Israel & Gaza: Israel supporters mobilize in S.F. and other big cities

Supporters of Israel came out this week — around the Bay Area and throughout the United States — in defense of the Jewish state’s military actions in Gaza.

In San Francisco, that support came in the form of counter-protests when pro-Palestinian groups gathered in front of the Israeli Consulate on Montgomery Street in the Financial District.

Israel supporters show their colors outside the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco on Nov. 19. photos/cathleen maclearie

At a Nov. 19 protest, the third since Israel began launching air strikes on targets in Gaza last week, about 100 people held signs and chanted slogans such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “End the occupation now.”

“I’m standing on this [anti-Israel] side of the street because I believe people in Gaza are suffering disproportionately,” said Jim Haber, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. “I think there are far more attacks on Gaza than are being reported in this country.”

On the other side of the street, roughly 50 people waved Israeli flags and handed out fliers with information about Israeli civilians who have been killed by Hamas rockets.

“I don’t think people on the other side of the street understand that Hamas is the real enemy,” said Daniel Sandler, a high school freshman carrying an Israeli flag. Sandler said he heard about the counter-protest through his membership in Club Z, a Peninsula-based Zionist group for teens.

Faith Meltzer, a member of StandWithUs/S.F. Voice for Israel, attended the Nov. 19 rally to support Israel. A day later, she said she was “hopeful” after hearing word that morning of a possible cease-fire. “We hope that happens, and we hope it holds, and that the Jewish people and Palestinian people can find peace,” she said.

On Nov. 20, a rapidly planned community-wide event called “The East Bay Stands With Israel” was set to bring together Israel supporters from 10 different co-sponsoring congregations; other co-sponsors included local day schools, Hadassah chapters, AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, the JCC of the East Bay, JCRC East Bay and J Street.

Organizers said the program at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette was to include “prayers for peace and healing, updates on the situation in Israel and the East Bay Jewish community’s response, a live feed from the shelters in Israel, a call to action, information on how to provide humanitarian relief to Israelis affected by the crisis, and an opportunity to write letters to elected officials.” The gathering occurred after j.’s deadline this week.

On a smaller scale, the Mendocino Coast Jewish Community planned a series of “constructive conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” at their shul in the town of Caspar. The first conversation, scheduled for Dec. 2 from 3 to 5 p.m., will be led by Rabbi Dev Noily, education director at Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont.

Elsewhere outside of the Bay Area, some 1,400 demonstrators in Los Angeles on Nov. 18 voiced their support for Israel’s right to defend itself. In New York, hundreds of pro-Israel demonstrators were expected to gather Nov. 20 near the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan in an event sponsored by Jewish organizations from across the political spectrum.

Other Nov. 20 rallies were scheduled in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Seattle and West Hartford, Conn.

At the Southern California rally, demonstrators gathered outside the Westwood Federal Building in West Los Angeles to voice their support for Israel at a rally organized by StandWithUs, the Israeli Leadership Council and the Western Region of the Zionist Organization of America.

“We are here to [underline] the necessity of peace, the danger of those who would seek to destroy us and our determination to live both in strength and with justice and with peace,” Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple of Los Angeles told the crowd.

Anti-Israel demonstrators

Nearby, some 100 pro-Palestinian counter-demonstrators carried signs that read “Let Gaza Live: Free Palestine,” “Stop U.S. Aid to Israel” and “It’s not a war. In Palestine, it’s genocide.”

In Boston, some 1,000 pro-Israel demonstrators rallied Nov. 19 in an event organized by synagogues, schools and Jewish nonprofit organizations, including the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Jewish Comm-unity Relations Council of Greater Boston, J Street, the Anti-Defamation League and AIPAC.

The Boston rally was “a statement to our sisters and brothers and cousins in Israel that we’re supportive and we feel your pain,” Rabbi David Lerner of Temple Emunah in Lexington, Mass., told the Jerusalem Post.

Meanwhile, lay and professional leaders from the Jewish Federations of North America arrived in Israel on Nov. 18 for a two-day emergency solidarity mission.

The leaders from New York, Chicago, Boston, New Jersey, Cleveland, Miami, Los Angeles, Washington, Minneapolis and Birmingham, Ala., visited southern Israeli cities under fire, including Ashkelon, Sderot and Beersheva, offering solidarity with the residents and examining areas of need.

“The ongoing crisis being faced by the people of Israel, particularly those in the south, will not be fought by the Jewish state alone,” Michael Siegal, JFNA’s incoming chair, said upon arriving in Jerusalem. “We are here to express our firm solidarity and to say that as always, when Israel is in need, we are here.”

JTA contributed to this report.

Emma Silvers