Israeli leaders, US Jewish groups mourn Orlando victims


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his condolences to the American people in the wake of the mass shooting attack by an ISIS supporter at a gay club in Orlando.

“We are all shocked at the horrific massacre in Orlando. On behalf of the government and people of Israel, I would like to again express our condolences to the American people and the families at this especially difficult hour. This terror threatens the entire world and it is necessary – first of all – that the enlightened countries urgently unite to fight it. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the American people,” Netanyahu said Monday morning at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin wrote to President Barack Obama to express his condolences following the attack in Orlando.

“Once again we feel the pain of terrible loss as we see the blood spilled of young and innocent people. There is no comfort for those who have had their loved ones torn away from them,” Rivlin wrote.

“This attack against the LGBT community in Orlando is as cowardly as it is abhorrent. The Israeli people stand shoulder to shoulder with our American brothers and sisters in the moral and just fight against all forms of violence and hatred. On behalf of all of Israel, I send my condolences to the families of the victims, and prayers for a speedy recovery of the injured.”

Forty-nine people were killed after Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Florida, entered the Pulse nightclub armed with an assault rifle and a handgun after 2 a.m. Sunday and opened fire. Mateen, an American-born citizen whose parents are from Afghanistan, called 911 and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State shortly after the start of the attack.

Jewish groups condemned the attack.

“An attack on a prominent Orlando gay club at the start of pride month on a night that celebrated the Latino community has all the markers of both an unconscionable hate crime and an act of terrorism on a scale we have not before witnessed in America,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.

“This heinous attack on a nightclub serving the LGBTQ community is yet another reminder of the serious threat posed by the Islamic State terrorist group, which has inspired attacks against Jews in Belgium, journalists in France, civilians in San Bernardino and now LGBTQ men and women in America.”

Greenblatt cautioned that “Americans should not blame all Muslims for the actions of one individual. Whether citizens like the individual suspected of committing this act or war-torn refugees seeking safety, we must remember that we do not define people by their faith. We are deeply concerned that this attack could lead to a backlash against American Muslims. We urge all Americans to not fight hatred with hatred, but rather to come together around our common values of decency and respect.”

B’nai B’rith International said in a statement that it is “shocked” by the attack, adding: “The sheer number of dead (at least 50) and wounded (at least 53) defies comprehension.” The group said it “stands in solidarity with the LGBT community.”

The Israeli-American Council said in a statement: “On behalf of the Israeli-American community, we condemn this act of terrorism in the strongest terms. Whether terrorism strikes in Brussels, Paris, Tel Aviv, or Orlando – responsible leaders, policymakers, and moral people everywhere have a duty to speak out forcefully against this global evil, and to stand against the hateful ideology that fuels it. This is a growing danger that threatens innocents everywhere.”

The National Council of Jewish Women condemned the mass shooting in a statement released Sunday evening.  “We are all wounded by the fear engendered by gun attacks on civilians and by the menace of prejudice that too often endangers individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer and threatens members of the Latino community,” the group’s statement said.

“NCJW is guided by Jewish values, including the Talmudic teaching that for ‘one who takes one life it is as though that person has destroyed the universe, and an individual who saves one life is as though that person has saved the universe.’ We must all renew our efforts to stop the epidemic of gun violence in this country.”

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