GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As war unfolds between Israeli forces and Hamas, some in West Michigan are hopeful for a quick resolution.
Dozens of people gathered at Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids Monday evening to stand in solidarity with Israel and pray for peace.
Hundreds have died as the long-simmering conflict in Israel and Gaza escalated over the weekend after militant group Hamas launched attacks on Israel and Israel responded in force.
“Terrible, devastating, that something like this can happen in today’s time and age,” Rabbi Yosef Weingarten of Chabad House of West Michigan said of the attacks on Israel.
Yael Aronoff, a professor of political science at Michigan State University, said despite the long conflict between Israel and Palestine, there have been attempts at peace.
“Towards a two-state solution with an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. This happened in 2000, 2001 and 2008,” she listed.
A number of factors have kept an agreement from being achieved. Aronoff said those factors have included the current Israeli government but also said one of the biggest reasons now is Hamas.
“They’re the ones who upped their suicide bombings in the 1990s during the Oslo Process precisely to foil attempts at a two-state solution,” Aronoff said. “Because they don’t want an independent Palestinian state in part of the land. They want an Palestinian state in all of the land instead of Israel.”
With the recent attacks leading to all-out war, she said any progress has vanished.
“It makes people often want to make less concessions and not more and it breeds greater distress,” Aronoff said. “And that’s going to happen on both sides again and it’s just so upsetting.”
Weingarten asked the community for prayers as the fighting has threatened and killed civilians.
“We pray that things should calm down and Israel should do what they need to do eradicate something like this happening again,” Weingarten said.
He said West Michigan Jewish communities may take extra precautions, including having police or security at large gatherings.