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March 22, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Israel Complicates Jews' View of Iraq War
For Many U.S. Jews, View of War in Iraq Complicated by Concern for Israel

The Associated Press


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For months, Rabbi Peter Knobel has spoken against a war on Iraq, but on the first Jewish Sabbath since the U.S.-led strike began, he traded his "hellfire and brimstone" sermons for prayers for peace.

"I hope for a good outcome for the Iraqi people and the Middle East in general," said Knobel, of Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston, Ill. "And that the promises the president has made will come to fruition, though frankly I don't think they will."

It was a somber Shabbat, or Sabbath, for American Jews, who have been divided over whether military action was justified.

For many, their view of the war is complicated by concern about its effect on Israel and fear they will be called the driving force behind the invasion. During the first Gulf War, Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel, and Israelis have been carrying gas masks in case Iraq lashes out at them again.

"I'm opposed to this war, because I think we should have waited for a diplomatic solution," said Bonnie Cole, 52, of Shaker Heights, Ohio, as she entered The Temple-Tifereth Israel.

"So far, everything looks like it's going well, but we won't know until the dust clears. It's not over yet," Cole said.

Pauline Reich, who attended services at Central Synagogue in New York, said she opposed the war because it could destabilize other countries.

"I'm afraid the whole region will go up," Reich said. "This is definitely a danger for Israel or anyone in the Middle East."

A survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee in late December and early January found that 59 percent of U.S. Jews supported military action to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

However, they see a wave of anti-Semitism from those who claim the entire Jewish community supports the war as a way to help Israel.

Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., publicly apologized after saying at a March 3 church forum: "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this."

Leaders of all the main branches of Judaism have advised their synagogues to increase security in case of anti-American or anti-Semitic attacks.

Rabbi Melvin Sirner of Beth El Synagogue in New Rochelle, N.Y., said members of his congregation are "all over the spectrum" on the war.

He supports the U.S. strike and led prayers this Shabbat "for a relatively speedy end to the conflict and that the scourge of terror will be removed from our midst."

"Saddam Hussein and the current regime have been a terrible threat hanging over the civilized world," Sirner said. "I think everybody wants Hussein out."

In his sermon, Central Synagogue Rabbi Peter Rubinstein said Jews who disagree over the allied attack can still pray together.

He said he hoped Jews "will demonstrate the best values of American history both in battle and in policy: concern for the community of nations as well as for our own, support of those who suffer from natural or human causes, keeping our word, and the pursuit of justice as well as peace."

On the Net:

Beth Emet The Free:

Temple-Tifereth:

Central Synagogue:

Beth El:

American Jewish Committee:


photo credit and caption:
An unidentified Israeli couple take photographs with Patriot missile battery in the background, in Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv, Friday, March 21, 2003. Patriot missiles are to be used against Iraqi ballistic missles in case of an attack. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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