PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Dozens of Rhode Islanders gathered to pray for Israel Monday night after Hamas’ unprecedented and unexpected attack.
Hamas gunmen stormed from the blockaded Gaza Strip and into nearby Israeli towns on Saturday, killing hundreds and wounding thousands.
Israel has since declared war on Hamas and promised to punish the Gaza Strip for the deadly assault by increasing airstrikes, as well as cutting off their access to supplies.
The conflict has so far killed more than 1,600 and injured thousands of others. Hundreds remain missing, and Hamas had already threatened to execute civilian hostages should Israel continue to retaliate.
Adam Greenman, president of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, explained that the attack came amid Simchat Torah. The joyous holiday marks the end of the annual Torah reading cycle and the beginning of a new one.
“Saturday was supposed to be a time for celebration,” Greenman said. “Instead, it was a day of horror, shock and sadness.”
Greenman described the attacks as being “unlike anything we have seen in the recent past.” He said the barbarism and brutality shown by the Hamas gunmen has left him gutted.
Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser of Cranston’s Temple Sinai described the escalating conflict as “achingly painful.”
“What has happened is outrageous and we shouldn’t lose sight of that,” Goldwasser said. “This is beyond the boundaries of any normal civilized behavior. We need to continue to say it out loud. This is outrageous.”
Rhode Islanders gathered at the Jewish Community Center in Providence to not only comfort one another, but also to stand in solidarity with Israel.
Gov. Dan McKee told the crowd that the R.I. State House is illuminated in blue and white — the colors of the Israeli flag — in honor of those who have been impacted.
“Rhode Island stands with the people of Israel and condemns these terrorist attacks,” McKee said. “But make no mistake, that such atrocities are deserving of condemnation worldwide.”
“We are appalled by these acts of terror,” he continued. “We Rhode Islanders embrace you and stand unwavering by your side.”
Sen. Jack Reed assured the crowd that the United States will be assisting Israel in taking swift action against Hamas.
“America stands firmly with Israel,” Reed said. “Israel will receive everything it needs to prevail.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse echoed Reed’s sentiment.
“In my view, Hamas has forfeited its right to exist,” he said. “Evil can manifest itself in the world, but we are all better off when it is dealt with [quickly] and forcefully.”
New England’s Israeli Consul General Meron Reuben said the unfathomable violence “hits home” for him, especially since his 23-year-old daughter was drafted by the military reserve.
“We are going into a very long battle,” Reuben said. “The head of the serpent must be cut off. We can’t allow Israel to continue under the sword of terror for years and years to come.”
The Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island is assisting with fundraising efforts to help those who have been directly impacted.