Prayer vigil held in Sioux Falls in wake of attack on Israel

Prayer vigil held in Sioux Falls in wake of attack on Israel
Published: Oct. 15, 2023 at 9:41 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Just eight days ago the world stood in shock as Hamas launched a deadly attack on Israeli citizens. On Sunday, the people of South Dakota stood unified in support of Israel. The El Riad Shrine Center in Sioux Falls hosted a prayer vigil for Israel, where city, state, and federal elected officials including Governor Noem and Senator Thune came to support the Jewish community and pray together.

“We’re all in this together and I think that is the message coming out of this,” said Senator John Thune. “We are going to stand with our ally Israel and confront evil. That’s what it is, I mean the kind of hatred that led to the violence and attack on the people of Israel, the Jewish community literally since the holocaust. It has to be confronted.”

Leaders of the Jewish community responded to protests in support of Palestine by highlighting the actions of Hamas.

“Friends, there is no context, ever, for such savagery and inhumanity,” explained Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz. “I ask you, I beg you please don’t ever allow yourself to fall into that trap and lose your humanity.”

“It is one thing to declare war on a country,” said Jacob Forstein, the President of the Mount Zion Congregation in Sioux Falls. “It is completely another thing to take hostages of women and children and murder and rape them. This is evil as evil ever gets and we must stand against it, stomp it out.”

Rabbi Alperowitz said that at times he does not want to look at the images and videos of the violence and hear the stories of loved ones taken away or gruesomely killed because it can be difficult to deal with or think about. Still, he feels a moral obligation to see the issues that Israeli families are dealing with.

“As we feel the deep pain and sorrow in our hearts and tears on our faces, let us channel this pain into action,” Alperowitz called out. “Let us resolve to be better Jews, better human beings, kinder to our family and to our neighbors and remember that all human beings are created in the image of God.”

With a divided Congress struggling to finalize a new budget, aid for Israel is held back. However, civilians and other organizations have picked up the slack, donating funds to Israeli hospitals at events like Sunday’s prayer vigil.

“It is outstanding to know that our brothers and sisters of South Dakota stand with us and Israel at this time of need,” Forstein said. “And to feel that warmth of encouragement and faith surround us is outstanding.”

The conflicts in Israel and Ukraine may help push Congress to act faster on finalizing a budget so that aid can be sent to those countries.

“We have had their back, they have had our back,” described Thune. “They are a force for stability, democracy, freedom in a part of the world where it doesn’t exist. There is so much at stake for the United States and our national security, so it’s clearly a national security issue, but it’s also a humanitarian issue. Here in the United States, we need to make sure that the people of Israel understand that our country has their back.”

As the fighting rages on in Israel, the Jewish community of South Dakota is praying and hoping for a peaceful end to the conflict.

“There is brightness on the horizon,” Forstein said with a grin. “That’s what gets us all up at the beginning of the day, when we lie down and go to sleep, we must know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We must keep our faith in God and one another to continue this battle.”