Israeli Consul in Boston Turns Independence Day Celebration Into Solidarity Event

There will be a moment of silence, prayers by a local rabbi, and speeches that will address the unprecedented attack on the city during the Boston Marathon.

BOSTON - The Israeli Consulate of New England has decided after consulting with the local Jewish community to proceed with plans for a toned-down Independence Day on Tuesday, a day after the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon which killed three and wounded more than 170 people.

The evening is now being billed as an evening of Israeli solidarity with the city of Boston, said Shai Bazak,  the Israeli Consul for the region.

There will be a moment of silence, prayers by a local rabbi, and speeches that will address the unprecedented attack on the city during the Boston Marathon, the oldest and most prestigious of the American marathons and a centerpiece of hometown pride.

 “We hesitated and considered canceling the event but this will show that Israel and Americans stand together, both in joyous and difficult occasions.”

The governor will not be attending as planned, and no alcohol will be served at the reception.

Bazak himself was only a few blocks away from the attack and heard the sound of the booms but did not think they could possibly be an attack.

“An attack in Boston – one does not even consider it could happen,” he said.  

“As an Israeli in Boston it’s surreal to get phone calls from Israel where people are calmly celebrating Independence Day and asking if we here are okay.” 

Mike Rosenberg, director of community relations at the Maimonides School, a Jewish day school in suburban Brookline, said an event Tuesday commemorating Israel's 65th anniversary had been toned down out of respect for victims of the attack and their families.

"Messages have gone out to parents and students that in the context of [Monday's] events, there will be no dancing and more [words of Torah]" Rosenberg said yesterday.

The Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston called off a flag-raising ceremony for Independence Day, leaving its flags at half-mast.

Shira Strosberg, the school's director of communications, said security in and around its campus was ratcheted up.

"We are obviously saddened and everybody came to school today with a heavy heart," she said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the bombings."

No one has taken responsibility for the two explosions near the Boston Marathon finish line and there was no indication Jewish institutions were at any particular risk. Nonetheless, community officials told JTA they remained vigilant.

The Anti-Defamation League expressed "shock and horror" at the terrorist attack and cited the anniversaries of domestic terror incidents in the United States that took place this week.

ADL National Director Abe Foxman said in a statement: "This apparent terrorist attack comes during a week when we are already on heightened alert because of the history of extremist-related events that have taken place during the week of April 20th, including the Oklahoma City bombing and the federal raid of the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas."

Foxman said that due to the anniversary of Adolph Hitler's birthday, "ADL issued a security alert to Jewish community institutions reminding them to be on high alert during this time of year."

Alasdair Conn, chief of emergency services at Massachusetts General Hospital told Haaretz: "This is like a bomb explosion we hear about in Baghdad or Israel or other tragic points in the world."

He also said that a few years ago a team of Israeli doctors came to the hospital to help set up a disaster team to deal with this type of bombing scenario.

"A few years ago we wanted to upgrade our emergency response to things like explosions, and unfortunately Israel was dealing with several types of [these incidents] a year ... and we had to upgrade our response," Conn said, adding, "This is something I've never seen in my 25 years here ... this amount of carnage in the civilian population," he said. "This is what we expect from war."

Reuters