On the scene

In Boston, politicians call for action, support for Israel, Jewish community after deadly terror attacks

Thousands of people attend rally in Boston Common, which was organized by local Jewish groups, Israeli consulate

Thousands of Jews and supporters of Israel gathered in Boston Common on Monday afternoon for a vigil in solidarity with Israel after Saturday’s brutal terror attacks and subsequent rocket fire in which over 1,200 people were murdered and thousands injured.

Local and national politicians, Israeli citizens and Jewish leaders spoke at the event, dubbed  “Gathering in Solidarity With Israel Under Fire.” The emotion-laden event was organized by the Consulate General of Israel to New England, as well as local chapters of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Israeli American Council and Combined Jewish Philanthropies.

Sapir Reznik, an Israeli native currently working at Harvard Hillel as its Jewish Agency for Israel fellow, addressed the crowd, her voice shaking, to describe the horrors taking place in her home country, where the death toll has risen to more than 1,000; horrors that included the abduction of her friend’s father and still-missing younger brother of another friend.

“I stand here in front of you, the community of Boston. I was here at the age of 18, serving for a year in different schools and synagogues. I know many good people who cry out in this pain with me. Thank you. Please, don’t let me stand alone at the front,” she said. “We, the Boston community, must stand together and show that we have power and courage. This is not a time to be silent.”

Reznik spoke also to the Harvard community at large — where she works with many students on a daily basis — condemning the recent letter published to social media by 31 student organizations at the university naming Israel as “entirely responsible” for Hamas’ attack. “I completely reject the statements issued by various Harvard student organizations attempting to justify what Hamas has done,” she said. “It deliberately ignores the immense pain, the war crimes we are witnessing,” to which she was met by a resounding applause.

“If you stand for human rights, if you stand for peace, if you stand against terror, you stand with Israel,” Reznik concluded.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was equally moved during her remarks, telling the crowd, “My heart is with those who lost their lives too early, with those who have lost loved ones, with those who have been wounded in body and spirit. I am here to grieve with you. I am here to stand in solidarity.”

“But standing in solidarity does not mean standing still,” she added. “Standing in solidarity means action, it means shouldering the obligations of a strong and faithful ally,” a sentiment others who spoke during the afternoon’s event mirrored as well, including Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

“Our support is unwavering. Massachusetts stands with Israel now and always,” Healey asserted, before reflecting on the long-standing bond between Israel and the Bay State, which proved particularly vital during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the city’s darkest day in recent history.

“Israel has always been here for us, Massachusetts. It has been here for us in our darkest hour,” Healey said. “When the Boston Marathon was bombed 10 years ago, the [Massachusetts General Hospital] emergency teams had been trained by Israeli counterparts on how to respond to mass casualties. That training saved lives in Massachusetts. And in the aftermath and organization, the Israel Trauma Coalition came to Massachusetts, and they used their hard-won wisdom and experience to help us heal. Added to that thousands of acts and statements of solidarity from our friends and family in Israel. Now, the Israeli and Jewish community is yet again in the midst of profound trauma, so we will be here for you as you have always been here for us.”

Participants of the nearly two-hour rally were in general alignment with those on the podium, aside from a brief moment of outrage during remarks by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). His call for “de-escalation” was met with  overwhelming boos. Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), appearing to reference Markey’s comment,  declared that “De-escalation is not possible when [Hamas] are taking hostages, and Israel did not ask America to de-escalate on Sept. 12, 2001.”

Many of those gathered in Boston seemed to know someone directly or indirectly affected by the violence in Israel. Families with small children, dual U.S.-Israeli citizens, community members from every denomination, stood together and cried together as loved ones were called up for reserve duty and news continued to pour in from across the world.

Silvina Grad, a Boston resident from Argentina, who  lived in Israel before moving to Massachusetts, told eJewishPhilanthropy that people must continue to speak out about Hamas’ atrocities.

“We need to increase the coverage [of the war] and all [that is] going on now in Israel. It’s a disaster. It’s a disaster, it’s human rights, it’s everything, and because it’s Israel, people are not speaking up,” she said. Grad’s own family in Israel, nearly all of whom are from a kibbutz in the south, needed to be relocated to Tel Aviv, where they are now, but she added that “They feel terrible. They feel like they should be at home now defending the country.”

A number of Boston-area students were also in attendance, including the high school from the Maimonides School in Brookline, Mass., students from Gann Academy in Waltham, Mass., and a group from Northeastern University.

“I’m horrified,” Ben Levin, a 22-year-old Northeastern student, told eJP, referring to the Hamas attack. “How can you see civilians attacked in their homes and innocents having fun at a festival; just imagine the horror they went through and the mutilation of the bodies and the desecration, I don’t know, it’s horrifying.”

“I have family in Israel,” he added. “Fortunately, my family is all safe, but I’ve heard far too many stories of people that are adjacent to my family or adjacent to my friends’ families who have been seriously affected, murdered or others, and that’s why I’m here, just to spread awareness and increase support.”