The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore held a community briefing over Zoom on Wednesday in the wake of Hamas’ recent attacks on Israel.
Moderated by Associated Chair Yehuda Neuberger and President Marc B. Terrill, the hour-long event saw several Jewish authorities discussing how the Baltimore Jewish community is responding to the crisis and what people can do to help.
Here are some important takeaways from the briefing, which can be viewed online on The Associated’s YouTube channel.
This is the third-largest terror attack in the world since 1970.
David Makovsky, a Ziegler distinguished fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, noted that the scale of this attack cannot be underestimated.
Comparisons of Israel’s current state to 9/11 are common, but the attacks are more similar to 9/11 than one may think. Hamas’ recent attacks on Israel are the third-largest terrorist incident in the world since 1970, according to statista.com, a website that compiles statistics from different academic studies. It is currently only surpassed by 9/11 itself with a death toll of 2,960 and the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre that killed 1,700 in Iraq.
“There were more people killed on Saturday than during the entire four years of the First Intifada,” Makovsky explained. “If you put that together with the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, Saturday still has a higher death toll.”
Baltimore’s Israeli sister city, Ashkelon, is facing danger.
The Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership is marking its 20th anniversary this year, having been formed in 2003. But current events in Israel make it difficult to celebrate this milestone.
The partnership has been upheld as a shining example of how communities can connect across the Diaspora and across countries, Terrill said, due to the fact that Baltimore and Ashkelon have similar environments and face similar problems. Because of its proximity to the Gaza strip, though, Ashkelon has been a frequent target of rocket attacks.
In 2021, partnership Director Sigal Ariely faced this danger head-on when her family’s home was destroyed by a missile. When her family rebuilt, they added a shelter, where they are sheltering now during the ongoing war. She said that the situation in Ashkelon is currently dire.
“We can’t even express the magnitude of what is happening in Ashkelon right now,” Ariely said. “The people in Ashkelon have stayed in or near shelters since this happened.”
Still, she noted that the kindness offered by participants in the partnership has been very meaningful. Several participants of the partnership’s Kesher program, who visited Ashkelon, have reached out to their former host families to show their support. Ariely thanked everyone who has reached out on behalf of the city.
“We have so many people in Baltimore who are reaching out to people in Ashkelon,” she said. “To be alone, facing something of this scale, is something that nobody can do.”
Maryland representatives are supporting aid to Israel.
Sen. Ben Cardin, who has served as Maryland’s senior U.S. senator since 2007 and is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke of his and his colleagues’ efforts to send aid to Israel.
“We will show total support for Israel ,not just in our words, but in our deeds,” he said, referring to himself and fellow Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), whom he described as his conservative counterpart. He also explained that he and other senators are working on resupplying Israel with munitions, some of which have already been delivered.
In addition to supporting bipartisan efforts to aid Israel, the government is also working with other countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar to prevent escalation from other nearby parties, such as Hezbollah. They are also focused on the over 100 hostages Hamas has taken. There is an unconfirmed number of Americans among them.
“It is something we think about every moment, how we can get these hostages back safely,” he said.
The U.S. government is working to help Palestinians in Gaza escape.
As a result of Hamas’ actions, and an Israeli blockade that has cut off food and fuel, many Palestinians living in Gaza are currently suffering.
According to a recent report from NPR, several neighborhoods in Gaza have been completely destroyed, electricity is out in the entire region and many have died. Because the Gaza Strip’s borders are closed, Palestinian citizens who wish to flee have nowhere to escape to.
Cardin said that the U.S. government is currently negotiating with the Palestinian Authority, which is led by the Fatah party, a noted opponent of Hamas. He added that their recent discussions have been “very effective.”
“[Hamas] had no concern for the Palestinians living in Gaza. We do, and we’re working to help those who want to escape Hamas in Gaza,” he said.