BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — As the Israel-Hamas War rages on, local groups in Bakersfield are still feeling pain from the war thousands of miles away.
More than 5,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel. Local supporters took to the streets of Bakersfield Friday to show support for Palestine and let their voices be heard after increased discrimination since the war.
“I’ve had people come up to be and say, ‘Get the F out of here you terrorists, this is our country, I’m going to throw you out,’ and when we stand our ground they back down, but this is not the first time, and this has happened a number of times before,” said Palestinian supporter Gassan Kanafi. “We’ve had things thrown at us, and the comments we get regularly — we get regular death threats, it’s unreal.”
However, the community continues to protest to make their voices heard despite those threats.
“We’re here to show that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, we’re citizens of this country just like everyone else is, and we take great pride in where we’re from,” said Kanafi. “And we feel nothing but enormous pain seeing the genocide of our people live-streamed, seeing children pulled from the rubble, and for us to back down in the face of this racism is doing everyone being slaughtered in Palestine a great disservice.”
However, according to Chabad of Bakersfield’s Esther Schlanger, rallies like this and the words used during them have sparked fear in the Jewish community.
“Using words like ‘genocide,’ ‘ethnic cleansing,’ ‘occupation’ — all these terminologies, what they do is they dehumanize Israelis and Jews all over the world,” said Schlanger. “And it gives people permission to attack and to hurt and to rip down pictures of baby hostages and to shout, ‘Kill the Jews at rallies’ — it gives permission for that.”
Schlanger shares that fear has driven local synagogues to increase security and cancel protests supporting Israel.
“We canceled it. To go out there with Israeli flags, we’re a little bit nervous,” said Schalnger. “I don’t want to put anybody in harm’s way.”
Schlanger said the local Jewish community’s current focus is safety and staying connected to the faith.
“When there’s a lot of hate around you, it creates fear,” said Schlanger. “And ultimately, if I have to choose [between] making a point on a street corner or keeping my community safe, I’ll choose keeping my community safe.”
Both groups also shared another focus with 17 News, which is helping their people during hard times like these.