"Tonight the peace process is in a shambles," said Jimmy Delshad, president of Sinai Temple, before a near-capacity crowd. "Now Israel must confront the very essence of its survival."
During a month when the Jewish state has experienced some of its worst violence in years, nearly 1,500 people arrived at the Westwood synagogue to take part in a show of support for Israel. The occasion, billed as the Israel Solidarity Rally, was organized by a group of Jewish organizations.
"We have proved this desire time and time again," said Yuval Rotem, consul general of Israel, of his country's desire to extend the olive branch. "We have taught our children reconciliation and peace."
Osias Goren, chair of The Jewish Federation's Jewish Com-munity Relations Committee, deplored CNN's biased tele-journalism. Goren reproached the Ted Turner-owned news for hiring Palestinian stringers to report on the conflict.
Referring to the Palestinian children killed in combat, Goren shouted, "The blood of these children is not on our hands. It's on Arafat's hands!"
Sinai Temple's Rabbi David Wolpe said that Palestinian extremists have taken advantage of the Jewish people's premium on life and peace. In spite of his frustration with the entire situation, Wolpe warned that with weapons of mass destruction becoming smaller and more accessible, peace remains the only viable road for Israelis and Palestinians to travel down.
"Sooner or later," concluded Wolpe, "if there is not peace, there is doom."
Attendees at the Israel Solidarity Rally represented the wide diversity of cultures that comprise L.A.'s Jewish community. But all of them were unified by their concern for Israel.
Aziz Motahedeh, an Iranian refugee who has called the U.S. his home for 13 years, came to the rally prepared. Throughout the program he unflaggingly raised up a homemade sign adorned with Israeli flags, Michael Ramirez cartoons, and the image of the three soldiers captured by Hezbollah guerrillas.
Brenda Feit brought her daughter to the rally. Arielle Feit, 12, said that she came because "I felt sorry for family members over there."
Steve Rosmarin came down with about 30 of his Jewish War Veterans peers to "show my solidarity for the only democracy in the Middle East. They have to be strong. We who fought in World War II realize the necessity of Israel."
Zachary Hepner, 26, an MBA student at the University of Arizona, said, "A Jewish community that sticks together can accomplish its goals and I want to help the community do that."
Susan Hirschman, a teacher at Milken Community High School, reported that her seventh-grade students have evinced much concern and many questions regarding the situation in Israel.
"Israel is always right here in our hearts and in our thoughts," said Hirschman. "It's up to us to show Israel and the rest of the world that we as Jewish people stand together."
The Israel Solidarity Rally was sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, the American Jewish Committee; the Anti-Defamation League, Hadassah Southern California, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Orthodox Union, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Speakers included Federation President John Fishel, Rabbi Allen Freehling of University Synagogue and Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, vice president of the Board of Rabbis. Cantors Joe Gole of Sinai Temple and Evan Kent of Temple Isaiah provided musical performances, and Rabbi Daniel Bouskila of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel closed the program with a prayer.