekend attack on Israel by Hamas militants.
“It’s horrifying. It brings back memories of the Holocaust in ways that I never thought I would experience,” said Jewish resident Bill Hess. “I’m too young for all of that.”
It was another day of fighting in the Middle East, as Israel wages war on Hamas following surprise attacks and kidnappings on Saturday. The overall death toll from the conflict has exceeded 1,600 lives lost.
At a solemn unity event at Congregation Gates of Prayer in Metairie, support for Israel stood unwavering.
“I’m not surprised,” Hess said. “We have a very strong Jewish community here.”
More than 500 people packed the sanctuary at the behest of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans and the Greater New Orleans Clergy Council. Many families brought children to hear the history and strength of the Jewish people, as local law enforcement kept a watchful eye.
“People can come here and pray together and be together and be safe,” said Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto. “Certainly, that (security) was increased tonight. And we will continue to do that for the foreseeable future for them.”
Fox 8 political analyst Mike Sherman says the effects of the fighting could leech into life for Jews and Arabs living in the United States.
“This has the makings of a prolonged conflict,” Sherman said. “If that happens, that can spur increased acts of discrimination and antisemitism and provoke a much larger conflict that can even reach our community, where we have a very strong and proud Jewish population. We also have an Arab and Muslim population in New Orleans as well. And this has the makings of something that can enflame tensions.”
Earlier Monday evening, Palestinian supporters rallied at Duncan Plaza, spilling into a march down Poydras Street.
Some said they worried about discrimination here in the United States, while others were more concerned with friends and relatives in the Middle East.
“Nothing I come about here will match anything my Palestinian brothers and sisters, siblings are going through in Palestine,” said Aishah Abbalah, a Nicarao Palestinian.
Shadi Ahmad visited Palestinian family for the first time last summer.
“I check up on them every week,” Ahmad said.
He says he feels the distance from his loved ones more, now that Israel has launched its counterattack on the Gaza strip.
Tensions increase as the war enters its fourth day. Israel has responded to Hamas militants with airstrikes and a blockade of Gaza, where Israeli and American hostages -- including children -- are believed to have been taken Saturday.
With Israelis and an unknown number of Americans still missing, Hamas has vowed to kill those captured if Israeli counterattacks in Gaza continue.
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