Israel backed by thousands at London rally
All ages dressed in blue and white show their solidarity in words and song
A Jewish family wave at the Israel rally in central London (Photo: stevewinstonphotos.com)
Kensington High Street was awash with Israeli flags as British Jews demonstrated their support at a Zionist Federation (ZF) rally on Sunday.
An estimated 5,000 people - from children to grandparents – showed their solidarity, singing Am Yisrael Chai and the Hatikvah and holding aloft placards demanding an end to Hamas terrorism.
Many dressed in blue and white for the rally, held near the Israeli embassy and backed by 60 communal organisations.
ZF chairman Paul Charney, who read a prayer for the fallen IDF soldiers, said: "The whole of Israel is looking at the UK and saying we have friends. The road to peace does not run through Hamas.
"If these so called pro-Palestinian demonstrators really cared about the Palestinians, they would be standing alongside us here today."
Liverpool MP Louise Ellman said she had attended to "show my support for people of Israel as they defend themselves" from the "terrorist" Hamas.
We are here with smiles on our faces. Next time Israel needs you, come and join in
"I am here for an end to the rockets on both sides. I've called on our government and supporters of both Israelis and Palestinians to work for a ceasefire."
"This is about peace and security," added Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman. "It is important for us as Jews to demonstrate our support for Israel, for the sake of peace. It is vital that the leadership of the community says to the community, 'this is what we should be doing'.
"Showing the wider community that the Jews are in solidarity with Israel and with peace. Above all, showing people in Israel that we are with them. At the end of the day, we just want peace, we want a ceasefire."
Rabbi Shlomo Farhi, of Aish UK, said: "When [a protester holding] a Palestinian flag drove down the road and people were booing, I told them to stop. We're here for them, trying to save their people against others who are putting them in harm's way. This is a rally for peace."
Many of those present said a need to stand with Israel had overidden any security concerns about being at the rally.
Police reported that one man was assaulted and treated by the London Ambulance Service. No arrests were made.
Hendon grandmother Vivienne Nessim said: "Of course we are scared, but our boys are going into a war zone so we have to stand strong with Israel".
Arnie Kosiner stressed: "The world has to see that the state of Israel has support. So many people are turning out for the Palestinian demonstrations and there's a very close line between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. I think they've crossed it."
"Israel is the only place we have as Jews," added Florette Hyman.
Others were prompted to take part by a feeling that the British media had maintained an anti-Israel bias.
The crowd cheered as cars with passengers waving Israel flags passed by.
A one-minute silence, started with the siren heard around Israel during Operation Protective Edge, was cut short after technical difficulties amd anti-Israel activists chanting: "Shame on you."
There were less than 100 opposition protesters, many shouting: "Allahu Akbar" - "God is great".
Taxi-driver Jonathan Meyers had witnessed the previous day's a pro-Palestinian march in central London, which he said had been "horrible, disgusting", with some marchers making reference to Hitler and Auschwitz.
Having travelled from Brighton, Sussex Friends of Israel co-founder Simon Cobbs said: "To all those people who didn't come today because they thought there would be trouble - you were wrong.
"Next time Israel needs you come and join in. When you need Israel, she will be there for you.
"We are all here with smiles on our faces. I won't waste my time talking about yesterday's rally and their Jew-hatred."
The word from Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub -who did not speak at the rally as he was called away on diplomatic duties - was that "while Israel is under attack from Hamas rockets, drones and tunnels, it is so important to see this show of tremendous support here in London for the millions of Israelis, Jews and Arabs, who have to live in reach of bomb shelters, and for the defence forces who are risking their lives to protect them."
David Bouskila, the former mayor of Sderot - a constant target of rocket attacks - said: "Israel wants to live in peace. We want Gaza free from Hamas. It warms my heart to see the Jewish nation standing here. Be strong for us, and for you."
Israeli Ori Sagi, 28, said the rally made her "feel more connected. It makes me feel proud and happy to be Jewish and Israeli. It feels like a mini-home here".
Her message to anti-Israel factions was: "Don't be misled by the media. Investigate the truth yourself. There are other parts of the puzzle."
On behalf of Christian friends, Bishop Ethelbert Buchanan said: "Someone greater than the Iron Dome is protecting you - God."
Among other non-Jews at the rally was Jacqueline Brown. She had attended "to support Israel and to support peace. Israel has a right to defend herself."
On Wednesday, UJIA launched its Children of the South Appeal, to raise money for relief projects for children living in areas of Israel affected by the conflict.
Charedi leaders in London called a special assembly to recite Psalms at Hendon Adath Yisroel Synagogue.