Lexis Zeidan adjusts the keffiyeh that hangs around her neck as she speaks, bringing it closer to her throat as if to bury herself there.
She gives up – then starts again. The scarf, a white and black fabric with a fishnet pattern, has long been emblematic of Palestine and its people. Now she wonders if this is an invitation to harassment.
“Should I wear this outside?” Is not it ? I generally don’t question my cultural pride… (but) it’s constantly in my brain, trying to navigate “OK, pay attention.” What is it worth today? Where are you going? Are you safe, not safe? said Zeidan, a 31-year-old Palestinian-American living in Detroit.
In the weeks since the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a large-scale attack in Israel on Oct. 7, Michigan has had a front-row seat to the heartbreaking implications of the Middle East’s unrest. Detroit is the 26th largest Jewish American community in America and Dearborn is the largest Muslim American community in the country. Even thousands of miles away, conflict cannot be ignored in daily life.
“We sorted it out. We’ve been in crisis mode for a few weeks now…I can’t even cry myself,” said David Fair, 39, a cantor in Grand Rapid. Emmanuel Temple and director of the synagogue United Jewish School.
“I talk to the faithful about how they feel and how they are coping. And not only are they upset and saddened by the violence, but they are either attacked by their own friends or upset by the news – that they don’t feel that Israel is receiving enough compassion and sympathy, or that Israel is pretending to be the aggressor.
Over the past month, the war has moved closer to the people of Michigan.
Carl Mintz, 41, of Farmington Hills, was charged with a felony for a Facebook post asking if anyone wanted “go to Dearborn and drive out the Palestinians” with him.
U.S. Representative Bill Huizenga, Republican of Zeeland, was found his son Adrian – in Jerusalem, getting a master’s degree – shortly after the October 7 attack. Days later, former U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, an independent from Grand Rapids, said on social media that several members of his family, including a baby boy, were killed when Israeli airstrikes destroy Greek Orthodox church where they took refuge in Gaza.
And within the state legislature, the House split over a symbolic resolution to “support Israel’s right to self-defense.” The bipartisan effort — supported by the House’s only two Jewish lawmakers — has not yet come up for a vote.
Majority Leader Abraham Aiyash, D-Hamtramck, explains why the resolution has not movedstated during his introduction that any “conversation about what is happening in Israel and Palestine that does not recognize the more than 70-year occupation and mistreatment of the Palestinian people is disrespectful to this issue” .
The move angered the Republican public, with Minority Leader Bryan Posthumus, R-Cannon Township, calling on House Democrats on Tuesday to “denounce Hamas or identify pro-terrorist members” of their caucus. .
Adam Abusalah, a 22-year-old Palestinian-American activist from Dearborn, was born and raised there. “All my brothers and sisters are educated, they work, and we have contributed – we are contributing to the success of this society. But right now I feel like my country hates me,” Abusalah said.
“I feel like I’m less American than others, but in reality, I’m not. And that’s not just how I feel: it’s how Palestinians across the country feel.
Zeidan, a fourth-grader on 9/11, said the current political and social climate “seems a little worse.” She and Abusalah discussed an incident in Chicago in which authorities said a homeowner killed a 6-year-old boy and injured his Palestinian American mother. to be Muslim and the Farmington Hills arrest as reasons.
Fear is felt across the board, said Nicole Katzman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids. Speaking to other members of Michigan’s Jewish community, she said: “The general consensus is that people are shocked that genocide is happening again, because it is reminiscent of the Holocaust…many people are in disbelief that to what is happening in Michigan. Middle East.”
With security concerns at the forefront of many minds, Michigan houses of worship are changing how they protect their congregants.
The Abusalah Mosque, the Islamic Center of Detroit, increased security this month following the stabbing in Chicago. The centre’s executive director, Sufian Nabhan, said there had been no problems since. Although attendance may have briefly decreased in the days that followed, “when we have a security company, (people) are encouraged to come more.”
Fair said he found it was the same at his synagogue, as did Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Kehillat Etz Chayima modern Orthodox synagogue in metropolitan Detroit.
“We are proud Jews. We are proud Zionists. And we love our Muslim and Arab-American neighbors, even though we disagree very strongly,” said Lopatin, who is also the association’s executive director. Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Committee.
Lopatin’s son, Judah, 18, is currently in Israel on a gap year where he works under a program known as Yeshivat Har Etzion, or Le Gush. What began as her son’s potential path toward studying to become a rabbi has taken a new direction since the beginning of the month.
In addition to his work as a tutor, he now digs graves, his father said. There are too many bodies and not enough hands. Judah also admitted to his parents that he was considering joining the Israel Defense Forces. Many of his classmates have already done so.
It’s something Lopatin and his wife, Rachel, were initially against. Since then, they have been at it.
“Unfortunately, Hamas has not understood the message that Jews do not pack their bags and leave Israel,” he said. “And the Palestinians are not going anywhere. The far right in Israel must also realize this.