Thousands of Central Texans gathered for a vigil in Northwest Austin on Monday night to show their unwavering support for Israel, as Gov. Greg Abbott and other prominent figures denounced the relentless attacks by Hamas. The event, held at Congregation Agudis Achim on Far West Boulevard, was packed to capacity with individuals donning “stand with Israel” t-shirts and proudly displaying Israeli flags.
Rabbi Neil Blumofe, the senior rabbi at Congregation Agudis Achim, expressed the sentiment of unity by stating, “We are them, and they are us.” The gathering attracted around 2,000 people, with overflow rooms accommodating additional attendees, and another thousand participating in the solidarity gathering online. Many of those present had personal connections to the violence overseas, with Blumofe emphasizing the impact on the local Israeli community, stating, “Many people I’ve spoken to have cousins who have been murdered, friends who are missing; it affects us all.”
The vigil was organized by Shalom Austin and the Israeli American Council, both calling for healing and solidarity among those who have suffered the loss of loved ones due to the ongoing conflict. The event drew a diverse crowd, encompassing individuals from various political spectrums and walks of life, all united against the loss of innocent lives. Blumofe underscored this sentiment, stating, “Loss of life, especially of non-combatants and civilians, is intolerable.”
Rabbi Daniel Septimus, CEO of Shalom Austin, reinforced the message of support and unity, highlighting the distinct difference between the actions of Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization, and the necessary responses from Israel. Septimus stated, “There’s no moral equivalency between what Hamas continues to do and what the Israelis are going to have to do in response.” This sentiment resonated with federal, state, and local leaders who attended the vigil, reaffirming their support for Israel and condemning the attacks by Hamas.
Austin Mayor Kirk Watson expressed his solidarity, stating, “Let there be peace. We stand with Israel.” Similarly, Rep. Lloyd Doggett emphasized the gravity of the situation, likening it to the Holocaust and stressing the need for eradication. Gov. Abbott announced a significant step towards enhancing security at Texas synagogues and Jewish organizations, with over $4 million in funding allocated for this purpose. Additionally, Abbott prohibited state agencies from purchasing goods from the Gaza Strip or groups affiliated with Hamas.
As a mark of respect for the lives lost in Israel, Abbott ordered Texas flags to be flown at half-staff beginning Tuesday morning. The governor’s actions reflect the deep grief felt by the state of Texas and its unwavering support for Israel during these trying times. The vigil in Austin served as a powerful demonstration of solidarity, with Central Texans standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel, denouncing terrorism, and advocating for peace.