CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — On Monday, hundreds of people gathered at the Levine Jewish Community Center to pray for Israel and mourn the lives that have been lost in the fighting.
The community center is in Charlotte’s Shalom Park. In Hebrew, shalom means peace – a stark contrast to the reality of the situation overseas.
In many ways, the vigil had much of the same characteristics as any Jewish religious service, with the chanting of traditional prayers for peace and mourning. But this time, the prayers carried a far heavier weight, as many of the people at the vigil said they personally knew people among the dead or missing.
As part of their service, religious leaders lit ten candles, each representing roughly 100 Israeli civilians or soldiers who have died in the past 72 hours.
“There’s people that I know who are missing. There’s people that I know who are pronounced dead. If I can’t be there to support them and support Israel, then I’m going to come here and light a candle in remembrance of them because who else will right now in this area?” said Mickela Kayea.
Despite being more than 6,000 miles away from the crux of the fighting, many people in the local Jewish community report feeling uneasy.
“I’m wearing a Star of David now, but I was even hesitant to put that on,” said Sarah Flynn, who previously lived in Israel. “When I was there, I was 23, and I was super into the music scene. I feel like I could have been at the rave that was going on that was attacked.”
Israel is a country of similar size and population to the state of New Jersey, but if Monday’s vigil showed anything, it’s that the conflict in that country reaches all the way to Charlotte.
“We’re not going to sit back and not do anything. We’re not going to sit back and not grab each other by the hands and the arms and lift each other up and make sure that we are not alone wherever you are,” said Kayea.
The Islamic Center of Charlotte has not hosted its own gathering in light of the recent violence in the Middle East, but they say they are planning to host an emergency demonstration in support of Palestine on Sunday at First Ward Park.