GETZVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — Violence in Israel and Palestine enters its fourth day with more than 900 Israelis and 600 Palestinians killed. President Biden posted on social media that 11 Americans were confirmed dead and the U.S., France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom have remained “united and coordinated” in their support of Israel.
The unprecedented attacks began Saturday after the Hamas militant group launched surprise missile strikes and militants invaded firing at crowds at a music festival in southern Israel near the Gaza strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his country is now at war with Hamas, who are also holding Israelis hostage. There are also believed to be Americans being held, too. Airstrikes continue around the Gaza strip Monday night from both sides.
Members of the Buffalo community gathered in Getzville to pray and remember the lives lost over the weekend, calling for peace and standing in solidarity with Israel.
“Israel has every right like any nation to defend itself and its citizens,” Brenda Feldstein of the Buffalo Jewish Federation said.
The prayer vigil brought dozens of Western New Yorkers out to stand together in the wake of tragedy and the call for war.
“One thousand innocent people were slaughtered, were murdered in their houses, murdered in the streets, shot and burned alive in their homes. Some of them are my friends and relatives,” Israeli native and Chief Program Officer of the Jewish Community Center Gon Erez said.
Pastors from Christian churches also spoke out against the attacks by Hamas.
“Hate as much as you want, but we will never stop swinging. No weapon formed against us shall prosper. I stand with Israel,” Pastor Craig Pridgen of True Bethel Baptist Church said.
The vigil included speakers, prayers from the Torah and songs, including the Israeli national anthem.
“Send complete rescue and complete redemption to those held captive by the enemy. Strengthen their spirit and bring them our prayers that they be protected from all home,” Sheryl Schechter said as she prayed for those being held hostage.
Eighteen candles were lit inside of the JCC, symbolizing good luck and the gift of life. Even a rainbow — which in the Jewish faith symbolizes peace in the aftermath of destruction — briefly appeared after an opening song.
“There was something very moving and powerful, something spiritual that God was with us in this moment when we are in pain and in crisis,” Rob Goldberg, CEO of the Buffalo Jewish Federation, said.
Members of Buffalo’s Jewish community hope that by sharing this message of unity that one day there will be peace.
“It’s the slight hope that something will bring us together and bring us a small sense of comfort in this very atrocious and horrendous time,” Erez said.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.