As the Israel-Palestinian war intensifies, communities across Southern California are rallying in support of innocent lives lost and affected overseas.
Los Angeles is home to the second-largest Jewish population outside of Israel.
Hundreds of supporters gathered for a candlelight vigil in Westwood on Tuesday night, saying they wanted to be with their community as they prayed for those affected by the war.
Roxanna Eli organized the vigil at the Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel. She said many in her community find it difficult to even speak about the deadly conflict overseas in Israel.
“I beg you to understand, Hamas is a terrorist organization that doesn’t care about Palestine,” Eli said. “They don’t care about Palestinians.
“They didn’t ask, ‘Are you Jewish?’ Eli said of the attacks. “They probably killed a lot of their own people. They killed Americans and Jews and non-Jews and Muslims. They don’t care about Palestinians. You can be Pro-Palestine. That’s okay, I respect that. But speak up against hatred.”
Those attending the vigil listened as their rabbi spoke about division, asking the public to come together as allies of Israel.
“More American people need to support Israel as well,” said Rae Cohen, a local supporter. “Everyone has a right to survival and Israel is no different.”
“What I’ve been doing is posting on social media and praying a lot for everybody in Israel because I have cousins on both sides of my family who live there now,” said Justin Nikfarjan, a local supporter.
Nikfarjan had just returned home from a trip to Israel. He, along with his father, prayed together with many other families at the Westwood vigil. Armed security guards were visibly present at the gathering for attendees’ safety.
Some community members said the guards were an unfortunate, but necessary precaution.
“Unfortunately during these occasions, high holidays, we have to have [security] because we just don’t feel safe without it,” said Nazzi Benjamin, a vigil attendee. “It’s nice to be able to have it.”
“We have armed guards walking Wilshire Boulevard,” Eli said. “This is our reality every day, but especially now more than ever. It’s heightened.”
“I think it’s up to us to make a real change here,” said Adi Liebenthal, a local high school student. “And what happens in history, I think us being kids in this time of social media, it’s up to us to spread awareness on all of these issues.”
For those who would like to help to Israeli soldiers heading to the frontlines and other affected community members, donations can be made to The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.