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South Jersey Jewish community gathers in Cherry Hill to show support for Israel

South Jersey community gathers in Cherry Hill to show support for Israel
South Jersey community gathers in Cherry Hill to show support for Israel 02:17

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBS) -- Many in the Philadelphia area have family members and friends who are in harm's way in Israel and Gaza.

People in the Philadelphia area who have loved ones in the Middle East are worried and heartbroken during this time of war between Israel and Hamas. 

But some are hoping to find comfort by coming together in solidarity.

RELATED: Biden says 14 Americans killed by Hamas in Israel, U.S. citizens among hostages: "Sheer evil"

Days after Israel declared war, grief and sadness reverberated through the Temple of Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill where the South Jersey Jewish community lit a candle to honor the more than 1,000 Israeli lives lost.

"There's strength in community, there's strength in realizing we're not alone in our sadness, in our frustration," Micah Peltz, the rabbi at Temple of Beth Sholom, said. 

Many of these families are deeply concerned about their loved ones in Israel.

Helen Baker has three grandchildren in Jerusalem and a cousin in Ashkelon.

"It's a troubled area. I was on the phone with him for 20 minutes and there were three missiles fired during those 20 minutes," Baker said. 

On the other side of this war are Palestinian civilians in Gaza, where the death toll is nearing a 1,000. 

RELATED: Israel bombs Gaza for fourth day as Hamas, Palestinian civilians, wait for next phase in war

Nagi Latefa lives in Allentown, but most of his family is trapped in Gaza. He said his cousin, Shehda, was killed by an Israeli bomb on Monday.

"My family is living a nightmare," Latefa said. "My cousin was not Hamas, they're poor people trying to get back, and who knows what their end will be."

Another local resident, Barbara Weisman, has been in touch with her cousin who's in the West Bank. 

"He keeps in touch with us to tell us how he's doing and whether it's safe or not," Weisman said.     

Ahmed Benchemsi with Human Rights Watch, an organization that's monitored this conflict over the years, said the situation is escalating and only getting worse with war crimes being committed on both sides.

"The parties have an obligation to do their best to minimize civilian causalities," Benchemsi said. "The Israelis are not doing this, Hamas is not doing this."

RELATED: Philadelphia native playing pro basketball in Israel describes living overseas during war

Dina Sayedahmed said the Council on American Islamic Relations New Jersey does not support Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist group by the United States. But they do support Palestinians caught in the middle of the conflict. They're asking state leaders to look at the entire picture.    

"Speak with Palestinian human rights advocates who can tell you the situation on the ground and give you that perspective,"  Sayedahmed said. "Which is very much needed because it's not one-sided. This is an equation."  

"Peace seems very far away right now," Peltz said. 

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