SPRINGFIELD, Ill.— During the first week of the veto session, Illinois lawmakers were not only busy negotiating bills but were also contemplating the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Several senators were actively involved in addressing the concerns of Illinois residents affected by events related to Hamas, including some who had personal connections to the turmoil.
Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) granted four senators the opportunity to share the challenges faced by their constituents, who are anxiously awaiting a ceasefire. Despite the usual noise in the chamber, the senators’ stories held the rapt attention of their colleagues.
Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview) revealed that two of her constituents had been held captive by Hamas while visiting family in Israel. Fortunately, they were eventually released, but she emphasized the importance of remaining hopeful for the more than 200 other hostages still held by the group.
“We must never allow the kind of hatred and antisemitism that led to the horrific loss of 6 million lives in places like Auschwitz and Dachau,” Fine stressed. “Our world has been shaken and forever altered, but we are resilient and will persevere.”
Fine highlighted the need for Illinois lawmakers to acknowledge the divisive impact of the Middle East conflict on communities across the state.
“I stand in solidarity with my constituents, the Jewish community, and Israel during this critical moment,” Fine asserted. “I also stand with the Palestinian civilians who are used as human shields by Hamas. These stances are not mutually exclusive.”
She emphasized that lawmakers must commit to combating racism, Islamophobia, and antisemitism in Illinois.
Senator Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), representing an area with a significant Jewish population on Chicago’s north side, shared that many of her constituents no longer feel safe. She read a letter from a Ukrainian American Jew who had fled the former Soviet Union, expressing fear for her relatives in Israel.
“When we called our cousins in the Old City, our hearts were shattered,” Feigenholtz said. “One cousin had gone to the Nova music festival and was unaccounted for. We didn’t know how he was, but we prayed for his safe return.”
Tragically, the woman’s family learned that her 23-year-old cousin was among the 260 people killed at the music festival. Feigenholtz called for consequences against those who promote and endorse violence.
Meanwhile, Senator Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) feared for her son-in-law’s safety when he traveled to Israel for a wedding. Tracy explained that he managed to secure a flight out of the war zone as missiles streaked overhead.
“I felt incredibly fortunate, yet profoundly saddened,” Tracy said. “My heart aches for those who lost their lives at that music festival and for the Israelis who were caught off guard and subjected to terror and violence.”
Across the state, many mourn the loss of Wadea Al-Fayoume, a 6-year-old Palestinian boy tragically killed by his family’s landlord. Wadea’s mother also sustained multiple stab wounds.
“My heart breaks for this family, and for his family, and for the many people who fear for their lives solely because of their beliefs or appearance,” stated Senator Meg Loughran Cappel (D-Shorewood).
Cappel also stressed the importance of respecting and honoring every faith, race, and religion.
Both Jewish and Palestinian residents continue to reach out to their lawmakers, expressing anger, sadness, and frustration over the hate crimes occurring throughout the country.
“The color of a person’s skin, their blood, their race, or their religion—it makes no sense to me how we judge them as good or bad solely based on those factors,” Tracy said. “We must strive to do better.