(JTA) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken quoted from a Jewish prayer on arrival in Tel Aviv for a state visit on Monday, days after a deadly terror attack outside a Jerusalem synagogue set off a violent uptick in Israeli-Palestinian violence across the country.
Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday in Ramallah. Blinken told reporters that he would tell both that it is “incumbent on all parties to take urgent steps to de-escalate tension and establish conditions for the security and stability that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Blinken invoked a prayer while mourning the seven people murdered during the attack on Friday.
“On Shabbat, Jews around the world recite the Ma Tovu. Part of that prayer reads, ‘Your great love inspires me to enter Your house, to worship in Your holy sanctuary, filled with awe for You. I love Your house.’ Seven people were killed in Friday’s terrorist attack in Neve Yaakov; many more were wounded,” Blinken said. “Most were leaving a synagogue after prayer. To the families of the victims, we express our most heartfelt condolences knowing that we can never know the depth of your loss. May the memory of your loved ones be a blessing.”
Blinken, who is Jewish, noted that Friday’s attack came on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Blinken’s visit is his first to Israel since Netanyahu’s return to the prime minister’s office, which has been marked by high levels of civilian unrest over proposed legislation put forward by his new far-right government. Blinken reportedly urged Netanyahu not to proceed with proposed changes that would weaken Israeli democracy by disempowering the judiciary.
The Jerusalem synagogue attack, the city’s deadliest in a decade, was preceded by multiple Israeli military raids into the West Bank, which have led to over 30 Palestinian deaths this month. On Saturday, Israel highlighted another source of international tension by reportedly directing a drone to bomb an Iranian military facility, setting off an explosion in the city of Isfahan. Israel has long been suspected of bombing sites in Iran and Syria, citing its own security, but an admission of an attack — which The New York Times, Reuters and others reported — is rare from an Israeli official.
Similar but smaller attacks have followed since the weekend, and Israel is reportedly preparing for a retaliatory strike from Iran.