Utah state, religious leaders rally in support of Israel

Gov. Spencer Cox is expected to attend a solidarity rally Wednesday afternoon, a day after other state, local and religious leaders gathered Tuesday at the state’s largest synagogue.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox will join several other state, local and religious leaders outside the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon to gather in support of Israel.

Cox said he was “looking forward” to the event, described as a “peaceful rally of prayer and inspiration,” according to a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. It comes in the wake of Hamas, a militant group that rules over Palestinians in the sealed-off Gaza Strip, carrying out coordinated assaults on Israel starting early Saturday, one of which killed a 24-year-old Utah man.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon declared Israel was at war. As of Wednesday, at least 2,300 people had been killed on both sides of the conflict, and the war is expected to escalate, according to The Associated Press.

Salt Lake City-based synagogue Chabad Lubavitch of Utah organized the Wednesday rally. The synagogue’s Rabbi Avremi Zippel confirmed Tuesday that the Utahn killed, Lotan Abir, was a member of his congregation.

(Avremi Zippel via X) Lotan Abir, a 24-year-old Utah man, was killed at a rave in southern Israel early Saturday when it was attacked by Hamas militants, according to Abir's Salt Lake City rabbi.

Abir was attending a rave with at least two other Utahns in southern Israel when it came under fire early Saturday. The two other Utahns managed to escape.

“He was the sort of person that you would want to call your friend,” Zippel said. “He ultimately gave up his life for the sake of our people at a rave while celebrating some of his greatest passions in life. ... Just a kind, sweet, fun-loving, innocent soul who was massacred by a terrorist.”

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, of Utah, released a statement about Abir’s death on Tuesday. Romney said he stood with Israel, Jewish people and Utah’s Jewish community.

“The horrific, inhumane, and depraved terrorist acts perpetrated by Hamas against Israelis have touched everyone around the world. Today, news of the loss of one of our own from Utah further tears at our collective heart,” Romney said. “I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Lotan Abir — may he rest in peace.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kaylee Gordon waves an Israeli flag as she and her family gathers with members of Congregation Kol Ami in support of Israel on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023.

The U.S. State Department confirmed 22 Americans have been killed in the war, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Utah leaders and members of the state’s Jewish community gathered for another rally at the state’s largest synagogue, Congregation Kol Ami, to show support for Israel.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, state Senate President J. Stuart Adams, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and others gave remarks, as hundreds of attendees waved small white-and-blue Israeli flags.

Cox on Monday also ordered flags at state facilities to be flown at half-staff through Friday “in solidarity with the State of Israel and its people.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Attendees gather in support of Israel at Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023.