Oct 10, 2023 - News

Chicagoans react to Hamas-Israel war

Photo of rockets hurled into the night sky

A salvo of rockets is fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza City toward Israel, on October 8, 2023. Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images

More than 1,500 Israelis and Palestinians have died and tens of thousands of others have been displaced in fighting after Hamas launched attacks against cities across Israel over the weekend.

  • In Chicago, communities reacted with solidarity and support, as well as fears for their family and loved ones caught in the conflict.

What they're saying: "Our lives have been overturned," Rabbi Yehoshua Karsh from the Torah Learning Center of Northbrook tells Axios. "People are walking around stunned."

  • "We're numb, shocked, horrified," American Jewish Committee's Sarah van Loon tells Axios. "We are just devastated at the immense loss of life."

Details: Many Chicagoans are in Israel and Gaza, including author Ethan Michaeli, who flew to Tel Aviv on Friday after his mother died.

  • "Within the country, people are comparing this to 9/11," Michaeli tells Axios. "I have spent days (and part of the nights) going in and out of safe rooms and basement bomb shelters whenever there's a siren in the area."

In downtown Chicago, hundreds of Palestinian Americans and supporters protested Sunday, and many are still trying to connect with family members in Gaza.

  • "It's terrifying," Palestinian writer and activist Deanna Othman tells Axios. "The area in Gaza that my family was in this summer is completely leveled. It's horrifying to think that our family members are still there, walking distance from all of that wreckage.
  • "They don't have access to bomb shelters so they're basically just staying indoors, huddling together and just praying for the best."
Photo of people protesting on a street
Palestinian protesters march in Chicago from the Israeli consulate in Chicago on Sunday. Photo: Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

By the numbers: An estimated 400,000 Jewish people live in greater Chicago; around 85,000 Palestinians reside in the area.

  • Palestinians make up over 60% of the Arab American population in metro Chicago.

Zoom in: Several Illinois senators and representatives from the Chicago area sent out a joint statement, saying: "We will not be able to achieve peace when millions of Palestinians are denied basic human rights."

  • "We urge the United States and the international community to work toward long-term solutions that end the inequality that is at the root cause of the violence."

Of note: Local law enforcement officials said there are no current threats in the Chicago area.

What's next: The Jewish United Fund is organizing a gathering to show support for Israel this morning in Glencoe.

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