The widespread coordinated attacks carried out by Hamas terrorists in Israel on Saturday left a trail of utter devastation in their wake. The death toll in Israel continues to climb, with over 900 Israelis dead, thousands wounded and more than 100 held captive in Gaza. At least 11 U.S. citizens are among the dead.
On Monday afternoon, three people were injured when a missile hit Jerusalem. Also on Monday, terrorists infiltrated northern Israel from Lebanon. The attackers injured six people and were killed by Israeli forces. Hezbollah shot missiles at northern Israel on Sunday, leading Israel to warn residents of the area to stay in their homes.
In response, Israel initiated a massive military operation to place Gaza under a “complete siege,” according to Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Israel launched air strikes and struck targets inside Gaza. But military leaders said they planned a much more extensive response, leaving open the possibility that there would be a ground invasion into Gaza.
More than 300,000 Israeli reservists have been called to duty, the largest mobilization in the country’s history.
There has been no shortage of reactions to the deadly terrorist attacks from local community and political leaders in the greater Washington area.
“In this moment of tragedy, I want to say to … the world and to terrorists everywhere that the United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have their back,” said President Joe Biden, noting that his administration’s support for Israel’s security is “rock solid and unwavering.”
“The United States unequivocally condemns this appalling assault against Israel by Hamas terrorists from Gaza, and I made clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu that we stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the government and people of Israel,” added President Biden. “Terrorism is never justified. Israel has a right to defend itself and its people.”
In an exclusive interview with the Washington Jewish Week, NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications Admiral John Kirby reiterated that the United States stands with Israel.
“We stand solidly behind Israel and the Israeli people,” Kirby said. “And we will continue to support the Israeli people as they again work vigorously to defend themselves.”
“We are in constant touch with Israeli officials on a whole panoply of issues, as you might imagine … but also to talk about the unaccounted-for Americans and we’re working with Israeli officials to try to get more information about the American citizens who we can’t account for,” added Kirby. “We call on Hamas to immediately release every single hostage in their possession right now. This is yet another example of their barbarity. And … we’re going to continue to stay closely coordinated with Israeli officials going forward.”
In a call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas following the attacks, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken discussed the United States’ unequivocal condemnation of the terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel, called on all leadership in the region to condemn the attacks and urged the Palestinian Authority to take steps to restore calm and stability in the West Bank.
There were strong statements of support from both sides of the political aisle, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer calling the tremendous loss of life “gut-wrenching” and noting that he was “appalled at the viciousness of the attack by Hamas on innocent Israeli civilians,” while Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said that “The United States and the civilized world must stand in solidarity as a fellow democracy defends its sovereignty and its citizens and must unequivocally condemn these vicious attacks against civilian populations.”
Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia all released statements condemning the horrific terrorist attacks and expressing solidarity with Israel.
“Just as the United States stood by Israel after it was attacked exactly 50 years ago on Yom Kippur, today we stand by Israel in this time of crisis,” Cardin said. “As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I am committed to ensuring that Israel has what it needs to defend itself and its citizens, today and every day.”
“The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is horrified by the largest terrorist attack on Israel since the Yom Kippur War,” said Gil Preuss, Chief Executive Officer of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. “At the holy time of Shabbat, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, while Jews were immersed in celebration and spiritual contemplation, dozens of terrorist gunmen infiltrated communities near the Gaza border and Hamas launched a deluge of thousands of rockets at Israel cities … This is a terrifying moment for our family in Israel, and we fear the horror will be quite prolonged.”
“In moments like these, Federation has the responsibility to mobilize the Greater Washington Jewish community to help the people of Israel. As Israelis across the political spectrum stand strong and united in their resolve against this deluge of terror and violence, Federation and our community stand with them and will support them however we can,” Preuss added.
The Federation established an Israel Crisis Fund to raise money for those in need, which will be distributed through its partners on the ground. Donations can be made online at shalomdc.org/israel-at-war-2023.
“We are stunned, we are horrified, we are enraged and we grieve because of [the] attacks. Let us be clear – the JCRC of Greater Washington and the entire greater Washington Jewish community fully supports Israel’s right to defend its citizens and take whatever military action is necessary in the coming days to do so,” said Ron Halber, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. “The carnage wrought by Hamas only validates who and what it really is: a ruthless terrorist organization that seeks to kill Jews and destroy any hope for a peaceful future between Israelis and Palestinians.”
In the days following the attacks in Israel, the JCRC met with senior administrators from Montgomery County Public Schools and Fairfax County Public Schools, all of whom expressed their condolences and caring for the Jewish community and committed to working with the JCRC to ensure the community is supported at this difficult time. Additionally, the JCRC sent comprehensive resource materials to local school districts to assist educators and mental health professionals in supporting Jewish students experiencing trauma.
“These vile acts by this terrorist organization must be universally condemned and all hostages immediately released,” said Stuart E. Eizenstat, a Chevy Chase resident and member of Ohr Kodesh congregation who serves as Museum Chair at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Our prayers are with all Israelis, including the many Holocaust survivors who helped build the State of Israel, where they could finally live in the freedom and security they deserved after centuries of persecution, and ultimately genocide.”
“Since Saturday, our hearts are aching for the horrific acts of terrorism happening in Israel … As Israelis stand strong against this deluge of terror and violence, we jointly call upon our community to help support them however we can,” the Pozez JCC of Northern Virginia said in a statement. “We pray for a swift resolution to the violence, for the quick and safe return of the hostages to their families, and for long-lasting peace in the region.”
The Pozez JCC noted that safety and security remain a top priority and that while there is no known threat to the Jewish community or the JCC’s facility, it’s been in contact with local, state and federal law enforcement partners and with the Secure Community Network, a nationwide safety and security organization of the Jewish community, out of an abundance of caution.
The other local JCCs also released statements expressing strong statements of support with Israel.
“Our hearts are in the east as we watch with horror the events unfolding in Israel,” said the Bender JCC of Greater Washington. “We pray for the People of Israel and our hearts are with the Israeli families who have lost loved ones. We wish for a refuah shlayma (complete healing) for the victims who have been injured. We join the entire Greater Washington Jewish Community and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington in offering our support and prayers of peace to our Israeli friends, loved ones, and all the People of Israel.”
“As the horrific events of the past few days continue to unfold in Israel, we share a collective sense of shock, outrage, and heartbreak,” the Edlavitch DC JCC said in a statement. “During difficult times, we find comfort in community.” The statement also noted that “the Edlavitch DCJCC and other community partners will be making space to share our grief and process what is happening.”
This article includes reporting by Philissa Cramer of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.