After an onslaught of public anti-Israel rallies — where Israel supporters showed up mainly as counterbalance — a stand-alone pro-Israel rally has been planned for noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3 at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco.
The Bay Stands with Israel Solidarity Rally has been organized by a handful of young adult Israelis in the Palo Alto area. As of midweek, the list of speakers included state Assemblyman Marc Levine (D–North Bay), Berkeley Rabbi Menachem Creditor, radio host John Rothmann, S.F.-based Israeli consul general Andy David and S.F.-based JCRC executive director Rabbi Dough Kahn.
Organizers expect at least 500 Israel supporters to show up and are hoping for 1,000. They applied for and received a municipal permit for the event.
The rally will follow on the heels of pro-Israel gatherings attended by thousands in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and other rallies around the world, such as one in Helsinki, Finland, that drew 2,500 people.
Organizers said the impetus for the San Francisco rally was twofold.
“We were fed up with all the anti-Israel rallies, so it was time to have our own event,” said Israeli Ben Limonchik, who served in the Israeli military from 2010 to 2012 and is a Stanford University student.
“Every Saturday there is another anti-Israel rally in San Francisco, and they are spreading lies about Israel and blaming us without even mentioning Hamas, their use of kids, their use of human shields, them putting bombs in schools,” Limonchik said. “[Hamas is] committing their own atrocities on their own people, and the Palestinians in the Bay Area don’t show that, and sometimes they aren’t even aware of it, or they don’t want to know.”
Limonchik said another reason for the rally is to help increase morale of Israeli soldiers, especially those fighting in Gaza.
“From my experience, it’s really important for the soldiers to see they have support from Jews around the world,” said Limonchik. “For my Israeli friends who are there in Gaza right now, this is huge to their morale. They have had the support from New York and L.A. and other places, and we want to show them that the Bay Area is also like that.”
The Facebook event page “The Bay Stands with Israel Solidarity Rally” (www.bit.ly/bay-israel) has information about the rally, which will end with a march to Justin Herman Plaza and is being co-sponsored by StandWithUs/S.F. Voice for Israel and supported by more than 40 Jewish organizations and organizations from all around the Bay Area. The organizers, two Stanford students and two recent college graduates, have previously put together a pro-Israel march from the JCC of San Francisco to the July 20 solidarity gathering at Congregation Emanu-El and organized a counterdemonstration at an anti-Israel rally in Palo Alto.
Also this weekend — at an undisclosed location and time in San Francisco — pro-Israel activists are planning to stage a flash mob that simulates an air-raid siren being sounded in Israel, to demonstrate how Israelis have to take cover to save their lives from incoming rockets from Gaza.
In recent weeks, the Bay Area has been abuzz with solidarity gatherings, protests and other related activity. Here’s a recap of some of them:
July 17: A “die-in” organized by Jewish Voice for Peace was held at Hewlett-Packard headquarters in Palo Alto. At least 11 people clad in black laid down on a grass berm and near an entrance to protest HP, which profits from the “Israeli occupation and siege of Gaza,” one participant wrote in an online posting.
July 23: The Sonoma County Israel Committee held a “Solidarity with the Israel Defense Forces” meeting at Congregation Beth Ami in Santa Rosa.
July 24: More than 800 people packed Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco in a powerful show of solidarity and support for Israel. (see letter, page 16).
July 24: In Palo Alto, between 50 and 100 Israel supporters showed up to counter a demonstration against Israel.
July 25: In Vacaville, Chabad of Solano County held a “Rockets into Roses” community Shabbat dinner in honor of Israel. One of the speakers was a mother whose son was leaving soon to join the IDF.
July 26: Another anti-Israel protest in support of Palestinians in Gaza drew anywhere from “hundreds” to “a few thousand” people to Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco, according to media reports. On the other side were 100 to 200 pro-Israel supporters, according to Dr. Michael Harris of S.F. Voice for Israel.
The demonstration was mostly peaceful, although “a fight nearly broke out,” according to a KTVU–Channel 2 reporter, when a pro-Israel woman being interviewed was shouted down by Palestinian supporters, during and after the interview. In addition, someone shot a video of a child walking on and dragging an Israeli flag underfoot; the video was posted online (www.bit.ly/child-flag) with the comment:â€ˆ“These men used a child to kick the Israeli flag.”
July 28: A small, weekly pro-Palestinian rally in downtown San Jose was countered by seven pro-Israel supporters, five of them Russian American Jews.
July 29: A gathering at Contra Costa Jewish Day School in Lafayette was held to raise money for lone soldiers in the IDF.
July 29 and beyond: Synago-gues throughout the area have been holding prayer sessions and/or gatherings to support Israel. Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont billed its get-together as “a time to listen with compassion to each other, even in our disagreements and confusion.”â€ˆRabbi Stacy Friedman of Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael implored people to “come together to pray, talk and listen to one another.”
Aug. 2: Pro-Palestinian activists have scheduled a morning “action” at the Port of Oakland, where they hope to plan a future “blockade” of at least one Zim Integrated Shipping (Israel-affiliated)â€ˆcommercial tanker, preventing it from being unloaded.
The Bay Stands with Israel Solidarity Rally, noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3, Civic Center Plaza, S.F. More information on Facebook at www.bit.ly/bay-israel.