On Saturday morning, January 15, shortly after the Shabbat service began, a man called Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. On the call he inquired, “Is this a night shelter?” He said, “They let me in and gave me a cup of tea.” Then the horror began, as Mailk Faisal Akram, 44 years old, used the kind assistance to begin a ten hour hostage siege, both demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, called the “Lady Al-Quaeda,” imprisoned at Carswell Air Force Base and threatening to kill the hostages.
The attack unfolded live from the synagogue through their live stream on Facebook. The first hostage was released, then “after six hours of negotiations, the rest of the hostages were freed at about 9 PM after an FBI SWAT team entered the building.” The hostage taker was killed during the rescue, whether by authorities or possibly a self-inflicted gun wound is uncertain.
The rabbi of the synagogue, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, impressed authorities with his skillful handling of the crisis. One congregant said of the rabbi, “He’s a wonderful human being.” He has been actively involved in interfaith relations and community activities also.
At 10:30 PM Governor Abbott tweeted “Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe.”
Dr. Miller cites these four takeaways from the hostage crisis:
1. The attack on the synagogue was an attack on all of us. “This was not an attack on any specific Jew or synagogue-it was an attack on all Jews everywhere.”
2. All Jews are responsible for each other. Jewish leaders around the world, including Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, monitored the situation closely.
3. Terror cannot be Justified. “The Texas attack reminds us that antisemites hate us for who we are, not for anything we have done.”
4. We’re Stronger When We’re Together. “In the aftermath of the terrible attack in Texas, let’s remember that all Jews are responsible for one another. We’re all connected, we’re all family.”
(Source: Aish.com; Dr. Yvette Alt Miller)
Update: “From the BBC: Two teenagers have been arrested in England as part of the investigation into a hostage taking incident at a synagogue in Texas on Saturday. Details of the ages or genders of the pair arrested in south Manchester on Sunday evening were not revealed.”
Thank God that a tragedy that had a horrible beginning had the best possible ending.