By Charlie Senack
As the Israel-Hamas conflict continues to intensify in the Middle East, members of Kitchissippi’s Jewish community are on edge as antisemitism attacks are on the rise.
There is a strong police presence outside Jewish places of worship, including at the Soloway Jewish Centre, located off Carling and Broadview.
Andrea Freedman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, said members of their community are staying vigilant after the recent attacks.
“We increased security protocols. We are grateful to the Ottawa Police Services for all their efforts,” she said. “At the end of the day Jewish people are resilient people. For 3,000 years people have tried to annihilate us, have tried to wipe us off the map.”
In a press release sent out by Ottawa Police, they said no credible threats have come in. Their intelligence and investigative units continue to work with federal and provincial police counterparts to monitor any concerns.
“Police presence has been increased in areas of cultural and religious significance and will remain in place during these uncertain times,” wrote Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs. “No one should live in fear. The increased number of hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents are concerning. We continue to encourage anyone who witnesses or experiences such incidents to report them to police. We will prosecute those who commit hate crimes to the full extent of the law.”
On Oct. 15, a pro-Palestine March started at Parliament Hill and ended in the ByWard Market. Hundreds gathered, chanting “free, free Palestine” and “stop killing children” as they held flags, banners and scarves.
Freedman said she was “disgusted and angry” to see these protests playing out in the nation’s capital, saying they glorify the attacks of young, innocent children and seniors.
“They are glorifying babies being massacred. They are glorifying elderly senior citizens being shot down in their beds. They are glorifying young adults at a music festival being slaughtered,” Freedman said. “That’s what they were glorifying and it’s appalling that’s taking place in Canada.”
A pro-Israel March was also held in downtown Ottawa that same afternoon. Demonstrators from the “We Stand with Israel Peace Rally” wore blue and white as they carried the Israeli flag and sang “here for peace.”
A week prior, a solidarity event was held at the Soloway Jewish Centre which was attended by 1,400 people including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre. It was so well attended people lined the stairwells and congregated in the gym to watch the remarks on a small television screen.
While the relationship between Israeli and Palestine have been strained for generations, tensions ramped up on Oct. 7 when Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas launched a large-scale offensive against Israel.
Terrorist group Hamas initially fired at least 2,200 rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip. Palestinian militants broke through the border and entered Israel by foot, engaging in gun battles with the Israeli security forces. They murdered and kidnapped innocent Israeli civilians and took over towns and military bases. At the Re’im music festival, 260 people were massacred.
Rabbi Moshe Caytak from Wellington West’s Chabad Jewish Centre, said he was first unaware of the rising conflict. Oct. 7 is Simchat Torah, a Jewish holiday that celebrates and marks the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings.
News of what was unfolding soon started to trickle in from neighbours. Caytak’s attention turned to his brother, Rabbi Dovid Caytak, who is currently living in Jerusalem with his wife and family. He also has friends who are in the Israeli army. They are all safe.
“My brother is showing emotional and spiritual support to the soldiers on the front lines, right next to the Gaza border. He’s giving out prayer books to the soldiers,” Caytak said. “The one thing in common that everyone in Israel has is that everyone wants to get involved in some way or another. It’s heartwarming to see how the whole community is coming together in unity fighting the forces of evil.”
Since founding the Chabad Jewish Centre in 2022, Caytak has made it his mission to promote peace. He said while Jewish people need to be on high alert, acts of goodness and kindness are what will help the most.
“The evil we are seeing [with Hamas] is beyond human, beyond comprehension. This attack doesn’t only impact the Jewish community, but it really transcends any culture or religious background,” he said. “We know one hundred per cent that we are going to be victorious. It’s crucial that we increase our trust in God.”
The Israel-Hamas war is intensifying as calls grow louder for a ceasefire. As of Nov. 2, 1,400 people have been killed in Israel with another 9,061 Palestinians killed in Gaza.
Adi Vital-Kaploun, 33, who has deep ties to Ottawa, was killed at her home by Hamas. Her children are “miraculously home and safe,” according to the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. They said “she was killed just for being Jewish.”
“Adi brought love, laughter and a sense of purpose to her parents and siblings,” Andrea Freedman said In a statement on behalf of Vital-Kaploun’s family . “Her love was like rays of sunshine, warming the world around her with her smile, her warmth and compassion.”