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Published: 7/18/2006

Toledo-area Jewish, Arab communities decry escalating violence

BY ERICA BLAKE AND JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Ramy Eidi, left, of Toledo, gives Nadeem
Salem, president of the Northwest Ohio American
Arab Chamber of Commerce, a statement
concerning Mr. Eidi s mother, who is visiting her native Lebanon. Mrs. Eidi, a Toledo Lebanese-American, was visiting family and raising money for Lebanese orphans. Ramy Eidi, left, of Toledo, gives Nadeem Salem, president of the Northwest Ohio American Arab Chamber of Commerce, a statement concerning Mr. Eidi s mother, who is visiting her native Lebanon. Mrs. Eidi, a Toledo Lebanese-American, was visiting family and raising money for Lebanese orphans.
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Rabha Eidi Rabha Eidi
ALLAN DETRICH Enlarge

Among Toledo-area residents, there is a desire for peace between Israel and Lebanon a pause in the shower of rockets, vengeance, and death.

Blame is a different matter.

During the continued fighting between Shiite political and paramilitary group Hezbollah and the Israeli army, local members of both the Jewish and Arab-American communities publicly spoke out yesterday against the escalating violence.

Let us also stress the common grounds we both have, said Imad Hariri, president of the University of Toledo Arab Student Union. The whole region is sacred for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. We owe it to our religions to stand as one.

Mr. Hariri s sentiments were echoed by a visiting Israeli soldier after a peace rally held by United Jewish Council of Greater Toledo.

This is my reality, the reality I grew up in, said Hagar Reitman, who has three months remaining in the Israeli Army when she returns to Israel on Aug. 20.

We have to be safe, try to be as one soul.

The agony for many Toledo residents is personal, rather than political. There are at least three UT students, all American citizens, stranded in Lebanon and, separately, a faculty member who escaped the shattered nation, Mr. Hariri said.

Others pray for the safety of their loved ones. Toledo-native Ramy Eidi spoke to his frightened mother, Rabha Eidi, yesterday as she waited to learn if she would have to be evacuated from Lebanon.

Mrs. Eidi, a Toledo Lebanese-American who helps raise money for an orphanage in Lebanon, was visiting her family in her native country while increasing awareness for orphans. She was slated to return at the end of this week and has been in touch with the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon.

The saddest part of this whole thing is that I may never see my mother or other members of my family again because both the Lebanese and Israelis are so caught up in their respective and decadent politics and ideologies that they refused to look at their family members in the United States as an example of how to live, Mr. Eidi said in a statement.

Here, Lebanese and Jews work together, play together, eat together, laugh together, and cry together each benefiting from the other, he said

Rabbi Barry Leff of Congregation B nai Israel recently returned from a trip to Israel where he spent most of his two weeks in Jerusalem. He said that Israelis are hopeful for a cease-fire, but they believe there is a need to fight organizations bent on Israel s destruction.

The vast majority of Israelis support the action that the government has taken in the southern portion of Lebanon, he added. Hezbollah has to be fought. ... You can t let people do that to you.

Joel Beren, chief executive officer of the United Jewish Council of Greater Toledo, said the rally was organized not only as a way to pray for those threatened by Hezbollah rockets but to help Toledo-area residents better understand the Israeli response.

We would hope that the majority of our fellow citizens realize that Israel does not take these actions lightly, he said. Israel wants to live in peace with its neighbors, but it is a small country.

The Israeli army launched its offensive in Lebanon to recover two soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah on July 12, a response that has resulted in civilian casualties and was disproportionate to the initial provocation, Mr. Hariri, who also is a UT biology student.

Nadeem Salem, president of the Northwest Ohio American Arab Chamber of Commerce, called Israel s actions the very definition of state terrorism at a news conference yesterday with the United Muslim Association of Toledo.

[America] cannot maintain credibility in condemning acts of terror carried out by individuals and groups, while offering diplomatic cover and material support to a state that is engaged in a brutal, illegal campaign against an entire civilian population, he said.

The United States must lead diplomatic efforts to end the fighting and protect the more than 25,000 American citizens currently in Lebanon, he said.

Several dozen Lebanese-Americans in Toledo signed their names to a letter delivered to the office of U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) asking that the U.S. government pursue peace and save lives in the region.

Although Miss Kaptur was out of the office, the letter was faxed to her in Washington, staff director Steve Katich said.

He added that letter asked Miss Kaptur to do whatever she can as a member of Congress to advance peace in the region and he said Miss Kaptur s office is assisting individual families trying to get out of the region.

Political pressure may come from the opposite side as well. The final page of the program for yesterday s Toledo Jewish Community Rally for Peace listed contact information for the region s city, state, and federal elected officials.

Inside Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim there were 117 candles arranged to spell Israel. The service opened with the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner. It ended with Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem.

Stephen Rothschild, president of the UJC of Greater Toledo, spoke in words that compared the situation in Lebanon with the broader American war against terrorism, accusing Iran and Syria of pursuing twisted political and ideological interests through organizations such as Hezbollah.

Today Israel is engaged in a war not with neighboring nations, but against a terrorist scourge that functions outside the scope of a sovereign country, Mr. Rothschild said.

Information on travel and security in Lebanon may be obtained from the U.S. Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or, from overseas, 1-202-501-4444.

American citizens attempting to flee the damaged nation, famous in the Old Testament for providing the majestic cedar trees used to build King Solomon s temple in Jerusalem, are advised to bring with them one small suitcase, the State Department said.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-724-6076.



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