Peoria Jewish community prays for security of Israel

LESLIE RENKEN/JOURNAL STAR Dan Steinberg of Peoria prays for the safety and security of Israel during a lunch-hour service at the Labavitch Chabad of Peoria on Tuesday.

By Stephanie Gomes
of the Journal Star Posted Jan 06, 2009 @ 07:23 PM Last update Jan 07, 2009 @ 08:02 AM
PEORIA — Prayers were said for the safety and security of Israel at the Labavitch Chabad of Peoria on Tuesday afternoon.


"We feel it's a special time for prayer," said executive director Rabbi Eli Langsam. "So while everyone is going around their day-to-day life, it's important that we stop and think for a second and pray for those in harm's way and for our brothers and sisters in the land of Israel."

Tuesday marked the 11th day of fighting in Gaza. Palestinian medical officials estimated the death toll exceeds 600, and the United Nations and Palestinian officials said about half of those killed were civilians.

While many are calling for an immediate ceasefire, the Israeli mission is clear: to create conditions that will prevent Hamas from firing rockets on southern Israel cities, said Susan Katz, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Peoria.

Standing in front of the room at the Chabad, Langsam led eight Jewish members in prayer during their lunch break, while images of Israeli soldiers in prayer were projected on the wall. He began by lighting a candle in memory of the six Israeli soldiers who have died so far and led the group in a memorial prayer.

Tuesday was a special day for members of the Jewish community. It was the 10th day in the month of Tevet, a day when Jews around the world fast for the siege that took place in Jerusalem in 425 B.C., Langsam said.

It also was a day of more casualties as Israel struck a United Nations school in Gaza, killing at least 30. However, it was a justifiable act, according to Langsam.

"At the end of the day, everybody understands that any country that's under attack has the right to defend itself, and that's exactly what Israel is doing right now," he said.

Among those in prayer was Tal Popkov, goodwill emissary for the Jewish Federation of Peoria and former Israeli solider.

"As a former soldier, I know exactly what's going on there," he said. "I'm glad that finally we are taking a stand and doing something."

Other members in the prayer group held similar views about the attacks. Peace in exchange for land is not an option according to Jewish law, said Langsam.

"People will use you and abuse you if you don't stand up for yourself," said Carl Cohen, 71, of Peoria.

The Jewish community does care about Palestinian casualities. Langsam wants people to know that any civilian death is terrible. But, Hamas is putting their own people in danger since they have embedded themselves among civilians, according to Langsam.

Katz spoke during the prayer and read an e-mail from an Israeli family who was touched by the prayer.

"It's important that the Jewish community shows solidarity with Israel," she said. Stephanie Gomes can be reached at 686-3196 or [email protected].