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Before Latest Arrests, Supporters of the Oregon Occupation Recited the ‘Shema’

First shofars, now Jewish prayers

by
Jonathan Zalman
January 29, 2016
Rob Kerr/AFP/Getty Images
Ryan Bundy observes as a member of his group disables a power pole with a remote camera attached to, belonging to the FBI, near the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in Burns, Oregon, January 15, 2016. Rob Kerr/AFP/Getty Images
Rob Kerr/AFP/Getty Images
Ryan Bundy observes as a member of his group disables a power pole with a remote camera attached to, belonging to the FBI, near the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in Burns, Oregon, January 15, 2016. Rob Kerr/AFP/Getty Images

The New York Times published an interesting story on Friday, about a family that traveled to Oregon to support the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by anti-government militants. The Sharps—led by Odalis Sharp, a single mother, and her seven children—brought their instruments with them with the intention of providing a musical accompaniment to the occupation, which has thus far welcomed children. They’d soon be in for a stressful few moments.

This week, the occupation took a big blow, as the FBI arrested eight militiamen, including the leader of the standoff, Ammon Bundy. One person was also killed. (The occupation, however small it has become, continues as of this publishing.) And the Sharps became embroiled in the armed saga. Reported the Times:

Late Tuesday, however, the Sharp Family Band field trip became a nightmare: The eldest daughter, Victoria, 18, was a passenger in one of the vehicles in which Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the brothers who led the occupation, were arrested along with some of their followers. Another protester, LaVoy Finicum, was shot dead in the confrontation, which Victoria said she witnessed.

Victoria Sharp was taken into police custody, and the rest of the Sharps traveled to a senior. They later reunited.

But here’s the kicker: When the family band was together in the compound, they would sing songs, like “Go Light Your World” and “God Bless America,” to lift the collective spirits of the protesters, sometimes under a sign that read “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God,” according to the Times report.

One night, a protester recited the “Shema.” Then, “the tiniest Sharp piped in: “Dear God,” said Stephan, 5, “I just pray that you’ll help everyone to get home safely.’ ”

A little over a week ago, the militiamen blew shofars, their “battle trumpets.”

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.

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