Two rallies are planned for the night of Thursday, July 20.
One will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Congregations of Shaare Shamayim in Northeast Philadelphia. The other is also slated for 7:30 p.m. at the Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill, N.J., sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey. Congregation Sons of Israel in Cherry Hill held a prayer session on Monday night.
Early next week, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia will hold a "We Stand With Israel" rally at noon on Monday, July 26. The event will take place at JFK Plaza, better known as Love Park.
At press time, the speaker lists for all three events remained in the works; local politicians, clergy and organizational leaders were expected to take part.
Addressing the situation
Late last month, Palestinian terrorists raided an Israeli army post near Gaza, killing two soldiers and abducting a third, Cpl. Gilad Shalit. The terrorists demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the 19-year-old soldier's release.
That move prompted an Israeli military response directly into Gaza.
Then situation escalated last week when members of Hezbollah staged a cross-border attack, killing eight soldiers and abducting two others, reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
The rallies also follow international criticism that Israel has responded with a disproportionate use of force. Israeli officials say they cannot allow a terrorist group to continue to operate unfettered on its northern border.
"As the situation in Israel was getting more serious, many people were coming into the synagogue and asking, What can we do?" explained Jacques Lurie, executive director of Shaare Shamayim.
"Many people feel helpless siting here and watching TV, and don't know what to do," he added. "We need to be able to show our support."
A number of Jewish organizations are serving as co-sponsors of the Northeast Philadelphia event, including Hadassah of Greater Philadelphia, the Zionist Organization of America, the group PhillyIsraelim and the JCC Klein Branch.
Officials are expecting the community-wide events to draw throngs of people concerned with the situation in the Middle East and frustrated by the inability to do much other than wait.
"The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia supports the government of Israel's decision to defend itself, secure its borders, protects its citizens and pursue the release of its kidnapped soldiers," proclaimed Ira Schwartz, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
"We applaud the U.S. government's statement of support and recognition of Israel's right to defend itself."