Bipartisan Group of House Lawmakers Hold Candlelight Vigil for Israel

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A bipartisan group of House members attends a vigil for Israel on the steps the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, on Oct. 12, 2023. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A bipartisan group of more than 150 House lawmakers held a candlelight vigil on Oct. 12 to commemorate the thousands of people killed by Hamas over the weekend in southern Israel.

The vigil, which took place on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, was organized by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and led by House chaplain, the Rev. Margaret Grun Kibben.

An estimated 1,200 Israelis have died since the violence erupted Oct. 7, according to local reports.

Lawmakers during Thursday’s vigil said 27 Americans have also lost their lives and 150 people, including U.S. citizens, have been taken hostage by Hamas following its surprise attack on southern Israel as the nation celebrated the Jewish Sabbath.

Roughly 1,500 Palestinian civilians, including hundreds of children, have also been killed in the Gaza Strip since Israeli forces began bombing what it says are Hamas targets.

Both Democrats and Republicans put on a united front during the evening vigil and shared their ongoing support for Israel and its citizens.

“I can’t tell you the short period of time that it took to bring this many members together,” a visibly upset Ms. Wasserman Schultz said during a speech from the Capitol steps.

“For me, as a member of Congress, as a Jew, as a Zionist, as a human being, this moment of us coming together, whether it’s this disorganization and disunity in Israel prior to this point or here in our country when Israel and the United States need one another, it’s moments like this where we step up and it is actions that matter so much more than words,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said, wiping away tears.

Israel Defense Forces soldiers walk through Kibbutz Be’eri where days earlier Hamas militants killed over a hundred civilians near the border with Gaza in Be’eri, Israel, on Oct. 11, 2023. (Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Lawmakers Stand United

Ms. Kibben then led the group in prayer before Mr. Gottheimer asked his colleagues to join him in a moment of silence to honor the Israelis who have died in the conflict and the hostages who are still missing.

The lawmaker called Israel a “historic U.S. ally whose people are suffering.”

“Thank you again to all my colleagues for joining us, and you’ll see all of us as a country coming together,” Mr. Gottheimer said. “Democrats and Republicans, there is nothing that divides us on this issue as members of Congress who care about our country.”

Elsewhere, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), who was among the group of lawmakers in attendance at the vigil, took to the podium to share her shock at what she said was the “devastating civilian slaughter of women, children, and families” in Israel at the hands of terrorist organization Hamas.

“We will not stand for this in Congress, as mothers, as father, as grandmothers, we are here to say that we stand with Israel and the eradication of the terrorist groups of Hamas,” Ms. Wagner said. “I want to stand here as a Republican and say that we are united in our support and our strength of Israel and their right to defend themselves,” the Missouri lawmaker added.

The vigil came just days after Mr. Gottheimer helped introduce bipartisan legislation to appropriate $2 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

Israel earlier this week called on the United States to help replenish the anti-missile system, which is equipped with a radar that detects an incoming rocket and has for years enabled the country to defend itself against missile barrages from Gaza.

Gaza
Smoke plumes billow during Israeli air strikes at Hamas targets in Gaza City on Oct. 12, 2023. (Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images)

House Speaker Impasse Continues

Officials also asked the Pentagon for precision-guided missiles and 155 mm artillery shells.

While the U.S. provides roughly $3 billion in aid to Israel every year, President Joe Biden said Tuesday his administration would work to secure security assistance for Israel.

Additionally, President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call on Tuesday during which he said “U.S. support that had arrived or would soon be on its way to include ammunition, Iron Dome interceptors, the world’s largest aircraft carrier, and other defense material.”

During the phone call, President Biden also “underscored the need for all countries to unequivocally condemn Hamas’s brutal atrocities, which are akin to the atrocities of ISIS from many years ago,” according to a readout from the White House.

Thursday’s vigil took place as GOP lawmakers remained at an impasse over a suitable candidate for House speaker after Kevin McCarthy’s shock ousting earlier this month.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who Republicans nominated for the position, dropped out of the race on Thursday after failing to secure the 217 votes needed to be elected on the House floor, effectively prolonging the leadership crisis and leaving lawmakers unable to act to support Israel or pass government spending bills.

Speaking to reporters late Thursday after dropping off of the race, Mr. Scalise said, “We have to have everybody put their agendas on the side and focus on what this country needs.”

“This House of Representatives needs a speaker and we need to open up the house again. But clearly, not everybody is there. And there’s still schisms that have to get resolved,” he added.

JP contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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