Middle East Violence Affects Religious Leaders in East Texas

After a recent wave of attacks by Palestinian militants against Israel, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon said he will strike out against militant Palestinians until the violence ends.

Though the gruesome attacks are far from East Texas, local Jewish and Islamic leaders say they're saddened by the death toll in Israel and Palestine.

They add that the violence is not a reflection of contrasting religious beliefs, but rather, it represents poor leadership in the two countries.

Michael Wallace of Adonai Yemaleh Zoht, a Messianic Jewish congregation in Tyler, says Israeli's strife is just as personal to messianic, or non-traditional Jews, as it is to members of traditional Jewish faith. His congregation prays each week for the attacks to end.

"The violence is not going to end until that governmental system, controlled by Yassar Arafat is dismantled," Wallace says.

Nafi Asad, a Palestinian by birth, and board member at the East Texas Islamic Society, also blames political heads in Israel and Palestine for causing tension between the borders.

"Peace can only be accomplished by those people in power taking initiative--and pulling back, not fueling the fire by adding more fuel to it," Asad said.

So far, President Bush has encouraged a peaceful reconciliation among the countries.

Three senators went public Sunday saying Bush needs to punch up his efforts in stopping the violence.