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Solidarity inside, feuding outside at pro-Israel gathering at Emanu-El

by abra cohen

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Upwards of 1,000 people convened at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco on July 20 — most of them to attend what was billed as an “Emergency Solidarity Gathering” for Israel.

However, a couple of hundred people remained outside the synagogue during the event, waving banners and jawing with each other over the situation in Israel and Gaza.

Marchers are confronted by an anti-Israel protester outside Congregation Emanu-El.  photo/abra cohen
Marchers are confronted by an anti-Israel protester outside Congregation Emanu-El. photo/abra cohen
Inside, a near-capacity crowd listened to a lineup of speakers that included rabbis, politicians and Andy David, Israel’s S.F.-based consul general. Between 800 and 900 people attended, according to Emanu-El officials.

Things got a bit dodgy during David’s speech, as an anti-Israel protester wouldn’t stop shouting and was removed from the sanctuary by security guards.

“Overall it was very upbeat,” said one of the attendees, who identified himself as Tom Bentzion of Corte Madera. “We need more things like this.”

Before the 4 p.m. gathering, a group of Israel supporters marched seven blocks from the JCC of San Francisco to Emanu-El. The procession consisted of more than 200 people, according to a San Francisco police officer. When they arrived, they were met by about 50 Jewish Voice for Peace supporters who had congregated on the sidewalk.

As the event began inside, about 150 pro-Israel supporters stayed outside, and the two groups shouted at each other, exchanging chants such as “end the occupation” and “Hamas uses human shields.” Things got heated, but the police made sure they didn’t boil over.

Carol Sanders of Berkeley was one of the people with JVP, an Oakland-based group critical of Israeli policies. “There are many Jews who feel that what Israel has done for many years is wrong,” she said. “It is against our values and we will protest it.”

The proliferation of anti-Israel protests is what motivated a group of young Bay Area Israelis to hold the march from the JCCSF to Emanu-El.

“We feel horrible with everything that is going on in Israel, and seeing the anti-Israel demonstrations has not helped morale,” said one of the march’s organizers, Hilla Wahnishe-Jacobs of Mountain View.

Originally from Haifa, she promoted the march on Facebook to a group of young adults from the Israeli Cultural Connection at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto. After hearing about it, StandWithUs/S.F. Voice for Israel put the word out, as well.

The same day, there was a march up Market Street protesting Israel and the country’s military action in Gaza, drawing hundreds, according to media reports.

Several large community gatherings to support Israel have been held around the Bay Area.

Congregation Beth David in Saratoga hosted a nighttime event July 22 that drew more than 800 people, according to the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley, which helped organize the gathering.

“It was a phenomenal event,” said Jyl Jurman, CEO of the federation. Speakers included rabbis, cantors and community members. “We fulfilled a need for the community.”

On July 16, Temple Sinai in Oakland was the site of a community gathering at which East Bay rabbis and cantors led prayers for peace and the security of Israel. More than 400 people attended, according to the Jewish Federation of the East Bay.

Sonoma County’s Jewish community was to hold a solidarity gathering on July 23 at Congregation Beth Ami in Santa Rosa. According to an email, “The purpose of the meeting is to gather and show our support for the men and women of the Israel Defense Forces in their struggle to stop Hamas’s rocket attacks on the people of Israel.”


Posted by paul
07/25/2014  at  11:21 AM
Israel has the right to defend itself.

Our gathering was proper respond for solidarity with Israel and against those jihadists such as, Code Pink and so-called Jewish Voice for peace with their leaders such as, Rae Abileach, etc. Those jihadists, were inside of the Temple. To let them in, was dis grateful not only to Israel but, also to our God. The Code Pink, is the Code pro war and pro destruction of the State of Israel. The so-called Jewish Voice for peace where Abileach belong to, is the Jewish Voice pro war and pro destruction of the State of Israel. Congregation Emanuel, shouldn’t let them to go inside.

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Posted by Howard Hoffman
07/25/2014  at  03:02 PM
Reporting by the Chronicle

Sadly, the next day, the SF Chronicle ran a big story with 2 photos of the anti-Israel march.  Embedded within that lengthy article was a single sentence about the pro-Israel march.  If anyone has any doubt about the role of the media in the current conflict, then this example should pretty well show everyone what is going on.

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Posted by Sonia Melnikova-Raich
07/29/2014  at  09:37 PM
No walls are tall enough...

There were more that just one protests against Israel voiced inside Temple Emanu-el. A half-a-dozen of members of “Jewish Voice for Peace” and other pro-Palestinian groups sneaked into the Main Sanctuary of the synagogue, where the meeting and community prayer for peace were held. They strategically positioned themselves in different parts of the large sanctuary and disrupted the speeches and prayers at least five or six times, screaming unintelligibly and spitting out ugly accusations at more or less equal intervals, one person at a time, which appeared well orchestrated. They did it, despite the repeated reminders about the sacred nature of the space, until each one was escorted outside. It was extremely upsetting and some children in the audience looked scared and visibly shaken. I heard some congregants commenting afterwards that, perhaps, it was a bad idea to hold the meeting at the Temple. And yet, I would like to say thank you to the protesters. Not, of course, for disrupting and disrespecting our peaceful gathering at our own (not public) sacred place, or frightening our children. I would like to thank them for reminding all of us of what Jewish students have to deal with on the daily basis on Californian campuses. I would like to thank them for providing a needed wake-up call to remind us that no matter how safe we may feel among ourselves, behind the walls of our synagogues, we are not really safe anywhere any more. And finally, I would like to thank them for reminding our community that no place is sacred and no walls are tall enough in Israel to protect its children and adults unless it does what it has to protect itself.

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Posted by paul
07/30/2014  at  01:44 PM

Dear Sonia,
I want to make some corrections in your statement about so-called Jewish Voice for peace. You should never think that, they are peaceful. They aren’t. The so-called JVP, anti democracy, anti America and, anti Israel. They promote hate, BDS, anti Semitism, Holocaust and wars. They don’t want Israel. Jews attack Jews who loves and support Israel. How is that possible? We all need to love and support Israel. If the Jewish Voice for peace is real for peace then, it’s require to support Israel’s right to exist. So far, the so-called JVP policies are racists. Sonia, you were right in your statement by saying that, we aren’t safe any more. How can the Jewish Voice for peace, claim to be so-peaceful if someone from this peaceful group, attacked me on the Bus Stop in San Francisco and, this person is still attacking me every time he see me in the city or, on the counter demonstration where I stand with Israel? This person, pushed me in front of the Bus. Does it sound peaceful? The Jewish Voice for peace, it is the Jewish Voice for war and destruction of the State of Israel.

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