The weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday began with a minute of silence to honor the 11 Jewish worshipers killed in an anti-Semitic shooting attack a day earlier at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in the US state of Pennsylvania.
“It is hard to overstate the horror of a murder of Jews gathered in a synagogue on Shabbat, who were murdered just because they were Jews,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting, held at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.
“The entire people of Israel is mourning with the families of those murdered in the shocking massacre at the synagogue,” he said after the moment of silence was observed. “In my name and in the name of the people of Israel, I send our condolences to the grieving families. We all pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded.”
Noting that the shooting apparently constituted the “biggest anti-Semitic crime in American history,” Netanyahu added that Israel “stands in a united front with the Jewish community in Pittsburgh, with the American Jewish public and with the American people. We stand together in a single front against anti-Semitism and these expressions of barbarity.”
The gunman, identified as Robert Bowers, is said to have yelled, “All Jews must die” as he entered the Tree of Life Synagogue, a Conservative congregation in the city, and began firing. He engaged in a shootout with responding police officers and barricaded himself inside the building before surrendering. In all, 11 people were killed and at least six wounded in the attack, at least four of them police officers, according to authorities.
Throughout Israel, the attack was greeted with expressions of shock and mourning.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who also serves as Israel’s minister for Diaspora affairs, announced late on Saturday that he was “flying tonight, as Minister of the Diaspora, to Pittsburgh to be with our sisters and brothers on their darkest hour. When Jews are murdered in Pittsburgh, the people of Israel feel the pain. Our hearts are with our brothers and sisters and with the entire American people.”
Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said he was “horrified to hear of the murder of innocent Jews in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, simply for being Jews by a despicable murderer steeped in anti-Semitic hate. My heart is with the bereaved families and all our Jewish brethren who reside in the United States. Sadly, anti-Semitism is again rearing its head of late in the United States.”
Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, one of the largest hospitals in Israel, lowered the flags at its facilities to half staff for a week. The hospital’s director Prof. Rafi Beyar, who is visiting Pennsylvania this week, called the attack “a horrible anti-Semitic act, senseless and soaked in hate, directed at hurting Jews and all lovers of humanity.”
The Hatzalah emergency medical organization said it was sending a team with experts in emotional trauma to the community, with funding from Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Ministry, Israel’s Channel 10 reported.
An Israeli emissary in the Jewish community in Pittsburgh put out a call on Sunday urging Israelis to post pictures of themselves online holding a sign that reads “Pittsburgh — we are with you!”