Michigan religious officials react to recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — We’re now entering the second week of the most recent, intense conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Locally, representatives from both sides are sick of seeing people suffer.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Farhan Bhatti, a spokesperson for the Islamic Center of East Lansing. “It’s front and center on my mind. I’m checking the news, I’m checking social media hoping for a cease fire.”

“I’m saddened by what we see on the news, what I’m hearing from people in Israel. I’m angry that there is a loss of life yet again on both sides. Any loss of lives is tragic,” said Rabbi Amy Bigman of the Congregation Shaarey Zedek.

Bigman said she has many family members living in Israel and it breaks her heart to see this happening in a place she cares about so much.

“It saddens me to see this when we see this kind of thing happening anywhere in the world but of course I feel a special connection to Israel because it’s a place where I lived. It’s a place where my people’s history took place, it’s where the biblical history of my ancestors took place and so I feel this extra connection to it,” Bigman said.

It’s no secret that Jerusalem is sacred to millions of people across the world. 

For Bhatti, a spokesperson for the Islamic Center in East Lansing, this is more about politics, than religion.

“This isn’t a conflict between Muslims and Jews. And it’s very disheartening every time I see it framed that way,” Bhatti said. “We have lots of friends in the Jewish community. You can be against the policies of the Israeli government and still be pro-Jewish.”

And while Bhatti and Bigman have their personal beliefs on the conflict, they can both agree that it’s complicated.

“I’m certainly not a Hamas supporter. And I don’t think it’s appropriate to fire rockets into Israel. But it’s also not appropriate to try to remove Palestinian families from land that they’ve lived on for generations and generations,” Bhatti said.

“When I watch the news, I see people on both sides doing things that I believe are against both of our religions. And so that concerns me. And it concerns me that disagreements and issues have gotten so out of hand,” Bigman said.

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