SARASOTA -- Signs saying, "We mourn, we do not avenge," have stood out among the crowds gathering in Jerusalem this week to voice their outrage over the murders of three young Israeli teenagers abducted and killed in the occupied West Bank, and the burned body of an Arab teen found dead in East Jerusalem this week, a possible revenge killing.
As violence erupts among the youngest members of Israeli and Palestinian society, the local Jewish community is joining together to express its sorrow and condolences and engage in thoughtful prayer.
The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee has organized an Interfaith Memorial Service for Thursday evening at its Sarasota headquarters. The first part of the memorial will be a prayer service followed by an informal gathering. Members of the Sarasota-Manatee Rabbinical Association will attend as special guests along with Christian pastors and representatives of local faith-based organizations.
Rabbi Howard Simon, facilitator of the service, which the public is invited to attend, says Isaiah's quote from the Bible, "Comfort, comfort my people says your God," befits the purpose of the gathering.
"There is so much concern, so much upset. Young people's lives were taken far too soon,"
Simon said. "This is a way to express this as a community of Jews and non-Jews alike. Prayer is helpful. What better way to deal with problems.
"Something about the death of these young men has captured the heart of our community. It's led us to say the desire to kill has got to stop," he added. "Our service will focus on how we appreciate life and how precious life is. That's what our people are looking for."
This week, tens of thousands of Israelis gathered for a funeral service for the three teenagers whose bodies were found Monday, more than two weeks after they disappeared coming home from school in a kidnapping that Israel claims was carried out by the Palestinian Islamist group, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
Rabbi Harold Caminker, of Temple Beth El in Bradenton, says he believes in peace, despite the aggravated uproar from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces pressure to avenge the deaths of the teens even though attempts were made earlier this year by the United States to broker peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
"As Americans, we mourn and we grieve along with the people of Israel, and we remain committed to seeking a peaceful resolution," Caminker said. "What's important is to remember that there's two sides to every story -- my side and your side -- and then there's the truth. The challenge is for the two sides to live together in peace."
Rabbi Simon called for cooler heads to prevail once the hurt and anger is over.
"The prime minister has made it clear that Hamas is guilty and will be dealt with. What we need now is calm, to sit and reflect what is best and what the next move should be rather than go helter skelter."
Pastor Joey Mimbs ,of Bethel Baptist Church in Bradenton, will offer support from the Christian community at the service with a reading of Psalm and scripture selections from the Bible.
"As Christians, it's important to show our support," Mimbs said. "People living there want to live in peace and cooperation as neighbors. It doesn't necessarily mean you approve of everything they do. It just means being a friend with differences."
The Interfaith Memorial Service will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Beatrice Friedman Theater at the Jewish Federation, 580 McIntosh Road, Sarasota.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.