July 5, 2001
A proposal for a massive solidarity conference in Israel, attended by Jews worldwide, has been warmly welcomed by Israeli officials and American Jews.
The advance solidarity campaign was launched June 25 with a full-page ad in the New York Times and drew responses from 3,500 readers, according to Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who proposed the idea.
At the same time, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office and the Israeli foreign ministry have responded very positively, Hier said.
"It is now mainly a matter of timing," he said. "Our proposal is for a four-to-five day conference in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, either just before Rosh Hashana or between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur."
Hier envisions "some 4,000 to 5,000 Jewish leaders and others getting off planes at Ben Gurion Airport at the same time.... Just think what that will do for Israeli morale and the devastated Israeli tourist industry."
Many of the people responding to the New York Times ad pledged their attendance and sent money to pay for future ads, Hier said.
Next week, ads will be placed in newspapers throughout Florida, to be followed by a similar campaign in secular and Jewish newspapers in the Midwest and then on the West Coast.
The campaign will also be extended to Argentina, Britain and France, Hier said.
"Never has Israeli felt so isolated," he added. "I am absolutely certain that the solidarity conference will happen, because it has to happen."
Ads will feature a message from Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, which reads in part:
"In the concentration camps, we understood what it meant to be alone. We dreamed of a day when there would be a Jewish State. Thank G-d, Israel is no longer just a dream. She has always been there for us. Now, in her hour of need, we must be there for her."
Among signatories of the ad are Governors Jeb Bush (R-Fla.), Gray Davis (D-Calif.) and George E. Pataki (R-N.Y.). Also U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), as well as Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York and former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan.