July 18, 2006
Large-Scale Israel Solidarity Rally Planned for Sunday
In an effort to demonstrate solidarity with Israel, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and other Jewish groups are organizing a major community rally to take place in front of the Federation's Wilshire Boulevard headquarters this Sunday, July 23 at 4 p.m.
Planners hope to attract 10,000 supporters.
"This is an opportunity for a broad cross-section of our community to come together for the people of Israel at this difficult time," Federation President John Fishel said.
The Federation and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California are coordinating the rally, which will include the pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, among other organizations. Fischel said The Federation will work with public agencies to ensure participants' safety.
First Federation Rally
Sunday's event is the first major pro-Israel rally organized by the Federation since 2001, Fischel said. That year, the nonprofit organization held a rally in support of Israel just after the outbreak of the Second Intifada.
To publicize the rally, many local rabbis are emailing congregants and will speak from the pulpit on Shabbat about the demonstration's importance, said Board of Rabbis Executive Vice President Mark Diamond.
"The rally will send a clear message to American politicians, the U.N. and to world leaders that the people of Los Angeles stand with Israel," Diamond said. "I think the world needs to be reminded over and over again what started this war, and that Israel is a sovereign state that has a right to defend its people."
The attacks on Israel by Hezbollah and Hamas represent nothing less than the latest step in radical Islam's quest for world domination, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Standing up to the threat, whether on the frontlines of Israel or the streets of Los Angeles, is a needed challenge to the forces of darkness.
"Their first step may be the state of Israel, but it is not the last stop in their international Jihadist journey," Hier said. "This is an historical moment for the state of Israel. And Israel is doing what the world should be doing: confronting terrorists."
Wiesenthal Center Plans Screenings
As part of its attempts to educate the public about the roots of the current crisis in the Middle East, the Wiesenthal Center has plans to screen three films, beginning July 25. "The Long Way Home," discusses the story of Israel's creation; "In Search of Peace" details the conflict from 1948 to 1967; and "Ever Again," Hier said, spotlights the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Semitism.
Meanwhile, the Federation has established an Israel in Crisis Fund. One hundred percent of all monies raised will go toward sending Israeli children living in northern communities under attack to summer camp in safer areas.
The Federation's emergency campaign is part of an initiative among U.S. and Canadian federations to raise $1 million weekly for the summer camp program.
As a measure of its support, the L.A. Federation announced that it had donated $100,000 to the United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization for 155 Jewish federations and 400 independent Jewish communities across North America. New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Toronto have had or will also hold rallies to show solidarity with the Jewish state.
The upcoming Los Angeles event comes less than a week after a Chabad-sponsored pray-in and two weeks after an emotional rally at the Wiesenthal Center. On July 17, Chabad held a pro-Israel prayer rally at Rabbi Schneerson Square in Los Angeles. The lunchtime gathering attracted about 1,000 people, including 500 children from local Chabad camps and youth groups.
"Whenever the Jewish people are threatened, our special weapon is the prayers of our beautiful children who now cry to the Almighty for the safety of our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land," said Rabbi Boruch S. Cunin, director of West Coast Chabad.
Four days earlier, about 500 supporters of Israel attended the last-minute gathering. The two-hour ceremony included speeches from Wiesenthal Rabbis Hier and Abraham Cooper, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yarsolavsky, L.A. Consul General to Israel Ehud Danoch, Judea Pearl (father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl) and The Federation's Fishel. "This operation will not end until we make an end to Hezbollah," Danoch said. "Israel is strong. The government is strong. The Jewish people are strong, and we will last an eternity."-- Religion Editor Amy Klein contributed to this report.