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Monday, August 14, 2006

Myrtle Beach backs Israel

Gathering promotes solidarity

By Jessica Foster
The Sun News

A chorus of Jewish and Christian voices emanated from a room in the Myrtle Beach Convention Center on Sunday, singing songs about peace in Israel.

During the turmoil in what some call the holy land, the group demonstrated the kind of unity that the event's organizers hoped to foster on the area's first Israel Solidarity Day.

"We live in a world of dilemmas in Israel," said Yoram Adar, a Florida man who served 24 years in the Israeli Air Force and is an official of the United Jewish Communities. UJC represents 155 Jewish federations and 400 independent Jewish communities across North America.

The conflict between Hezbollah and Israel that has been raging for weeks was the main catalyst for the gathering, said Carrol Sallas, who goes to the Temple Beth Elohim, a Jewish temple in Georgetown, and who was involved in planning the event.

"I'm hoping that maybe this rally will make people here on the Grand Strand aware of what's happening," she said. "It's a sad situation. Men, women and children are being killed on all sides."

Several local and national groups - Chabad of Myrtle Beach, Temple Emanu-El, Temple Shalom, Hadassah, Temple Beth Elohim and the United Jewish Communities - sponsored the event.

Leaders of the Jewish and Christian communities spoke to justify Israel's stance in the conflict, which began on July 12 when Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers. Since then, more than 1,000 people have been killed in the fighting, according to an Aug. 11 United Nations news release.

Many in the crowd on Sunday wore "I love Israel" shirts and held small Israeli flags.

Some were skeptical about the cease-fire scheduled to begin today, which Adar said would work only if both sides comply to its conditions.

"Those who got burned with boiling water are very careful with warm water," he said.

"[Israel] always end up on the short end, and hopefully this time we won't."

The event was not intended to exclude or cause harsh feelings within the Lebanese or Muslim communities in Myrtle Beach, said Rabbi Avi Perets, of Temple Emanu-El.

Many Lebanese people support Israel in its fight to uproot Hezbollah, he said, and the event Sunday was for everyone who stands behind that goal.

"It was an event for the entire community," he said. "I would encourage Muslims also to come and support us in that."

The event Sunday also featured a conference call with the mayor of the Israeli city of Haifa so that the group congregated in Myrtle Beach could extend its encouragement and support.

Even if the rally doesn't have a direct effect on the fighting, it can have a psychological effect on its participants, said Joan Piroch, psychology professor at Coastal Carolina University.

"What's happening in the Middle East is completely out of our control, but that doesn't mean that we still don't empathize with these people," Piroch said.

"We gain a certain amount of strength and confidence from other people."

The rally concluded with prayer and song that lamented war and uplifted their ancient land of promise.

Janice Sattele, who goes to Christ Church in Murrells Inlet, said these kinds of gatherings help forge a connection between Jews and Christians.

"I think the more that we get together, the more bonding there will be, the more trust," said Sattele.

Christians should stand with the Jewish community "to make sure that that light which is the state of Israel will never be put out," said Mark Goodman, pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church.

"I, like you, hope that the peace that God promises to us ... will be realized."

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