Supporters of Israelis and Palestinians in Winnipeg continue to worry for the safety of those in Israel and Gaza, as fighting between the Hamas militant group and the Israeli military has killed over a thousand people.
Belle Jarniewski, executive director of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada in Winnipeg, expressed her sympathy for everyone affected.
I contemplate these individuals and the immense fear they must be experiencing.
Since Saturday, when Hamas initiated a series of rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel, it is reported that over 700 people in Israel and more than 400 people in Gaza have lost their lives. In response to this attack, the Israeli government has declared war and retaliated with airstrikes on the Gaza territory.
Jarniewski expressed her sorrow towards the violence and damage, and desires for individuals to demonstrate their backing for Israel at a scheduled rally in Winnipeg on Tuesday evening.
“She expressed utter shock when she looked at the pictures and recognized the familiar places she had visited before.”
Jarniewski announced that the rally is scheduled to take place on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Asper Jewish Community Campus on Doncaster Street. It will serve as a gathering for community members to engage in prayer and participate in a vigil.
A gathering is planned for Monday by the Palestinian community.
Additionally, a demonstration advocating for the Palestinians has been organized.
Candice Bodnaruk, representing Peace Alliance Winnipeg, announced that individuals from the Palestinian community and supportive organizations such as Independent Jewish Voices Winnipeg will assemble in front of Winnipeg’s city hall at 2:30 p.m. on Monday.
She emphasized the organization’s stance on promoting peace and condemning the recent acts of violence. Additionally, she highlighted the significance of comprehending the Palestinian viewpoint in relation to the conflict.
Late on Sunday, Bodnaruk, who is assisting with the organization of the rally, mentioned that the individuals are residing in a location commonly referred to as an open-air prison.
The only thing we are able to do is express our views on the significance of human rights and motivate individuals to provide their support.
The military leader of Hamas has stated that the attack over the weekend was a reaction to the 16-year blockade of Gaza and the Israeli raids that have occurred in the previous year.
Although Israeli forces pulled out of Gaza in 2005, Hamas has been governing the area since taking over in 2007. However, a UN Human Rights commission concluded last year that Israel still maintains control over Gaza by regulating the movement of people and goods in and out of its borders, as well as the provision of basic necessities such as water and electricity.
Canadian Palestinians attribute the Hamas attacks to years of oppression.
Support for Israelis
Hamas gunmen rolled into as many as 22 locations outside the Gaza Strip early Saturday morning, including towns and other communities as far as 24 kilometres from the Gaza border, and took hostages as Israel’s military scrambled to muster a response, while the militant group launched thousands of rockets at Israeli cities.
The Israeli military announced on Sunday that they were engaged in combat against Hamas infiltrations at eight different locations. A spokesperson for the Israeli military stated that two hostage situations in Gaza had been successfully resolved, however, it was not confirmed if all hostages were saved unharmed.
Rena Sector Elbaze, executive director at Congregation Shaarey Zedek, a synagogue in Winnipeg, said two of her own children and her son-in-law are in Israel right now, and she’s worried for their safety.
On Sunday, she informed CBC that her daughters in Jerusalem are feeling frightened since her son-in-law had to move to the front, leaving them alone.
Sector Elbaze emphasized the significance of ensuring individuals are aware that they are not alone during such moments.
“She mentioned that it offers us encouragement and empathy. We take care of those who are the most susceptible within our community. Consequently, there is unity and resilience in this act,” she stated.
Sector Elbaze stated that the community will gather funds to support Israelis whose residences have been devastated.
WATCH | How Hamas caught Israeli defence off guard:
Bodnaruk expresses concern for the individuals in the region as she has friends from Palestine and acquaintances with family members residing in Gaza.
“I sympathize with the current situation, and it is extremely difficult to witness. There is a sense of panic and apprehension, fearing that it will deteriorate significantly,” she expressed.
Gustavo Zentner, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s President, expressed his immense gratitude for the overwhelming support received from Manitobans, including Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham, Premier Heather Stefanson, and Premier-designate Wab Kinew.
“He expressed his astonishment at the incredible level of support received,” he informed CBC. “We are grateful for it.”
I am joining the voices that unequivocally condemn the attack on Israel today. I have reached out to leaders in Winnipeg’s Jewish community to express my support. Our thoughts are particularly with the residents of Be’er Sheva, Winnipeg’s sister city, during this crisis. #Winnipeg #Israel
However, Bodnaruk finds the absence of government support disheartening. She believes that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, despite expressing solidarity with Israel and endorsing its right to self-defense, should have demonstrated support for both parties involved.
“I find it highly irresponsible,” she remarked. “I believe he should advocate for human rights and express his support for both groups, emphasizing his desire for peace in the region.”
Reports from Global Affairs Canada indicate that there has been a fatality of a Canadian individual in the area, and there are two additional Canadians whose whereabouts are currently unknown.