Bay Area faith leaders express concerns over tensions in the Middle East – NBC Bay Area

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Bay Area faith leaders are hoping the increasing tensions in the Middle East won’t widen the conflict further or lead to an increase in hate crimes and violence in the region.

It was a quieter night in Israel Sunday after the country’s “iron dome” missile defense system did its job, countering Iran’s incoming drones and missiles. U.S. Central Command also helped shoot down more than 80 weapons.

“Yes, there’s quiet today. But I think what most people expressed that there was kind of a dual feeling of hope for peace but bracing for a storm,” said Rabbi Mark Bloom with Congregation Beth Abraham Oakland.

Bloom and some members of his Oakland Congregation gathered Saturday while the assault was underway.

“The first concern was for of course for our Israeli brothers and sisters in Israel. But secondly it was about the antisemitism here. We know it happens. It happens even when Israel doesn’t respond,” he said.

The Oakland congregation just received about a quarter of $1 million for security upgrades to help protect visitors to their temple from hate crimes.

It’s part of nearly $40 million in grants California Gov. Gavin Newsom awarded to reinforce security at non-profits across the state.

Several Bay Area community groups including a Fremont Islamic center received grants, totaling millions of dollars.

“These grants are often extremely small when you compare them to the cost of a weapons system,. But they can do a lot of good in strengthening a society and strengthening morale and strengthening for example intelligence capabilities,” said Dr. Karthika Sasikumar, a SJSU professor and international security expert.

Sasikumar said that she is also concerned things could escalate but she is hopeful they won’t after Iran stopped its assault and said it would end hostilities with the drone attack.

“The way which Iran conducted its retaliation was intended to bring tempers down a bit and I think it has succeeded in that objective,” Sasikumar said.

But the question remains: will the peace overseas and in the Bay Area communities last?

“We also know that sympathy today, when Israel attempts to fight back and defend itself, turns to hatred tomorrow against Jews, not just in Israel, but Jews right here, locally here in the Bay Area,” Bloom said.

An Israeli official told NBC News Sunday that Israel will respond to Iran’s attack. But no final decisions have been made on the size or timing of the response. In the meantime, Iran doubled down on its right to self-defense.

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