Amidst a sea of Israeli and American flags and elongated balloons decorated with the Star of David, more than 1,000 Israeli residents of Los Angeles rallied in front of the Federal Building in Westwood on Oct. 15 to demonstrate support for their native country in the face of heightened violence and confrontations.
The mood, placards and songs at the noontime rally, watchfully monitored by police, sheriff's deputies and private security personnel, reflected more a longing for peace than hatred of Palestinians or Arabs.
"Live and Let Live," read one sign, while others urged "Put Down the Rocks" and "Stones Also Kill." Only a small contingent from the Jewish Defense League demanded "Death to Arab Terrorists." A steady stream of cars along Wilshire Boulevard noisily complied with the request "Honk to Support Israel."
Demonstrators were confined to the sidewalk in front of the Federal Building because the rally's sponsor, the Council of Israeli Organizations, could not obtain permits in time to access the building's grounds or to set up a stage and sound system.
After an hour, however, police relented and the crowd quickly swarmed across the grassy grounds, set up an impromptu stage and formed hora dancing circles to the accompaniment of an accordion player. Several young Chabadniks circulated with palm fronds and citrons to mark the second day of Sukkot.
Israeli Consul General Yuval Rotem told the crowd that "At the end of the day, the Palestinians must understand that we, the Jewish people of Israel, are in our homes and that we are here to stay. ...We will have to learn to live side by side."
Across the street, some 25 Arab counter demonstrators, more than half of them women wearing head scarves, held signs proclaiming "Over 50 Percent of Palestinians Killed are Under 18" and "$5 Billion in Aid Goes to Israel Every Year."
Their spokesman, who identified himself as Ahmed Shama, said that "Barak and Arafat are responsible for the killings. Both have sold out the Palestinians."
Earlier last week, some 600 people joined in an Israel support rally at the West Valley Jewish Community Center on Oct. 12, while on Oct. 14, several hundred Palestinians and other Arabs demonstrated in front of the Federal Building.
On Oct. 16, a community-wide rally, sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and other organizations, was held at Sinai Temple in Westwood.
The same evening, Israelis and other Hebrew-speaking Angelenos were updated on the Middle East situation by Consul General Rotem at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.