PHOENIX – Due to the latest war between Israel and Hamas, Jewish communities in Arizona have felt the need to bolster their security presence.
“It is hard for Jews to come together to pray in public places. We have a security guard standing outside our synagogue every time we gather. It shouldn’t be like that in America,” said Rabbi Cookie Lea Olshein of Temple Emmanuel of Tempe. Olshein said the synagogue has increased the number of security guards it uses.
The move comes after the Hamas militant group launched an attack on Israel Saturday. More than 1,200 were dead as of Wednesday, according to media reports, and Israel on Sunday declared war on Hamas.
Hamas, which the U.S. State Department has designated a terrorist organization, has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007. The group governs more than 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Founded in 1987, Hamas has called for the elimination of Israel, which was founded in 1948 as a safe haven for Jews fleeing persecution.
The latest Gaza war has affected people across the world.
“People are horrified, outraged,” said Rabbi Bonnie Koppell, an associate rabbi at Temple Chai in Phoenix. “There are a lot of very personal concerns for friends and family. Members who have been murdered, who are missing, who are serving in the Israeli military. It is a 24/7 nonstop focal point in our community right now.”
Those who support Palestinian causes also denounced the conflict.
“The violence needs to stop,” said Michael Bradley, coordinator for the Arizona Palestine Network, which advocates for Palestinian rights. “There are other alternatives; my prayers go out to all those affected by the conflict.”
The Phoenix Police Department has increased patrols around synagogues in Arizona in the wake of the conflict.
And Arizona officials, including Gov. Katie Hobbs and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, called for more security at local places of worship.
“Not only have we increased security, which is always a concern, we are very grateful to the Phoenix Police Department, which proactively has increased their patrol,” Koppell said.
Arizonans stuck in Israel amid conflict
As missiles rained on Israel, many international airlines suspended flights, which has led to Americans and others being stuck in Israel.
This is the case for Kane Adkins and his family, who remain in Israel after their flight was canceled, according to news reports. Adkins is a pastor at Son of David Messianic Fellowship in Mesa.
Adkins told NBC News he and his family have been stranded in Tel Aviv since their flight home was canceled over the weekend.
The U.S. Embassy in Israel urged travelers to check the status of flights from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport in its latest security alert.
Jewish leaders invited the community to join in prayer and support for Israel on Monday night at the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus in Scottsdale.
The Board of Rabbis of Greater Phoenix, which works toward unity of the Jewish community, and thousands of people gathered in Scottsdale to pray for loved ones and show support for those in Israel.
The Hillel Jewish Student Center at Arizona State University is holding a rally in support of Israel Wednesday at the ASU Hayden lawn while Students for Justice in Palestine at ASU is holding a rally in support of Palestinian resistance Thursday at 11 a.m. outside of Memorial Union.