Aaron Goldstein remembers the time that he and his brother showed up to support Israel at a pro-Palestinian rally — and they were the only ones holding Israeli flags.
“It was one of the scariest moments of our lives because we were completely alone and didn’t anticipate such little support,” said Goldstein, 17, a graduate of Brandeis Hillel Day School in San Francisco.
On Dec. 27, however, it was an entirely different story.
Goldstein was joined by nearly 100 Israel supporters who showed up at San Francisco’s Union Square to counter anti-Israel sentiment coming from a gathering of pro-Palestinian supporters marking the one-year anniversary of Israel’s strike against Hamas in Gaza.
“It’s really nice to see such a good turnout,” Goldstein said while holding an Israeli flag at the corner of Powell and Geary streets — a prime spot to talk to passersby about Israel’s right to exist.
StandWithUs/San Francisco Voice for Israel, the Zionist Freedom Alliance and BlueStarPR organized the counter-demonstration.
About 200 Palestinian supporters attended the Gaza memorial and candlelight vigil, which was a precursor to marches that were scheduled for Dec. 31, including the Gaza Freedom March in the Middle East and Walk for Gaza across the Golden Gate Bridge.
In Union Square, the two groups stood on opposite sides of Powell Street for about two hours.
Michael Harris, a leader of StandWithUs/S.F. Voice for Israel, often made statements into a bullhorn, while people supporting Gaza yelled at him from across the street.
There were no arrests during the demonstration, said San Francisco Police Department spokesman Dewayne Tully.
However, one 50-year-old man in support of Israel was punched in the face by a female Palestinian supporter, Tully said. “No arrest was made because the female who committed the assault left the scene and police were unable to locate the suspect.” No medical attention was needed, Tully added.
After-Christmas shopping in the Union Square area ensured plenty of foot traffic.
“People are stopping and standing with us,” said Faith Meltzer, a volunteer with S.F. Voice for Israel.
Knowing the shoppers would be out in full force, Meltzer made five times more fliers than the 25 she usually makes for the group’s weekly counter-demonstration at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater.
One man told her he was impressed with the showing of support for Israel, and called it “heartening.”
“There’s a lot of positive energy today,” Meltzer said. “There’s a great turnout and we’re getting across our message — which is what’s really going on in Gaza.”