Israeli and Lebanese Community Members Want Peace

The nation is watching the escalating conflict between Israel and Lebanon. But here in Houston, Israeli and Lebanese community members are in agreement. They just want the bombing to stop and peace to be restored. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson has more.

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Father Milad Yaghi is a priest at Our Lady of the Cedars Maronite Catholic Church. He pastors a Lebanese congregation and says about half of his parishioners are in Lebanon right now, trying to return to Houston.

"We are concerned especially about our families over there and about our parishioners. And we are worried, we don't know because nobody right now is talking about ceasefire, this is what's most important thing right now. This is what we are concerned (about)."

Strife in the Middle East is not a new concept. But both the Lebanese and the Israeli communities say this time seems different. Israeli Consul General to the Southwest Asher Yarden says there is no tension or fear for those in Houston. Like the Lebanese, they are simply watching and waiting to see what happens to friends and family in the homeland.

"Living in Houston, which is so far away from Israel, is in a way comfortable; however, you know people are worried. I can tell you, based on my experience, that funny as it may sound, people would rather be in Israel now than elsewhere. In this respect, I think that this is something that pretty much reflects the way we all feel that we would like to be with our families in Israel, with our friends in Israel, in our home cities in Israel."

Both the Israeli and Lebanese communities have not reported any conflict or retaliation against local homes and businesses. Shalom is the greeting here between Jews and Arabs, a word commonly spoken in the Middle East, but which seems empty at this time. Father Yaghi says the current conflict is unlike anything he has seen in the region. He says his congregation often seeks solace and wisdom from him and all he can say is that Christians, Jews and Muslims must humble themselves and pray.

"To be united and to pray, to ask God to help our country to live in peace. That's the most important thing. Only right now, the prayers the only thing that can help us to save our country."

Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.

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