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‘Being Jewish and alive shouldn’t be a miracle’: World reacts to Texas synagogue attack

Law enforcement officers escort a hostage out of Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Tex., on Jan. 15, 2022. Police said the man was not hurt and would be reunited with his family. (Elias Valverde/Dallas Morning News/AP)
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LONDON — Jews around the world woke up Sunday to the news that U.S. law enforcement officers had rescued a rabbi and others who were being held hostage by a man armed with a gun and explosives inside a Colleyville, Tex., synagogue, where they were gathered Saturday for Sabbath services.

The hours-long standoff in the suburb of Fort Worth and Dallas, which ended with the suspect confirmed dead and all hostages “out alive and safe,” sent shock waves through the local community and rippled far beyond the United States.

“The synagogue hostages are out and alive. I’m crying tears of joy,” tweeted Hen Mazzig, a senior fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to research and tackling antisemitic hate speech online. “Being Jewish and alive shouldn’t be a miracle. But it is.”

Mazzig, who is Israeli, told The Washington Post in an email that he was at home in Britain when he first heard about the attack late Saturday. “I felt like this was going to be another case of a synagogue massacre, like the one we saw in Pittsburgh in 2018. I was upset and worried for the hostages, praying that they would make it out alive.”

The attack on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue was the deadliest on Jews in U.S. history, when 11 worshipers were killed after a gunman, armed with Glock .357 handguns and a Colt AR-15 rifle, opened fire.

For Mazzig, Saturday’s attack was another reminder: “We are never truly safe."

Texas synagogue standoff ends with hostages freed, suspect dead

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday that he was “relieved” all hostages had been rescued and commended local law enforcement agencies for their work. “This event is a stark reminder that antisemitism is still alive and we must continue to fight it worldwide,” Bennett tweeted. “To the Jewish community in Colleyville and around the world: You are not alone — we stand united with you.”

In Texas, the identity of the suspect had not yet been released and a motive had not yet been officially announced, although a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation said the man’s motive for taking hostages appeared to be his anger over the U.S. imprisonment of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman being held in federal prison for trying to kill U.S. soldiers.

Who is Aafia Siddiqui? Texas synagogue hostage-taker allegedly sought release of ‘Lady al-Qaeda’

Mazzig said his social media feeds were filled with calls from British Jews for officials to better protect synagogues. “Our sanctuaries are still the target of those who wish to harm us,” he said, urging “leaders and allies to take action.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, a Jewish communal group established in 1760, said it was “horrified” to hear of the attack and sent its “profound gratitude” to the officials who worked to rescue the hostages.

The Community Security Trust (CST), an organization dedicated to keeping British Jews safe, also called Sunday for officials to better protect Jews. “This is a reminder of the need for all security measures to be fully implemented across the Jewish community,” the group said. Last month, the CST said that almost half a million explicitly antisemitic tweets were being sent online each year, citing a report that examined the extent of antisemitism online.

Others took to social media to point out the regular sense of danger many Jews experience while going to worship.

“I have attended synagogues on five continents,” tweeted Avi Mayer, the managing director of public affairs for the American Jewish Committee, an advocacy organization that seeks to fight antisemitism.

“I have had to send in copies of my passport, go through metal detectors, submit to questioning, enter fortress-like compounds and walk past armored personnel carriers and soldiers with automatic rifles,” he continued. “This is Jewish life in 2022.”

Jews in Britain last year noted that whenever tensions flared between Israel and Hamas, they often were targeted by those angry with the actions of the Israeli government.

‘Who’s out protecting us?’: Spate of anti-Jewish attacks in the U.S. draws calls for more forceful response

Antisemitic incidents in London alone increased by roughly 500 percent over the course of 10 days last May, according to data from the CST, after Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip killed at least 200 people, including children, according to local officials. The strikes were in response to thousands of rockets fired from Gaza, many of which were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system. The rockets killed more than 10 people in Israel.

The CST that said “almost all” incidents could be linked to the 11-day conflict. In England, a convoy of cars draped in Palestinian flags drove through a London neighborhood. From inside one car, a man shouted an antisemitic tirade into a megaphone, calling for the rape of Jewish women

A series of attacks on Jewish people were also reported in the United States in the wake of last year’s conflict. The cases were said to range from protest signs calling Zionists “Nazis” to several physical attacks and reported instances of vandalism at synagogues and Jewish community centers. One man said he was attacked by a mob calling him “a filthy Jew,” while others reported that they had been targeted by people shouting “Free Palestine.”

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