By Lori Gaman and Rabbi Ben Zeidman
Days after Hamas invaded Israel from Gaza, we continue to learn more about the horrific violence that took place on Oct. 7. From El Paso it is difficult to imagine what it was like as terrorists raided families’ homes and murdered babies, children, teens, mothers, fathers, and the elderly.
They weren’t collateral damage. They were the target.
For six days El Pasoan Lori Gaman (with her husband Alan and several loved ones) was in and out of bomb shelters as her family trip to the Holy Land was interrupted by this violence. They were advised not to leave the hotel. If a raid were to occur, they might not have a safe space to get to.
So, they hunkered down in the confines of their hotel – making their way to the bomb shelter with every air raid siren – and learned the stories of those who were sheltered with them.
That includes 17 families from Sderot – an area at the heart of the invasion. They fled in their cars amidst gunfire, witnessing the deaths of friends and family members. Utter chaos. They saw firsthand that no one was spared the ugliness of this horrific attack. The common denominator was that they were all Jewish.
The fact is that this attack on Israel was about Hamas’ stated purpose to murder Jews and destroy the Jewish people. As Americans this (hopefully) doesn’t “compute.” But today, like for most of the last 2,000 years, antisemitism is flourishing.
Hatred doesn’t remain focused. It spreads. The only way to truly combat hatred is to join together and refuse to accept it.
El Paso, your Jewish friends, neighbors, and family members need you now more than ever. Already we are watching as antisemitic voices are equivocating and dismissing the death of innocent Jews. Ignoring the lives of Jewish hostages being held in Gaza.
We are not surprised by Hamas’ inhumane slaughter of innocent lives – but we are enraged. At the same time, we are exhausted by the constant threat we feel even here at home. We feel so lucky to live in El Paso where our worries and fears can’t compare to what is happening for our loved ones in Israel.
On Oct. 7, more Jews were slaughtered for being Jews in a single day since the end of the Holocaust. Our anguish is beyond words. So please, El Paso, don’t worry about saying the right words. Just give us a hug, lend us your shoulder, and allow us to cry.
Lori Gaman is past president of Temple Mount Sinai in El Paso. Rabbi Ben Zeidman serves as rabbi of Temple Mount Sinai.