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Solidarity rally in Love Park, July 24, 2006 

Special Dossier: War on Hezbollah

We Stand With Israel
Israeli consul to Philly Jews: ?They want to kill us?

-- Bruce Ticker

As hundreds of pro-Israel Philadelphians struggled with the late-July humidity, northern Israel endured a raid of 100 rockets launched by Hezbollah and two Israel Defense Forces helicopter pilots were killed.

This news was relayed by Uriel Palti, Israel's Consul General in Philadelphia, to supporters of Israel who held up signs in center city's Love Park on Monday, July 24, to show solidarity for the 58-year-old Jewish state in a scene that was played out in Northeast Philadelphia, Los Angeles, southern Florida, Boston, Cherry Hill and Margate, N.J., Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in recent weeks.

"They want to kill us. We will do everything to stop it," Palti declared.

Terrorist actions have so far caused the deaths of more than 40 Israelis since June 25, when Hamas militants slipped into an Israeli base, killed two soldiers and kidnapped a 19-year-old corporal, Gilad Shalit, whom they have held hostage in Gaza. Hezbollah extended the conflict to a second front on July 12 when they killed eight soldiers and spirited away two more Israeli soldiers into northern Lebanon. Hezbollah has since been firing rockets into northern Israel and the IDF has been bombing Lebanon, leaving nearly 400 Lebanese dead and the nation's infrastructure in shreds.

Israel claims that its bombing raids were needed to strike military-related targets and could not avoid harming civilians because Hezbollah operates in civilian areas. A dozen people held a silent protest against Israel's bombing raids at the other end of Love Park Across the street in City Hall courtyard, a large sign was held up stating, "Support the rights of the Palestinian people."

A few Israel supporters berated some of the protesters. One told a demonstrator, "Go to hell." The protestor replied, "I don't believe in hell."

Solidarity rally in Love Park, July 24, 2006 
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, which hosted the event, estimated that 2,000 people attended the rally. At the sight of the supportive crowd, Palti said, "The very fact that the Jewish people are showing solidarity not only warms our heart. Your voice is being heard in Washington. Thank you, Philadelphia, for your support."

"Keep on fighting," former City Controller Jonathan Saidel, who is Jewish, urged the crowd. "Each year it seems to be open season on Jews. Enough is enough."

Saidel, a prospective Democratic mayoral candidate, described Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists as "animals that don't care about our way of life. They deserve not to exist. They (Israel) have right on their side. Defeat is not an alternative."

U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican who represents Delaware and Chester counties, proclaimed that while he is not Jewish "here we are 230 years later we are uniting in solidarity with Israel"; he said he was referring to the gathering of colonial leaders to sign the Declaration of Independence.

"The security of Israel is not a priority for one party or another," he added. "It is the priority of all of us."

A prayer for the missing soldiers and for peace was led by Rabbi David Gutterman, executive director of VAAD: Board of Rabbis in Philadelphia. He emphasized that after overcoming many struggles the Jewish people must support Israel as it rises to the challenges of those who seek to harm Jews and Americans, and destroy Israel, according to a Federation news release.

Cantor Marshall Portnoy, the hazzan of Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, sang the National Anthem and Hatikva (Israel's national anthem). 

The rally was supported by several local organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League; the American Jewish Committee; the Zionist Organization of America; and the Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee. Serving as masters of ceremonies were Gary Erlbaum and Scott Isdaner, also co-chairs of Federation's Center for Israel and Overseas; they were assisted by Ira Schwartz, Federation president.

For more information on the Israel Emergency Fund, visit www.Jewishphilly.org.

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