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Colorado leaders and members of Jewish and Palestinian community react following Hamas attack on Israel

Demonstrators protest against Israeli airstrikes on Gaza in the Puerta del Sol in central Madrid, Spain, Monday, Oct. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Paul White)

Conflict broke out in the Middle East following a deadly surprise attack on Israel from the Gaza militant group Hamas on Saturday. Reports from Israel and Palestine officials say hundreds have been killed and thousands injured in the initial missile strikes and the subsequent conflict.

“We are at war,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised statement on Sunday.

The attack follows decades of tension between bordering Israel and Palestine, which has often broken out into violence. The United Nations has tracked thousands of deaths and injuries related to the ongoing conflict — most of which come on the Palestinian side of the border divide.

Shortly after the attack on Saturday, a group of protesters in support of Palestine held a rally in front of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. Abdullah Elagha, an organizer for the Colorado Palestine Coalition who is originally from Gaza, said they held the rally to show support for Palestinians and educate the public on the greater context of the conflict.

“We were trying to kind of give a different perspective on the issue, since everyone else seems to be framing it in the way that this all happened in a vacuum, and Palestinians are horrible people who just want violence. That's not true,” Elagha said.

Meanwhile, synagogues across Colorado opened their doors over the weekend to support their congregations. Richard Rheins, senior rabbi for the Temple Sinai in Denver, said in a letter to the congregation posted on Facebook that he and others in the temple have family members in Israel.

“This Palestinian Hamas terror attack was especially close to home for Rabbi Susan Rheins and me as our sons Jakod and Sam are both in Israel,” he wrote in the letter. “The spirit of the Israelis is strong and confident. Still, the loss of life and the horrific suffering is yet another reminder that Israelis are not given the luxury of taking for granted the blessings of peace and tranquility.”

Dan Leshem, the director of the Jewish Community Relations Council at JEWISHColorado, was planning a trip with fellow Coloradans to Israel next week. With the newly heightened conflict in the region, they made the decision to cancel the trip. Now, he’s working to support his community while making sure his own family is safe.

“Most of my family lives in Israel and so yesterday morning was mostly phone calls to relatives to find out how everyone's doing and what the conditions of their hiding and sheltering is,” he said.

Leshem said JEWISHColorado is hosting two community events to support Israel. On Sunday, it’ll host a Zoom gathering with Jewish community leaders. On Monday, it’ll host an in-person community vigil at Temple Emanuel in Denver, along with other Jewish organizers from the Front Range.

Elected officials across Colorado also commented on the conflict. Gov. Jared Polis condemned the attack on Saturday afternoon.

“I am deeply heartbroken and alarmed by the deadly attack against the Israeli people,” Polis said in a statement. “I call on Hamas to immediately cease their attack against Israel. I will continue to monitor the crisis and stand in solidarity with Israel.”

Both parties in Colorado’s congressional delegation also came out in support of Israel.

“We condemn these evil terrorist attacks from Hamas, and fully support Israel’s right to defend themselves and their citizens from these unprovoked and heinous attacks.” Republican Rep. Ken Buck posted on X, the platform formally known as Twitter.

Colorado State Rep. Iman Jodeh, who was born to two Palestinian immigrants, called for people to educate themselves on the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict. 
” I know that right now, many are sending thoughts and prayers. But I challenge that, and say we must be concerned with human rights, and that this moment deserves a real examination, introspection and an honest pursuit of knowledge to put an end to the decadeslong violence,” she wrote in a statement posted to X.

The Denver Police Department added extra patrols around Jewish synagogues on Saturday after discussions with the Anti-Defamation League. A spokesperson for the department said that while area mosques have not requested heightened security, DPD pays attention to religious centers during times of increased tension.



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