More than a hundred Philadelphia-area Jews and advocates of Israel met outside the Israeli consulate at the corner of 19th Streets and JFK Boulevard on July 11 to show solidarity with the Jewish state.
The rally took place just a few blocks from where a similiar event was held on June 19 to urge the global community to pressure Hamas to ensure the safe return of kidnapped Israeli teens Gilad Shaar, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19.
Much has happened since then: The teens were discovered killed, a Palestinian youth was murdered apparently in revenge by Jewish Israeli nationalists, and a violent conflict with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip has seen scores of rockets intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome system over cities previously unreached, such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The Israeli Air Force has also launched an aggressive aerial campaign against Hamas that has already led to the deaths of some 100 Palestinians, including several civilians, according to various reports.
Those attending the rally were addressed by several community leaders, including Sherrie Savett, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia; Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America; Yaron Sideman, Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region; and Sharona Durry, founder and director of PhillyIsrael, a grassroots organization that facilitates Israeli cultural, educational and social programming, among several other speakers.
"Can you imagine rockets raining down on Philadelphia or New York from Canada?" Savett asked the crowd. "Israel has the right and the obligation to protect its citizens."
Savett also noted that the Federation's CEO, Naomi Adler, is currently in Israel with a team of six other staff members to assess the humanitarian needs of Israelis. The Federation had announced earlier in the day that it was launching a Support Israel Emergency Fund for that purpose.
"More than anything, the Israelis are so grateful for our support in America and we need to keep it up," Savett said.
Also speaking to the crowd was Imani Johnson, a field representative of Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.), who read a statement of support for Israel from Toomey.
"I wish to convey my strong belief that Israel is the United States' greatest ally and friend in the Middle East and it is among its best allies in the entire world," Johnson read. "A strong relationship with Israel strengthens both countries in the continuing fight against global terrorism."
Rabbi Jean Claude Klein of Congregations of Shaare Shamayim in Northeast Philadelphia led the group in reciting psalms of peace and protection for Israel moments after local ZOA head Steve Feldman informed the crowd that he had just learned that four more rockets had been fired from Gaza toward Israel.
"We support Israel because no country would tolerate what's going on in Israel, having rockets fall on its people every day, so we're here to support Israel both as Jews and as Americans," said Aliyah Furman, who attended the rally with Ari Stranger, both 27 and from the Philadelphia area.
"It's our duty to get out here and let people know the facts, and get the truth out there," Stranger added. "The Diaspora Jews have always had a major influence in Israel and supporting them — Jews have an obligation and the power to help Israel."