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?Some people just don?t like us:? In a Texas synagogue, 11 hours of terror

Hostage Rescue Team
Tree of Life synagogue
Colleyville Middle School
Good Shepherd Catholic Community
the Anti-Defamation League’s
Northwood Church
the Cytron-Walker’s
Central Synagogue
Beth Israel
the Secure Community Network
the Islamic Society of North America
FBI Bomb Techs

Charles Cytron-Walker
Beth Israel
Malik Faisal Akram
John F. Kennedy
Aafia Siddiqui
Stacey Silverman
Anna Salton Eisen
Beth Israel’s
Oliver Stone
Cheryl Drazin
Bob Roberts
Good Shepherd
Shahid Shafi
Angela Buchdahl
Stuart Frisch
Azhar Azeez
Greg Abbott
Devlin Barrett
Meryl Kornfield
Maria Paul

Reform Jewish

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Fort Worth
Great Britain
New York’s


Positivity     45.00%   
   Negativity   55.00%
The New York Times
Write a review: The Washington Post

Life seemed overwhelming, he said in his last sermon before the man came into the synagogue and changed everything.“We are living through a challenging time,” Charles Cytron-Walker told members of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Tex. And as the intruder lashed out at Jews and Israel and America, in Colleyville and Dallas and Washington, the American machinery of counterterror switched from Ready to Go.Police swarmed the area, cordoned off the neighborhood, evacuated people from nearby homes, and set up a command center to coordinate more than 200 law enforcement officers who arrived from nearby cities, from around Texas, and, with startling speed, from Quantico, Va. The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team scrambled and put more than 60 people on the ground in Colleyville in a few hours.There weren’t many people inside the synagogue when the man, identified Sunday by the FBI as Malik Faisal Akram, 44, a resident of Great Britain, walked in and turned life upside down. Most congregants were in their own homes on Zoom, prevented by the pandemic from gathering in one room and embracing each other and their traditions of worship.Those who came to the building — now Akram’s four hostages — included an elderly man in fragile health, two other congregants and their leader, Cytron-Walker, whom the temple had hired in 2006, two years after it opened its own building, seven years after a group of 25 families who had tired of traveling half an hour or more to the nearest synagogue decided to build their own community.And now, one more person in the building, this stranger, threatening violence, and, according to law enforcement officials, brandishing a gun and what he said were explosives.Akram entered Beth Israel by knocking on a glass door and pretending to be looking for shelter, he said on the live stream of the morning service.Akram said he liked Rabbi Charlie. But after a torrent of threats and attacks — and especially after the 2018 massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, where a gunman opened fire, killing 11 Jews — houses of worship became forbidding gauntlets of protective measures: armed guards, searches, identity checks, questioning.At 11:32 a.m., Anna Salton Eisen, one of Beth Israel’s founders, was at home when she received a text message from another member: “Rabbi Charlie is being held hostage in CBI right now.”Eisen logged on to the live stream, heard the intruder and had a sinking realization: This was really happening. Now she had to tell her mother, who also survived the Holocaust and will turn 100 on Saturday, what was happening at their temple in Texas.Her mother’s eyes filled with tears.“She didn’t think that after the Holocaust she would have an experience like this so close to our lives,” Eisen said.On the Zoom, the prayer service ended abruptly, replaced by snatches of conversation between the attacker and the rabbi, the attacker and the police negotiator who had him on the phone, the attacker and whomever else was in the sanctuary or on the phone. Okay, so don’t cry over me.”No one was crying at Colleyville Middle School, two blocks from the synagogue, where law enforcement set up shop, negotiating by phone with Akram even as officials prepared for a menu of outcomes, ranging from a SWAT team assault to a quiet surrender.Two blocks in the other direction from Beth Israel, at Good Shepherd Catholic Community, Cheryl Drazin, a Dallas-based vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s regional division, and other local faith leaders set up their own command center, where representatives from the Israeli consulate in Houston and relatives of the hostages gathered.Drazin saw Catholic priests and Chabad rabbis, in their long beards and black suits, sitting in a waiting area comforting each other.Bob Roberts, an evangelical pastor at Northwood Church in Keller, five miles from Beth Israel, was eating lunch with his wife at an Italian restaurant around noon when they started getting texts about the hostage situation. Synagogues are targets and their leaders now routinely train for the worst.“We know that some people just don’t like us,” Cytron-Walker said in his final sermon of 2021. The rabbi did not start meetings without announcing where the exits were, she said, and synagogue leaders had gone through active-shooter training.On Aug. 22, security experts from the Secure Community Network, a nonprofit that works with Jewish congregations to prepare for attacks, visited Beth Israel and met with Cytron-Walker, inspecting the building’s perimeter, reviewing safety measures and practicing drills on how to behave in the event of a shooting.During that training, Stuart Frisch taught the rabbi and about 25 Beth Israel members how to identify behavioral cues that could lead to violence. Who’s going to give you a deal like this?”Akram railed against the negotiators and then exploded: “What the f--- is wrong with America?”The rabbi appeared to try to placate his captor: “There’s something wrong with us.”Akram replied: “Either there’s something wrong with me or there’s something wrong with America.”On Sunday, Akram’s brother Gulbar said in a statement posted on Facebook that Akram was “suffering from mental health issues,” but that the family, which the FBI had put in contact with Akram during the negotiations, had always been “confident that he would not harm the hostages.”Akram seemed to address his mother directly at one point in the live stream: “What are you crying for? “I am a long time member of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and just wanted you to know we are thinking of you in Pittsburgh today!”The message from someone who had lived through the 2018 massacre “was really a shocking wake-up call,” Eisen said.At Beth Israel, just after 5 p.m., police escorted an elderly man wearing a robe and a black yarmulke out of the synagogue.Azhar Azeez, former president of the Islamic Society of North America, was at Good Shepherd, the Catholic church, waiting with Cytron-Walker’s wife and other faith leaders when the news of the first release arrived.The assembled — evangelical pastor, rabbi, priest, imam — joined in a group prayer, eyes closed, heads down.Though some seek “to build walls and divide us,” Azeez said, “we are not going to budge. “I am grateful that we made it out,” he said.Later, the rabbi praised the training he’d had from police, the FBI, the ADL and other Jewish groups: “We are alive today because of that education.”In that last sermon a week ago, Cytron-Walker recognized that some people now find it hard to summon hope.“What can we do?” he asked.

As said here by Marc Fisher, Drew Harwell, Mary Beth Gahan