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Saturday, July 15, 2006

I.E. concern growing for friends, family in Mideast

By Jason Newell, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

As images of destructive bombings fill their television screens and details of the latest attacks emerge on Internet news sites, locals with ties to the Middle East are praying for peace but fearing the worst.

Violence escalated Friday across portions of Israel and Lebanon, two days after the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others.

Israel continued to batter its northern neighbor's airport and main roads with bombs, while Hezbollah stepped up its own attacks -- including slamming a remote-controlled, explosive-loaded aircraft into an Israeli warship.

At synagogues throughout the Inland Empire, locals planned discussions and special prayers for the region as part of their regular Friday-evening Sabbath services.

‘‘People are concerned,'' said Jay Sherwood, acting rabbi of Adat Re'im in Rancho Cucamonga. ‘‘People have relatives, people have friends in Israel and are concerned about their safety.''

The congregation planned to include prayers for the protection of Israel, its soldiers and for peace in the Middle East during its services Friday night, he said.

Sherwood, who has numerous friends and family members living in Israel, said he had been fixed in front of his computer monitor to stay up to date on the back-and-forth attacks.

‘‘I think it's an ugly situation, but at the same time, Israel was attacked on sovereign territory,'' he said, calling the Israeli military's reaction to Wednesday's kidnappings and killings an ‘‘unfortunate necessity.''

Israel has focused its strikes mainly on roads, bridges and other infrastructure in Lebanon as well as targets it hopes will diminish the strength of Hezbollah.

On Friday, Israeli missiles destroyed the home and office of Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. In a taped statement aired on television Nasrallah later said: ‘‘You wanted an open war, and we are ready for an open war.''

At least 73 people in Lebanon and 12 Israelis have died in three days of conflict.

Rabbi Sholom Harlig, director of Chabad of the Inland Empire, based in Rancho Cucamonga, said he had called friends and colleagues in Israel to check on them Friday.

Because bombings had forced many residents from their homes, rabbinical students had been mobilized to distribute food for Sabbath services to shelters across northern Israel, he said.

As for his own Sabbath service, Harlig said he planned to address the conflict in a sermon and include a special prayer for peace. He said he would urge his congregation ‘‘to add in their prayer, do good deeds and be kind to each other.''

‘‘Prayer and charity -- it brings an extra blessing from God,'' he said.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jason Newell can be reached by e-mail at jason.newell@dailybulletin.com or by phone at (909) 483-9338.

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