South Florida rabbis travel to Israel and see conflict, but also compassion

Tensions are once again rising in the Middle East just weeks after a stalemate was reached.

PLANTATION, Fla. – Tensions are rising in the Middle East just weeks after a stalemate was reached.

The ongoing clash striking a chord with many in South Florida, but Local 10 is hearing from a local group that is currently on the ground in Israel.

“My colleagues and I were actually down on the Gaza border,” said Rabbi Andrew Jacobs from the Ramat Shalom Synagogue. “We saw the balloons being launched into Israel. We saw the smoke, we saw the fire.”

The South Florida rabbis in Israel have experienced the fearful events that have made headlines around the world, and also the moments that did not, like a street concert.

“There are incredible stories of Jewish Israelis, Palestinian Israelis, Christian Israelis, Muslim Israelis, you name it working together to build this place, that doesn’t get the attention that it deserves,” Jacobs said.

Those firsthand truths continue this week for the 18 rabbis from synagogues around Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach who landed in Israel Monday to listen, learn and show solidarity to all Israelis living in a tense and unpredictable time, including Palestinian and Arab Israelis at a school near some of the worst recent violence.

“They made it very clear that they are very proud to be Palestinians and Israel and we should not try to separate those two identities, and they are committed to build their city and state of Israel,” Jacobs said.

Added Rabbi Joanne Loiben from Temple Beth Sholom: “Shireen was the name of the principal and she said, ‘I hope you remember us as people, I hope you remember us as individuals.’ Everyone has their own voice and everyone has their own story to tell.”

The group met with Israel’s new President-elect and members of Israel’s complicated coalition government that includes members from across the political spectrum, including Arab and Islamic members.

“It is a great time of political change in Israel,” said Jacobs. “Overall, there is tremendous optimism in the Jewish state right now because of it.”

That optimism at times is overshadowed by narratives on social media.

“There are these connections and also there are these quick clips of stories we’re hearing just like a tiny little soundbite, and not getting a whole narrative of people and their experiences,” said Loiben.

About the Author:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."