Rally recap

If there was any conclusion to be drawn from the Jewish community’s Rally for Israel this evening, it was that Jewish organizations around the Valley are united in their support of Israel.

More than 60 Jewish organizations sponsored the rally, which filled the gym at the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center in Scottsdale.

As Stuart Wachs, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Association of Greater Phoenix, said during his closing remarks, despite the cease-fire, “Israel remains at extreme risk.” The rally was called before the cease-fire.

Several speakers, including Dana Erlich, Consul of Public Diplomacy with the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, emphasized that Nov. 29 was the date 65 years ago that the United Nations approved the partition plan that led to the establishment of the State of Israel. Now, in 2012, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the Palestinian Authority’s bid to be recognized as an observer state. Erlich was adamant that this move was not a road to peace and that peace (and Palestinian statehood) could only achieved through negotiations between Israel and the PA. There was a big impromptu round of applause for that statement.

An audio-video segment allowed the mayors of Kiryat Malachi (where three died in a rocket attack last week) and Hof Ashkelon to send thank you messages for American support — particularly support from the association through its TIPS partnership. (TIPS stands for Tucson, Israel, Phoenix and Seattle, with the Jewish communities of the American cities giving financial support to social programs in Kiryat Malachi and the Hof Ashkelon region.) In addition, former community schlicha (emissary) from Israel Sharron Topper-Amitai provided an audio message recalling her years here, when she stood with the local community at a similar rally when Israel was embroiled in Operation Cast Lead.

Rabbi Darren Kleinberg read passages from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s “Israel: An Echo of Eternity,” which described how our tradition views bloodshed as an abomination and offered a vision of Israel as a bountiful place that could be shared if all parties pursued peace.

Rabbi Pinchas Allouche tied Operation Pillar of Defense to Hanukkah, noting that when the rabbis of the Talmud asked, “What is Hanukkah?” The answer wasn’t the military victory of the Maccabees over King Antiochus but the miracle of the oil that lit the Temple for eight days. “What about the military victory? Isn’t that much more important?” No, he said, the rabbis emphasized the supernatural, the soul. “This is what connects us (to Israel). It is this soul that we must ignite and celebrate.”

As Wachs, the closing speaker, stressed, “(Israel) is part of all of us.” If there were no Israel, he asked, “Where would our people have the experience of being in a Jewish country?”

Wachs’ speech was followed by a prayer for Israel led by at least a score of rabbis and cantors, and a Pardes Jewish Day School students who sang “Oseh Shalom” and “Am Yisrael Chai.” The Jewish people live indeed.

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