The fear of rockets: Group at Miller Plaza told of Israelis' fears over Hamas attacks

The fear of rockets: Group at Miller Plaza told of Israelis' fears over Hamas attacks

July 31st, 2014 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Barbara Zuback, left and Laurie Moore participate in reading the prayer for the state of Israel during the Stand in Solidarity with Israel event Wednesday in Miller Plaza.

Photo by Logan Foll/Times Free Press.

Hadas Peled lifted her cellphone to the mic and pressed play.

Through the speakers inside the Miller Plaza Waterhouse Pavilion, the sound of a wailing siren streamed out Wednesday evening. An alarm. Peled said the sound felt louder last week, when she heard it on her iPad.

Peled, 25, an Israeli native who has spent the last year as a cultural emissary in Chattanooga, was video-chatting with her mom and dad when she heard the siren. She knew what it meant. Every child in Israel knew what it meant. They grew up running to safety when they heard the wailing.

On this occasion, Peled watched through her iPad as her mom and dad ran from their living room to a shelter they share with neighbors near Tel-Aviv. Rockets were flying in. Peled tried to stay calm, but she began to shiver. She felt like she jumped into a cold shower.

The rockets stopped, though, and her parents were safe. But she wonders: How long will the violence last this time?

"I grew up in the shadow of the Israeli-Arab conflict," Peled told a group of about 200 people gathered under the Waterhouse Pavilion. "We've had enough."

Michael Dzik, the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga, organized Wednesday's Stand in Solidarity with Israel event to bring locals together, to rally as a group in support of the world's only Jewish nation.

"Black, white, brown, yellow, green or whatever your religious background: We want people to come out and stand strong with Israel," Dzik said. "It's important for the Jewish community. It is equally important for the Christian or Muslim or B'Nai or any group to come out and stand up for Israel."

On Saturday, four days before the Stand with Israel rally, a group of Palestinian supporters gathered in Miller Plaza. One of that group's leaders criticized Dzik and other Israeli backers Wednesday.

"These people probably have no shame whatsoever," said Dr. Fouad Moughrabi, the former head of the Department of Political Science at UTC. "If they see Israel killing children mercilessly like this and they are willing to stand with Israel, that's shocking and shameful. ... There are ways diplomatically to resolve anything. Military force is not going to resolve this conflict. There is no military solution. None. Not now, not in the future."

In addition to Peled, many local religious leaders gave speeches and led the group in prayers Wednesday evening. The event featured local rabbis like Bill Tepper from the Mizpah Congregation, but pastors from Christian churches in town also showed support.

The Rev. Kevin Adams, pastor of Olivet Baptist Church, told the crowd about some of his friends in Israel, about how he worries for those friends amid the recent violence. Adams said he cried Tuesday night when he realized those friends had not responded to an email he recently sent.

Since Israel launched a major offensive against the Palestinians on July 8, according to the New York Times, 1,328 Palestinians have died and 59 Israelis have died. Israeli airstrikes have hit 3,577 targets in Gaza, while Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups have launched 2,753 rockets at Israel.

The recent violence in the ongoing feud began on June 10, when a group of Palestinians kidnapped and killed three Israeli students who were attending a religious school in the West Bank. On June 30, when police found the boys' bodies, Israel launched a series of air strikes on the Gaza Strip. Palestinian militant forces responded by firing rockets at Israel.

On July 2, Israeli police found 16-year-old Palestinian named Muhammed Abu Khdeir burned to death near his Jerusalem home. Officials said the boy's killers were retaliating for the three Israeli students' deaths.

The violence has continued to mounted in the weeks' since. There have been more rockets and more deaths in this conflict than in the most recent episode, the 2012 Gaza War.

Ron Brummer, the deputy consul general to Israel from the Southeast United States, said the Palestinian people are being used as human shields by Hamas. He said Israel will continue to use any force necessary.

"The real cease-fire will be accomplished when Israel accomplishes its mission and destroys Hamas," he said Wednesday.

Waving Israeli flags, the crowd cheered.

Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com.