Watching, Waiting, Reflecting: Jewish Community Monitoring News from Israel
Half a world away from Israel, the Jewish community in the Red River Radio listening area is keeping a very close eye on daily, sometimes hourly developments.
News reports of the Israeli-Hamas fighting are delivering a steady stream of important new information, seemingly by the hour. On the other end of those news reports are the friends, family and loved ones of the people in Israel. In all, at least 1,400 Israeli’s have been killed and another 3,800 people were hurt, while more than 4,000 Palestinians have died since then.
These developments have unfolded since October 7, when Hamas terrorists massacred entire families, slaughtered concert-goers and kidnapped elderly women, children, and entire families who are now being held as hostages.
Half a world away, in the Red River Radio listening area, – friends and family of Israeli residents, can only watch and wait.
That includes Rabbi Dr. Jana De Benedetti. She is the longtime rabbi of B’nai Zion synagogue in Shreveport. We spoke to her regarding the significance of the date of the attack on Saturday, October 7. It was 50 years ago, almost to the day, on October 6, 1973, when Israel was also caught off guard in the Yom Kippur War.
For “Rabbi Jana” as she’s known, she reflected on why Hamas chose to attack on this holy day in Israel. “This time the day that they hit was a quadruple holy day. So not only was it Shabbat, but it was also the last day of Sukkot, which I think in English it’s translated as the Feast of the Tabernacles.”
Rabbi De-Benedetti also pointed out there was another Jewish holiday being celebrated on October 7. It was Simchat Torah, with the Torah referring to the first five books of the bible. This day marks the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings. “And it’s the day when they read the last portion and the first portion and show it’s a continuing cycle. And it is a very joyous day,” as Rabbi De Benedetti paused for a moment before adding, “and it did not get to be a joyous day, it got to be a horrific day.”
Earlier this week [October 18], we heard from Barbara Joseph. She is the executive director of the North Louisiana Jewish Federation. After the attack on Israel, Joseph’s organization joined forces with the two local synagogues which included the rabbi’s B’nai Zion Synagogue. Together, they quickly organized a solidarity Gathering [October 11], for many of the nearly 400 members of the local Jewish community.
Many of them have strong ties to the people who attended the Nova music festival on the Negev desert in southern Israel. It's an event celebrating "unity and love" and was underway when Hamas gunmen blocked off exits and began to open fire, killing 260 people. “I don’t know if there’s any family I’ve spoken to since then who didn’t have friends or family at the concert in Israel. It was a big thing. And it was horrible.”
Rabbi De Benedetti says there’s an app she uses on her smartphone that tells her any time there’s an incoming threat inside Israel. That includes everything from artillery fire to short-range missiles. this information – which comes in real time – gives her a sense of what it may feel like - to be in Israel right now. “It’s hard not to feel connected to that. And so, I put that app on my phone last Saturday and I have not heard about the fact that there’s still non-stop, every 12 minutes, or 30 minutes, or 60 minutes. There’s still lots of bombs trying to hit us.”