It was another busy weekend of gatherings related to the Israel situation in the Philadelphia area.
On Nov. 2, hundreds of people, including Jews, rallied at 30th Street Station to call for a cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas. Three days later, Israeli and American Jews pushed empty strollers down Martin Luther King Junior Drive to raise awareness about the more than 200 hostages that Hamas continues to hold.
We talked to one person who attended each event to get a sense of what they were like.
Hamas attacked areas around the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 people.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by declaring war. His government then called for residents of the northern portion of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to evacuate.
The Nov. 2 Call for a Cease-fire
Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari leads Kol Tzedek, a Reconstructionist synagogue, in West Philadelphia. Kol Tzedek members were involved in planning the cease-fire rally at 30th Street Station.
“We were led by pastors, rabbis, imams, Buddhist teachers, elected officials. There was a marching band outside. It was a moment of real coalition building,” he said.
Fornari referred to it as a “multifaith, multiracial, intergenerational movement calling for a cease-fire.”
“The need is urgent,” he added. “The attack by Hamas was atrocious and violent and irredeemable. But mass retaliation is not justified. As a rabbi, I don’t believe a death for a death. And I definitely don’t believe 9,000 Palestinian deaths is called for in response to 1,400 Israelis who are murdered.”
At the rally, an “everyone for everyone” chant kept breaking out. It was a reference to the option of exchanging Palestinian “security prisoners” for Israeli hostages. Israel held more than 1,000 Palestinian administrative detainees even before the Oct. 7 attack, according to The Jerusalem Post.
Rally attendees also chanted, sang and read testimonies from Gaza residents, according to Fornari.
“Anything we can do to hasten the cease-fire is imperative on us as Jews and as people of conscience,” he said.
The Nov. 5 Stroller Walk
Yedida Goldman, an American Jew who lives in Bala Cynwyd, worked with American Jewish friends to organize the stroller walk. They wanted it to be in Center City on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, at the Love Statue and City Hall, among other locations. But they got calls the night of Nov. 4 from friends who worked in security that said they would not be safe in such a central location.
“It would have been a major security risk,” Goldman said. “They 100% recommended that we cancel.”
Instead, they connected with a group called Running Out of Time, which is holding runs every week until the hostages come home. Together, they ran and pushed strollers in a safer, less visible area: MLK Drive.
The stroller pushers walked single file. Inside the strollers, they put teddy bears with pictures of hostages.
They walked for 2.2 miles, according to Goldman. Runners and bikers gave them thumbs-up signs as they ran and biked by. But there was less visibility than there would have been in Center City.
“It’s a shame we weren’t able to do it in the city where we would have gotten more attention,” Goldman said. “I wish we could have reached a wider audience.”