Hundreds of Five Towners came out Monday night to show solidarity and support for the state of Israel in a time of escalated tensions and violence with neighboring Gaza.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Long Island planned the event at Congregation Beth Sholom, which featured a special appearance by Malcolm Hoenlein, a geopolitical expert and executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who returned from Israel that day.
“After Israel was attacked, you all rallied,” he said. “We stand together; we’re all people with one heart.”
While Five Towns residents, many of whom are Jewish and visit Israel regularly, dealt with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, rockets hit parts of Israel over the course of eight days, killing six Israelis. In response, Israel bombed more than 1,000 targets in Gaza, leaving more than 160 dead. A cease-fire deal was reached last Wednesday.
“This war was about one thing, and that’s Israel’s right to exist,” Hoenlein said. “This was not a war to replace Hamas or to take back Gaza.” He added, “The cease fire we have seen is only temporary. It’s inevitable because their reasons are still there — they want to destroy Israel.”
Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is the United States’ greatest ally in the region. And although Hoenlein said that President Barack Obama has not shown as much public support to the country, the partnership between the two nations is stronger than ever.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-Mineola, told the audience that congress would continue to give its full support to Israel.
“We will be there for Israel,” said McCarthy, who announced that she would be visiting the country in a few weeks.
Many local residents voiced concern to Patch about the situation in Israel, and wanted to know how they could help.
“We’re fortunate nowadays that, God forbid, if something happens, we have a place we can go to,” said Aryeh Markovich of Lawrence. “We have to support it and advocate that the Jewish state stays Jewish.”
Rabbi Bruce Ginsberg, of Congregation Sons of Israel in Woodmere, urged people to contact their elected officials, the media and the interfaith community to show the differences between Israel and its enemies.
“It’s important to show solidarity for Israel,” he said. “We want to signal to Israel that the American Jewish community is behind them in their just cause.”
Hoenlein stressed throughout his speech that it’s important for the Jewish people to hold onto their roots, because Israel’s enemies “understand that if you take away our past, you take away our future.”
The event was bookmarked by the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner and Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, along with prayers for Israeli soldiers and the United States.