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Resources available for Louisville residents coping with Israel-Gaza conflict

This photo shows a few people walking on the pedestrian bridge in Louisville, Kentucky. The sun is setting and the city skyline is in view.
Ryan Van Velzer
/
LPM
One advocate says during continuing conflict like the one in Israel and Gaza, it’s important to take breaks from consuming media and institutional responses.

Louisville’s community is watching the ongoing crisis in Israel and Gaza from afar and in real time. They’re hearing about it from family members on the ground, seeing it on TV and engaging in discourse on social media.

That can create a deep sense of powerlessness. LPM News is sharing the experiences of Louisvillians and offering resources to help.

Fatima Abusharak knows about mourning devastation in Palestine. She lost much of her immediate family in 1948, when she was a baby and native Palestinians were displaced en masse for the establishment of Israel, she said.

The 75-year-old Louisville resident said she learned last week that her cousin was killed by airstrikes in Gaza.

“We need our children, wherever they are in the world, to know that this is about the plight that Palestinians have faced for decades since the occupation. We have the right to shed light on that. I have lost everything, and I cannot stay still,” she said through a translator at a protest for Palestinian rights hosted by Students for Justice for Palestine at the University of Louisville last Thursday.

Abusharak said misinformation around the Hamas attacks in the media has also hurt her community.

“It is not about religion. It is not an Islamic attack on Jewish people. We have Christians and Jewish friends in Israel who support us, and it’s hurtful to us when the Western media covers it that way, it’s so removed from reality,” she said.

A Palestinian American organizer of the protest in support of Palestinian rights said he was overwhelmed by seeing worldwide protests and comments responding to decades of Israeli occupation. He said he’s seen more support from some Jewish students as well.

Goldie Litvin is a Jewish Louisvillian who attended a vigil last Tuesday at the Jewish Community Center. Her daughter and young grandchildren live in Jerusalem, about an hour’s drive from north Gaza.

“Israel has to protect themselves, just like any other sovereign country could, every democracy could,” she said.

Litvin said she is worried about her family there and feels a sense of powerlessness over the situation. She said Jewish people need to protect themselves, and is particularly concerned about antisemitism.

“We’re having PTSD here, and we’re not there,” she said. “I’m not losing faith in God, but I’m losing faith in humanity.”

World, national and Louisville leaders respond

Hamas launched a surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, amid a 16-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the 140-square-mile area. They killed at least 1,300 people in Israel and took hundreds of hostages, sparking grief and rage among citizens. Israeli forces have responded with thousands of bombs, killing at least 3,000 people in Gaza as of Tuesday.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees estimates 1 million people have been displaced within the walled-off enclave that civilians have no way to leave. The Israeli government has also imposed a “complete siege” on Gaza, cutting it off from outside electricity, food, medicine and water, compounding the crisis.

President Joe Biden was in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, pledging support to Israel and calling for the country to allow aid into Gaza.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg, who is Jewish, also spoke at the vigil at the JCC last week, which community members and state and local officials attended, too.

“I call on friends from around the world. Friends from all countries, all political parties, friends of all faiths: Support Israel during this crisis,” Greenberg said at that event. “You call out antisemitism, when you see it, or experience it online, in person, or wherever antisemitism may occur.”

LPM News asked Greenberg on Monday what message he had for Palestinian residents of Louisville. He responded with a written statement.

“We all want lasting peace in the Middle East. This is a war against terrorists, not the Palestinian people. I urge everyone to condemn Hamas and its vicious terrorism,” he said.

Greenberg acknowledged there would be “more victims in the days and weeks ahead.” He said Hamas is putting civilians at risk. He did not mention the Israeli siege and bombardment.

“We pray for Louisvillians whose family members are in Israel and Gaza and we hope they remain safe during this war,” Greenberg said.

Tips for coping

Watching an ongoing crisis from afar, engaging in discourse on social media and feeling a sense of powerlessness can be overwhelming — and bring up generational trauma.

Ben Ginsburg, who is Jewish, works at the New Ground: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change. It’s a Los Angeles-based community-building organization that helps people navigate conflict.

He knows from personal experience how hard it is to hold complicated feelings, and said it can be even harder to summon patience for nuanced conversations with historical context. But he said it's important for Jews and Muslims to stand up for each other when something affects the other's community.

"[It's] important not just to make us feel safe, but to show ... that there is a community that sees the humanity in each other and that can hear each other's stories," so that the groups know they can help protect each other, he said.

Ginsburg said it’s important to take breaks from consuming media and institutional responses.

“It can feel like a responsibility to keep your gaze fixed on everything that's going on right now or to stay engaged in the discourse, which can also be very painful. Know that it is OK to take a break,” Ginsburg says.

While some people may use harmful or dehumanizing rhetoric, there are others who are more eager to come to the table and have an allyship, he said.

“We’ve also built a community of Muslims and Jews that are committed to seeing each other and knowing one another. And they're hungry for spaces that create that possibility. They want to step forward to be part of something different,” he said.

Resources

Louisville and Jefferson County residents who want to talk about the conflict can call the city’s free and confidential Trauma Resilient Communities hotline at (502) 901-0100 for immediate trauma and mental health counseling.

The service is also available at Neighborhood Places, where staff can use machines that provide language translation, including Arabic and Hebrew.

Counselors are also available through Jewish Family and Career Services. Contact the organization at (502) 452-6341 or services@jfcslouisville.org. The nonprofit is offering a free, in-person group counseling session on Oct. 19 at 6 p.m.

Many employers offer employee assistance programs (EAPs). They offer services like low- to no-cost mental health services and short-term counseling, and can cover both the employee and, in some cases, their family members or dependents. Human resources staff members can often confirm what EAP services are available.

Here are some guides for helping navigate the news and online media:

Correction: An earlier version of this story included an inaccurate quote from Ben Ginsburg.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.
Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.