Security is tightened at Israeli Independence event
The celebration of Israeli Independence Day was supposed to be a joyous event for the region’s Jewish community and a slate of invited dignitaries.
But after the Boston Marathon bombing, the original program was scrapped, police dogs and metal detectors greeted guests and state police troopers roamed the halls of Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Newton, where the event took place.
“We have much more security,” said Shai Bazak, the Israel’s Consul General to New England.
The large gathering, which draws state and local officials, usually has plenty of security, but additional measures were taken at Tuesday’s event, Bazak said.
Organizers debated whether to hold the event at all after the marathon bombing. But it was a chance for the local Jewish community to gather and reflect on the bombings and to remind those who committed the crime that residents would not be bowed, organizers said.
The message was somber instead of celebratory. And speakers drew links between Israel’s struggle with terrorism and Boston’s nightmare on Monday.
They shared stories of cafe bombings and lost friends and reminded local residents that they could learn the importance of resilience from Israel.
Bazak said he it took him aback to receive emails from Israel checking to make sure he was OK. Usually, it’s the other way around.
Bazak said he was driving to pick his daughter up when he heard the muffled sounds of the explosion on Monday.
“In Israel I would think it was a terror attack,” Bazak said. “Here I thought that something fell down.”
Gov. Deval Patrick attended the celebration after a day talking to victims, including the father of 8-year old Martin Richard, who was among the three killed in the bombing. Patrick said that he had always come to the Independence Day celebration to remind the local Jewish community that he is a friend. But after receiving messages from Israeli leaders, Patrick said he has appreciated their friendship.
“You here may understand better than many,” what Boston has gone through, Patrick said. “We will heal.”
Despite the additional security at Tuesday’s event, there hasn’t been a request for additional security at Jewish institutions statewide, Bazak said.
“We don’t see any connection with the event with Israel or the Jewish community,” Bazak said.
But the bombings may force more Americans to become more vigilant, just as Israelis are about packages on the street and other potential threats, said Barry Shrage, president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
“Prior to this you could feel secure if there were guards at every airport,” Shrage said.
In the meantime, speakers prayed for strength and hope.
“May we be whole again,” Rabbi Leonard Gordon, with Congregation Mishkan Tefila.