AUSTIN, Texas - Central Texans are showing their support for Israel. Thousands of people gathered for a vigil in Northwest Austin Monday night, where Gov. Greg Abbott and others denounced the attacks by Hamas.
"We are them, and they are us," said Neil Blumofe, senior rabbi at Congregation Agudis Achim.
It was standing room only at Congregation Agudis Achim on Far West Boulevard. People wore "stand with Israel" t-shirts, others wore Israeli flags.
"We have a large and growing Israeli community here and every single person that's here is impacted by these horrific incidents that have taken place," said Rabbi Daniel Septimus, CEO of Shalom Austin.
About 2,000 people packed into the synagogue and overflow rooms, with another thousand joining the solidarity gathering online, many with a personal connection to the violence overseas.
"Many people I’ve spoken to have cousins who have been murdered, friends who are missing, it affects us all," said Blumofe.
The event was hosted by Shalom Austin and the Israeli American Council. Organizers called for healing for those who’ve lost loved ones, and a united front against terrorism.
"We have a very diverse group of people coming from all political spectrums, coming from various walks of life, who recognize that loss of life, and loss of life of non-combatants and civilians is intolerable," said Blumofe.
"I think it's important to understand that there's no moral equivalency between what Hamas, a terrorist organization, continues to do, and what the Israelis are going to have to do in response," said Septimus.
That message was echoed by a host of federal, state and local leaders, who reaffirmed support for Israel, and condemned the attacks by Hamas.
"Let there be peace. We stand with Israel," said Austin Mayor Kirk Watson.
"It is like the Holocaust. There is no other side. There are no alternative facts. It must be eradicated," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett.
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"It is an act of war, to which Israel has the right to self-defense," said Abbott.
At the ceremony, Abbott announced more than $4 million in funding to beef up security at Texas synagogues and Jewish organizations, and ordered state agencies not to purchase goods from the Gaza Strip or from groups tied to Hamas.
"Texas joins the world in grieving with Israel," said Abbott.
Abbott also ordered Texas flags to be lowered to half-staff beginning Tuesday morning, in memory of the lives lost in Israel.
Meanwhile, on the University of Texas at Austin campus, a second gathering was held to show support for Israel Monday evening.
More than 600 students took part in a vigil on the South Mall near the UT Tower. Attendees lit candles, stood in silence, and sang "Oseh Shalom".
The event was organized by Ben Sherman and Nurit Pesel, and featured several speakers from the local Jewish community. Organizers called for peace in Israel, and for university officials to stand in solidarity with Israel.