Several hundred Jews in Chicago gathered Monday to remember 15 people killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem last Thursday. Jews in the United States are also making plans for a national march in support of Israel next month.
The hundreds of people who packed downtown Chicago's Loop Synagogue during the Monday lunch hour were told this was a time for weeping and remembering, not for politics or analysis. Rabbi Ellen Dreyfus spoke as those in the room looked at photographs of the 15 people killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a packed pizza restaurant in Jerusalem last week.
"Children with their parents, teenagers on summer vacation, young lovers planning their future, visitors from across the ocean, all murdered for the crime of eating pizza while being Jewish," said Rabbi Dreyfus.
Prayers were offered, not only for the victims of this attack and their families, but for those in Israel who live under the threat of future attacks, which seem lately to be possible anywhere in the country.
A member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), Ophir Pines-Paz of the Israeli One Party, said the government is doing its best to prevent such attacks. He says its number one priority is saving lives. "I am telling the world, and I am telling [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat himself: the terror will not break us. The terror will not break our hearts or our soul. We will overcome it," said Mr. Pines-Paz.
We were unable to reach representatives of several Chicago-area Arab-American groups for comment on the latest Middle East violence. In recent interviews, Ali Alarabi, of a local group called the Vanguards, has says he does not condone such attacks in Israel. He says Palestinians frustrated by living under what they consider Israeli occupation carry them out.
"If there is no violence committed by the Palestinians," he said, Israelis "will still continue occupying Palestinian lands, regardless. Bottom line, they will not leave," he said.
Those attending Monday's memorial service were urged to consider attending a big support rally for Israel next month in New York City. A march to the United Nations is being planned for September 23. Jewish organizations in Chicago hope to fly a planeload of marchers to the rally.