I felt safer near Gaza than Highland Park -Israeli survivor of shooting 

Israeli-American resident of Gaza periphery community who witnessed July 4 shooting speaks with the ‘Post’.

 Highland Park Public Library (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Highland Park Public Library
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Deborah, an Israeli-American resident of a Gaza periphery community, was with her family at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade when a shooter opened fire.

“We were a few feet away from his targets,” she told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday.

“I’m familiar with gunshots,” said Deborah, who at first told herself the bangs she heard were typical July 4 sounds of fireworks and firecrackers.

Hiding behind cars

“This is Highland Park; there are no guns here,” she recalled thinking. “Yes there are; America’s crazy now.”

Deborah ran with her small children and family, taking cover behind nearby vehicles. The children, ages five and seven, were crying and frightened.

 Children, carrying a Highland Park Aquatics banner, pause after hearing gunfire, at a Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Illinois, U.S. July 4, 2022 in this screengrab obtained from social media video (credit:  Gina Troiani-Solorio via REUTERS) Children, carrying a Highland Park Aquatics banner, pause after hearing gunfire, at a Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Illinois, U.S. July 4, 2022 in this screengrab obtained from social media video (credit: Gina Troiani-Solorio via REUTERS)

Police confirmed that the shooter had fired at the parade from a rooftop.

Peering out from behind the cars, Deborah saw a bleeding person being given aid. Looking in the other direction, she saw a bloodied, unmoving body. Six people had been murdered, and dozens were wounded.

Police told Deborah and her family they had to evacuate, but it was unclear where they could run to. They ended up taking shelter in a local shop.

"I knew this happened in America, but you don't think it's going to happen in Highland Park."

Deborah

From the shop windows they could see police running around, desperately and unsuccessfully looking for the shooter.

Eventually, the authorities told them they could leave the area by car.

“We’re physically okay, but this is beyond traumatizing,” Deborah said.

Unable to escape terror

Her children had waited three years to visit and take part in the US Independence Day parade. Instead of enjoying the festivities, they were hiding from gunfire.

Deborah recalled how not long before the parade, her daughter had heard fireworks and told her mother she thought she had heard an Israeli Iron Dome missile-defense system. Deborah told her daughter they didn’t have to worry about things like that in America.

“They just can’t get away from terror,” Deborah said. “We live on the Gaza border, and we came here for a peaceful vacation.”

Residents of the Gaza periphery often face the danger of rocket and mortar strikes, among other terrorist threats. Deborah said at least where she lives, it’s known where the danger is coming from, the IDF is present, and there are warnings before the explosive projectiles fall.

“I knew this happened in America, but you don’t think it’s going to happen in Highland Park,” Deborah said.

Possible Jewish connection

The US has recently been rocked by multiple deadly mass shootings, including in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 schoolchildren and two teachers were killed.

Deborah had wondered about the shooter’s motives: “Is he antisemitic; is he anti-American?”

She described the Highland Park neighborhood as “pretty Jewish... Something happens like this in an upper- to middle-class, half-Jewish area, you have to wonder.”

At least two of the dead were reported to be Jewish, and ZAKA reported that some of the wounded were Jewish as well. Among the dead was an elderly Jewish man, the emergency rescue organization said. The Israeli Midwest Consulate was reportedly in touch with the community and authorities.

The shooting happened four blocks away from a Chabad center, Chabad News reported Monday night. In a video of the incident, it appears that a klezmer band was playing when the shooter attacked. According to Chabad, the Jewish community is often quite involved with the parade, and it usually has a menorah float.

The shooter was arrested later that evening. To her shock, he is the son of a man whom Deborah has known her entire life.

Feeling "safer on the Gaza border"

“Devastated to hear the news from Highland Park, where a day of celebration became a day of tragedy,” Prime Minister Yair Lapid said late Monday night. “My thoughts are with the families of the victims and all the American people. Today, as always, Israel stands with our American friends.”

Israeli Consul General to the US Midwest Yinam Cohen said: “I am following the horrible news from Highland Park. Our hearts and prayers are with the members of the community. We thank the local authorities for their immediate response.”

Deborah and her family are still emotionally shaken.

“I feel safer in Zikim on the Gaza border,” she said. “No one is safe in America now.”