Orange County Stands United: Leaders Mourn Lives Lost in Israel

Local leader come together to condemn attacks and advocate for peace
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In the aftermath of one of the deadliest attacks on Israel in decades and the commencement of an intense bombing campaign in Gaza, leaders from Orange County’s Jewish and Palestinian communities are uniting to express their condemnation of the attacks and their deep sorrow for the lives lost.

The toll from this escalating conflict is staggering, with estimates indicating that at least 1,900 lives have been tragically lost. In a shocking turn of events, Hamas terrorists launched a devastating attack on Israel on a Saturday morning, firing thousands of rockets and infiltrating neighborhoods near the Gaza border, resulting in the loss of innocent lives and the taking of hostages. In response, Israel has initiated a series of airstrikes and enforced a blockade on the Gaza territory.

For analysts closely following the enduring Israel-Palestine conflict, this recent surge in violence is seen as a pivotal moment with far-reaching consequences.

A touching display of unity took place in the outdoor pavilion of the Merage Jewish Community Center in Irvine, where several hundred people gathered on a Tuesday night for an event organized by the Jewish Federation of Orange County to show their unwavering support for Israel.

Local rabbis led the assembled crowd in an opening prayer, emphasizing the deep connection many feel to Israel. One rabbi expressed, “Israel is our beating heart, and right now, it is bleeding.”

Erik Ludwig, the President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Orange County, minced no words in his condemnation of terrorism, stating unequivocally, “There is no justification for acts of terrorism. They are pure evil, and it is the responsibility of all decent people to condemn them. The Jewish community here in OC will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel as it takes the necessary steps to protect its citizens and combat Hamas. Your presence here is an act of solidarity.”

Israel Bachar, the Israeli Consul General to the Pacific Southwest, referred to the Hamas attack as “the darkest time in modern history,” evoking haunting memories of past atrocities. He added, “This is the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. This attack is a crime against humanity.”

The rabbis in attendance also called upon elected officials to publicly voice their support for Israel and to confront the growing issue of antisemitism, both domestically and abroad.

U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and Representative Katie Porter of Irvine lent their support through video messages. Senator Padilla echoed calls for increased U.S. government support, while Representative Porter declared, “We cannot stand idly by as Israel faces these attacks.”

Prominent local leaders joined the gathering, including Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, State Senator Josh Newman, Fifth District Supervisor Katrina Foley, Third District Supervisor Don Wagner (Chair of the OC Board of Supervisors), and Irvine Police Chief Michael Kent.

The timing of the Hamas attacks coincided with the Jewish community’s celebration of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Tania Weinkle, who attended the rally with her children, highlighted the importance of involving the younger generation in community solidarity events and engaging in conversations about issues such as antisemitism, war, and genocide. She stressed, “It’s crucial for them to comprehend the challenges faced by our Jewish community.”

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