The escalating violence in the Gaza Strip is heart breaking, several leaders in the local Jewish and Muslim communities said recently.

And each faith community has held gatherings to offer prayer and calls for peace for those affected by the Middle East hostilities.

A few days before the Fourth of July holiday, many members of the local Jewish faith community held a prayer vigil at Stars and Stripes Park at Lake Hefner. Rabbi Vered Harris, religious leader of Temple B’nai Israel, said the temple joined with members of Emanuel Synagogue to pray for the families of the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and killed, reportedly by the terrorist group Hamas.

She said it is important to note that the Jewish community also prayed for an Arab-American youth who was killed after the three Israeli teens were slain. One of the Israeli teens also had U.S. citizenship.

Friday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma chapter held a peace rally on the steps of the state Capitol. Adam Soltani, the chapter’s executive director, said the rally was held “simply calling for peace.”

Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, rabbi of the Chabad Jewish Center of Oklahoma City, said he is very concerned for those directly affected by the violence in the Middle East.

“My heart breaks because I know that every time there are people who cannot see their way to light and love, they cause bloodshed, not only for my brothers in Israel but for others in the Middle East,” he said.

“I definitely pray for each of the boys and girls, men and women who are out there protecting their families and homes,” Goldman said of Israelis. “I know some of them personally and they would much rather be developing all of the technologies and medicines and other things they generally do. They are not soldiers at heart.”

Harris said the Jewish community is “100 percent praying for peace in the entire region.”

“We pray for peace in Gaza. We pray for peace in Israel,” she said. “We hope that the people with political power will come together to do whatever they can to bring peace.”

Having said that, Harris said she thinks that Israel must do what it deems necessary to protect its citizens from Hamas.

“The bottom line is I am fully supportive of Israel and Israel’s rights to intercept terrorism,” she said.

Meanwhile, Imad Enchassi, imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said he would like to see a “cease-fire because of the innocent civilians who are suffering in the Gaza Strip” due to the Israeli attacks.

“The bombing of this place is just inaccurate. They (Israelis) keep saying ‘We told the neighborhood to leave’ — but to where?” he said.

Enchassi said the popularity of social media has made Americans more aware of the details of the escalating violence in Gaza. He said the Muslim community has seen through social media the bombing of mosques, hospitals and senior citizen centers in Gaza.

“With social media, you can no longer conceal the truth,” he said.

Enchassi said the escalating violence is a “humanity issue.” He said he is not just concerned about the Muslim civilians being affected by the Gaza violence but also his “heart bleeds” for any Israeli civilians who have been targeted during the escalation of hostilities in the region.

Enchassi said the local Muslim community has recently raised between $120,000 and $130,000 in humanitarian relief for the people in Gaza.

He said that although the Muslim community may have its differences, “nothing unites us like Palestine.”