San Diego community leaders gather in solidarity with Israel amid attacks
Local community leaders gathered Tuesday night to honor the victims of last weekend's terrorist attacks in Israel and in solidarity with Jewish people both in San Diego and abroad.
Hundreds came together for "Vigil for Israel: A Show of Community Solidarity," at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla in recognition of the loss of life stemming from a surprise attack launched by Hamas on Saturday.
"This attack by terrorists was a direct assault on our Jewish community," San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said at Tuesday night's vigil. "It was also an attack on all of us who believe in tolerance, compassion, and respect for our fellow human beings."
Among those killed in the attacks was Ofir Liebstein, the mayor of San Diego's sister region in Israel, Sha'ar HaNegev.
Heidi Gantwerk, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Diego, said several of Liebstein's other family members were also killed and one of Liebstein's children was "gravely injured" and remains missing.
Liebstein's wife and other children are safe "after a terrifying ordeal," she said, though "their world is shattered."
Since the attacks, she and others have tried to reach out to friends in Sha'ar HaNegev, but "far too many of those texts are going unanswered," she said.
Gloria called Liebstein "a man with a generous spirit and a heart full of love" and said he was killed while "defending his community. The home that he loved. The people that he so well served."
The vigil also featured prayers for Israel and in memorial of those who lost their lives.
Betzy Lynch, CEO of the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, addressed the Israeli-Americans who attended Tuesday night's vigil, saying, "Please know, we are your legs when you cannot stand. And when you are eyes when you cannot see from tears. And we will hold you and your people in the depths of our broken hearts. We are here with you and all of Israel today and every day."
Early Saturday, Hamas forces fired thousands of rockets into Israel as dozens of Hamas fighters infiltrated several locations, catching the country off-guard as the weeklong Jewish festival of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of the Tabernacles, came to an end. Israeli authorities said a second round of rockets were fired Saturday evening and struck multiple locations inside Israel, including in Tel Aviv.
In addition to the casualties, Israel said at least 100 of its soldiers and civilians were captured and taken to Gaza as hostages.
More than 1,000 people were killed, including 14 Americans, and another 2,500 were wounded, according to updated reports.