Attack on Gaza dismays Northern Rivers Jews
AS Israeli forces step up fighting in the Gaza Strip, in an attempt to destroy Hamas militants, the largest Jewish population in regional Australia hold their heads in dismay.
The Northern Rivers is home to more than 1000 people of Jewish descent, attracted here by its peaceful, rural lifestyle and diverse social community.
You will never get the entire Jewish community to agree on one thing, with so many different sects within the population, but Lismore's Colin Cussel offered a personal opinion when he said he was 'dismayed and sickened at the level of violence'.
Mr Cussel has lived in Lismore since 1983, and is president of Rainbow Kehilah, an umbrella group of the region's Jewish community.
But the organisation is not political and serves to better the social interests of its members. So Mr Cussel speaks for himself when he talks about the situation in Gaza.
“I wish a ceasefire would come quickly. I understand the actions of the Israeli Government and I believe that continued rocket fire landing on Israeli cities is intolerable, but I am concerned about the level of violence,” he said.
On Tuesday Israeli air strikes hit three UN-run schools, killing 48 people.
Israel said Hamas militants were using schoolchildren as human shields.
Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on December 27 with a massive air bombardment, and sent in thousands of ground troops a week later.
Since then, 660 Palestinians have been killed, including about 200 children, with more than 2950 wounded, Gaza medics claim.
Mr Cussel says the only cure for the situation in the Gaza Strip will be time.
“The situation there is incredibly difficult,” he said.
Another Jewish resident, Susi Rafati, said she was concerned media reports may be biased towards Hamas.
“I hope Israel can achieve its objective to keep all of its citizens safe and stop Hamas and Hezbollah bombing at them,” she said. “The cease fire was not broken by Israel.”
Susi, who is married to an Iranian, said Israel had the only democratically elected government in the Middle East and she noted 20 per cent of the Israeli population were Arab, and that they coexisted peacefully with their Jewish neighbours.
“I think it's only a very small proportion of militant Muslims who cause problems,” she said.