Rabbi Dov Gartenberg of the Panim Hadashot organization active in Seattle, Washington, said Saturday that he feels Jerusalem is now a safer place than his hometown. Gartenberg returned from the Israeli capital this weekend, shortly after a deadly shooting attack in Seattle Saturday in which a man opened fire at a Jewish Federation building, killing one woman and wounding five more. Three of the wounded were in critical condition.
Before opening fire, Naveed Afzal Haq, said he was a Muslim American “angry at Israel,” then started “randomly shooting at everyone,” according to one witness.
Bail was set at USD 50 million Saturday for Haq, after the district court judge found probable cause for one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder against the suspect, according to a report in the Seattle Post Intelligencer.
The newspaper described the harrowing incident in the downtown office building. Haq hid in the bushes outside the federation offices, then forced his way into the building at gunpoint. Once inside opened fire at random with two semi-automatic handguns.
Dayna Klein, a pregnant woman, was shot in the arm but managed to crawl, bleeding, into her office to call 911. While she was on the phone with the police, Haq barged into her office and demanded she hang up. Instead, Klein managed to convince the gunman to speak to the police operator. The operator calmed the man, and convinced him to lay down his weapons and surrender.
The report described Haq as “quiet and something of a loner” although his family was apparently “well-known in southeastern Washington's small Muslim community.”
Seattle community in shock
The Seattle Post Intelligencer reported that most members of the local Jewish community ignored cautions to stay home from Shabbat services Friday night until police ascertained that the attack was an isolated incident. Rather, members of the community said they felt compelled to exhibit solidarity and demonstrate that such a crime could not disrupt their lives.
Religious organizations and community leaders in Seattle were stunned by the murder, which took place just two days after representatives of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths initiated a joint prayer service for peace in Israel and Lebanon.
Hisham Farajallah, president of the Islamic Center of Washington, said he was in shock. "We condemn the shooting; it is a criminal act," said Farajallah. "I am sure faith has nothing to do with what happened -- we don't know that person. We don't know what his motive is."
The Rev. Sanford Brown, executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, called the shootings a "senseless and immoral action in which a sick individual targeted innocent people."
Seeds of fear
Although residents believed the shooting was an isolated incident and the attacker was not affiliated with any terror organization, some noted that they now feared that “the reality and complexities of Middle East hostilities means greater vigilance, even in Seattle.”
"Now I feel it was safer in Jerusalem than here," said Rabbi Dov Gartenberg.
"It's very sad,” said Isabella Ariel, who also just returned from Israel. “We all have to be aware of the possibility (of violence against American Jews because of the Middle East conflict) and always be alert. That's all we can do."
Ed Osdoba, one of the founding members of the congregation, noted that the reality had changed in the Community: "We're going to be more careful here and at the federation. Security was not sufficient. That will change."
"I think this person acted alone, but what empowered him to take such action? That hatred is very much alive here and around the world," Osdoba said.