A man with ties to Maine was among hundreds killed this weekend in Hamas’ attacks on Israel.

Aryeh Shlomo Ziering, 27, was a captain with the Israel Defense Forces. He is the grandson of Howard Trotsky, a longtime high school teacher, former Republican state senator and a prominent member of the Jewish community in Bangor.

“We send our love and sympathy to Howard and to all of Aryeh’s family in Israel,” the leaders of Congregation Beth Israel in Bangor, Trotsky’s synagogue, said in a statement confirming Ziering’s death on Monday.

Mainers with friends and families in the Middle East were glued to their TV screens and cellphones Sunday and Monday as they awaited word from those who fled the bombing and raiding parties to wait things out in basement bomb shelters or report for military duty.

As of Monday afternoon, the death toll had risen to nearly 1,600 on both sides, with thousands injured.

On Saturday, Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel, striking targets as far away as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and crossed into Israel by land, sea and air, infiltrating two dozen Israeli towns and taking hostages. In response, Israel declared war and retaliated with major strikes on cities in the Gaza Strip.


The attack has left Maine’s Jewish community reeling, said Molly Curren Rowles, executive director of the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine. People should know that their support for Jewish friends and neighbors means so much right now in what she called an incredibly scary time.

More Jews were murdered on Saturday than in any one day since the Holocaust, Curren Rowles said.

“The majority of people in our community have family and friends in Israel and all have been impacted,” she said. “The scale of this terror is almost unimaginable. The country is very small, and nearly everyone at this point knows someone who has been murdered, injured or taken hostage.”

Lisa Dresdner, of Auburn, lost an extended relative who was killed by Hamas militants at the Supernova music festival in south Israel Saturday, and also has family serving in the Israeli army, according to her husband, Rabbi Sruli Dresdner of Temple Shalom Synagogue Center in Auburn.

“Our community is, of course, devastated,” Dresdner said Monday.

Chana Wilansky, the wife of Rabbi Moshe Wilansky of Chabad House in Portland, said her eight grandnieces and grandnephews, ranging in ages from 1 week to 14 years old, were forced to bed down in a bomb shelter in their family’s basement in Petach Tikvah, a city of about 230,000 six miles from Tel Aviv.


She also is worried about her nieces and nephews who will be defending Israel in the military reserves.

“There are rockets flying, so yes, it’s very scary for them, and because of that, for us,” Wilansky said. “It was a holiday, so we didn’t get news on who was OK for a while, but we are glad they are together. I am glad they have a safe place to sleep, at least for now.”

Each summer, the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine brings over young Israeli emissaries to serve as counselors in their youth day camp, Curren Rowles said. This summer’s four emissaries, who range in age from 20 to 24, are safe right now, taking shelter or preparing to report for military duty.

“All are resolute, but afraid,” Curren Rowles said.

That message is echoed by Eric Kapenga, communications director for Seeds of Peace, a New York City-based peacebuilding and leadership organization that runs a summer camp in Otisfield for teens who live in conflict areas, including Palestine and Israel.

More than 4,000 campers have gone through the program, which is intended to humanize the people on the other side of longstanding regional conflicts.


Camp counselors and supporters are calling the organization to try to find out if former campers are OK. Kapenga said the group is staying in touch with community members across Gaza and southern Israel at this horrific time, but its ability to communicate with alumni in Gaza is deteriorating.

“This is a difficult time for Seeds of Peace,” Kapenga said. “Our community on both sides of the Israel-Gaza border is shocked, devastated and living in fear.”

A handful of state Muslim organizations, including the Maine Muslim Community Center in Portland and the Islamic Center of Maine in Orono, did not respond to requests for interviews with people who have loved ones impacted by the new Palestinian-Israeli war.

Many of Maine’s estimated 15,000 Muslims, however, don’t come from that part of the Muslim world.

A pro-Palestine political advocacy group, Maine Voices for Palestinian Rights, didn’t respond to emails and calls. On its Facebook page, however, the group has provided links to several pro-Palestine figures who characterized the Hamas attacks as a response to decades of deadly, unlawful occupation.

It featured a CNN interview with Mustafa Barhouti, the former Palestinian spokesperson, who likened Hamas’ attacks to Ukraine’s fight against Russia, and referenced Palestinian journalist Ramzy Baroud, who said: “I don’t glorify war, but I insist that people do have the right to defend themselves.”

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