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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, August 5, 2006

Quiet comments on conflict

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Religion & Ethics Writer

Both Muslim and Jewish groups on O'ahu are taking a measured public approach to the deadly conflict in Lebanon.

Fighting erupted three weeks ago after the Shiite Muslim militia group Hezbollah crossed the border to capture two Israeli soldiers. Israel's retaliation has sparked debate over whether the response was disproportionate; subsequent fighting has killed an estimated 560 Lebanese and 74 Israelis.

Rabbi Peter Schaktman of Temple Emanu-El, the interim rabbi who has been nominated to become permanent rabbi of the temple, is due for confirmation next month. He took a breath when asked earlier this week how temple members are responding to the Mideast conflict.

"These are difficult times for everyone in the Middle East," he said Wednesday. "I hope everything is over soon."

Warren Kundis, a member of the Muslim Association of Hawai'i and Interfaith Alliance, told a crowd of about 25 at the Interfaith Open Table earlier that day that any frustrations over the deadly fighting are being discussed "privately, not vocally." Kundis added that local Arabs might have more to say, but during Friday prayers at the mosque, "it is forbidden to show anger or hatred."

The next step is being weighed by supporters of Israel here. Last week, other members of the Jewish temple gathered in Waikiki for a private vigil. And after discussion of the situation last weekend, Jewish temple members plan to gather to talk more about what's going on in Israel "and find ways in which they can express their support to the state of Israel at this difficult time in its history," Schaktman said, " ... to raise our voice to bring sanity and clarity to the discussion."

Discussion is taking place in other public avenues: This week, Hakim Ouansafi, chairman of the Muslim group, wrote a commentary for The Advertiser calling for the U.S. to "take a moral stand toward the Palestinian and Lebanese people." That set off a volley of letters to the editor in response, editorial department staffers said.

In other developments related to the global unrest, six women were shot and one killed at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle headquarters on July 28, in an attack by a gunman who said he was Muslim and "angry at Israel." Schaktman said he found the recent shootings very troubling, but noted, "I was heartened to know it was the work of a single individual."

The Honolulu Police Department contacted Temple Emanu-El to discuss security, and Schaktman said HPD is stepping up its attention to the Jewish temple. Additionally, members are considering ways to improve security.

Advertiser news services contributed to this report.