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Monday, July 31, 2006

Utahns who support Israel pray for peace

By Carrie A. Moore
Deseret Morning News

Scores of Israel supporters packed a local synagogue on Sunday night to offer bilingual prayers for 1.5 million people in northern Israel — one third of whom have evacuated their homes and businesses, fleeing rocket fire from southern Lebanon.

Orthodox Jewish rabbi Benny Zippel, left, and J. Laura Green hang an Israeli flag Sunday during a prayer service for Israel's safety.

Kim Raff, Deseret Morning News

Rabbi Benny Zippel of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah presided over a prayer rally at his synagogue in Salt Lake City, which drew about 150 Jews and friends of Israel. Offering prayers from the Torah in both Hebrew and English, he told of his recent trip to Jerusalem and a visit to a military base there.

The fighting broke out two days after he arrived. He wondered aloud how the hatred that initiated the Holocaust continues to brew in different ways.

"The question in all our hearts and minds here in Utah, 8,000 miles away, is what can we do?" Prayers of support cross geographic time and space, he said. "It doesn't matter if you live in Haifa or Jerusalem or Salt Lake City. We can all be gathered together with words of prayer."

A commanding officer at a military base near Ramallah said, when asked what it was like to be engaged in a war, "Rabbi, we have faith, we have faith."

Reciting Psalm 20 from the Jewish prayer book, he and those gathered joined in unison: "Some rely upon chariots and some upon horses, but we rely on the name of our God . . . Lord, deliver us."

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff also addressed the gathering, wearing a traditional Jewish skull cap. With emotion evident, he talked of his trip to Israel last year, including a stop at a hospital to visit an American Jewish child injured by terrorist gunfire that killed her younger sister.

As he talked with the grieving grandmother, she told him, "I can't believe the same hatred that took my family 60 years ago has taken my grandbaby."

During his visit, Shurtleff said he also met with Ariel Sharon, who wept as he talked of how tired he was of the killing.

"My heart and prayers and faith and love continue with you. I know you have friends and family there suffering. Thousands of bombs are being dropped on their heads. I pray for peace and strength for every man, woman and child," he said.

Laura Green, executive director of the United Jewish Federation of Utah, also just returned on Friday from northern Israel, where she witnessed a rocket packed with 20,000 ball bearings hit a deserted playground, shredding everything within 100 feet.

She pleaded for those in attendance to talk with neighbors and friends about the situation to reinforce Israel's desire for peace, saying the tide of public opinion is likely to turn against the Jewish people as media report the suffering of innocents in Lebanon. She urged supporters to thank Utah senators Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett for their vote condemning Hezbollah.

"Israel will survive, but what will the cost be? What toll will it take on lives, what will the psychological damage be? Please pray for peace."

E-mail: carrie@desnews.com

© 2006 Deseret News Publishing Company

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