Caulfield Park in Melbourne’s southeastern region became a poignant gathering place for thousands of individuals who came together for a solemn vigil under a cloudy afternoon sky, displaying their unwavering support for Israel amid the ongoing conflict.
In this heartfelt assembly, a sea of Israeli flags fluttered in the breeze, while others clutched photographs of those who had been kidnapped in the midst of the conflict.
Children perched on their parent’s shoulders to catch a glimpse of performers on a stage, young girls, still in their school uniforms, swayed to the music, and elderly individuals found solace leaning on one another while tears streamed down their faces.
The vigil transcended religious boundaries as people from diverse faiths stood shoulder to shoulder-with the Jewish community.
Victoria state President of the Hindu Council of Australia Makrand Bhagwat attended the vigil to showcase the strength of Hindu Australians behind the grieving Jewish community.
Mr Bhagwat said,
“Our heart goes out to the families and friends of those who are suffering so bad due to this barbaric terrorist attack.”
Daniel Aghion, President of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria was grateful to the Hindu community for making them feel that they are not alone in these difficult times.
“We deeply thank the Hindu and Indian community for their support.”
Prominent political figures, including Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan, and Opposition Leader John Pesutto, joined the gathering.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who is the son of a Holocaust survivor, shared his deep anguish at the prospect of history repeating itself. He emphasised that the attacks were not just on the state of Israel but on the Jewish people as a whole.
Mr Dreyfus conveyed the unwavering support of the Australian government for Israel and the Jewish community, asserting,
“Australia stands as one with Israel and the people of Israel.”
Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan expressed her solidarity with the Jewish community and acknowledged their enduring struggle against hatred.
She pledged her support, saying,
“We will stand with you every day.”
Opposition Leader John Pesutto condemned the attacks as “barbaric” and called on the children in the audience to witness the resilience and unity of their community in the face of fear and pain.
Throughout the event, community members shared their fears for loved ones in Israel and their profound sorrow for those who had been taken hostage or lost their lives.
Several Jewish community members were pleasantly surprised to see the Indian-Australian Hindu community standing with them in this difficult time.
Geeta Devi is the President of the Hindu Organisations and Temples Association.
She attended the vigil with a large number of Hindu community members.
Ms Devi told The Australia Today, I am stunned and saddened to see the recent events in the Middle East. The human misery and suffering of civilians is the real tragedy.
“Violence and terrorism anywhere in the world under any level is not acceptable. We hope and pray this conflict will end soon.”
The vigil was held under the watchful eye of a substantial police presence, including mounted officers, with private security personnel dispersed among the attendees.
Meanwhile, Israel’s military issued warnings to over one million Palestinians in Gaza to evacuate southwards, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese noted that 1600 Australians had registered for repatriation, including 19 in Gaza, highlighting the Australian government’s commitment to assisting its citizens in distress.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong is scheduled to meet with Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Amir Maimon, in the coming days. While Israel has not yet requested military assistance from Australia, it remains an option.
In total, an estimated 10,000 Australian citizens, including dual citizens and tourists, are currently in Israel, further emphasising the importance of international diplomacy and support during this challenging period.