A hundred or so concerned citizens gathered under the Israeli flag at the corner of 16th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on June 19 to rally in support of three Israeli teens kidnapped by West Bank terrorists on June 12.
"We are all one nation, all of our hearts are in the same place," said Yaron Sideman, Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region. "We are all praying for the safe return of the kidnapped teenagers."
Gilad Shaar, 16, Naftali Frenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, are the yeshiva students kidnapped last week while hitchhiking from the West Bank settlement of Kfar Etzion.
Demonstrators held signs of support and Israeli flags at the corner near City Hall while being addressed by Sideman; Mark Squilla, Philadelphia City Councilman; Steve Feldman, executive director of the Zionist Organization of America's local office; Rabbi Menachem Schmidt, who serves as Chabad's emissary in Philadelphia; and event organizer Sharona Durry, who founded and directs PhillyIsrael, a grassroots organization that facilitates Israeli cultural, educational and social programming.
Squilla was instrumental in the unanimous passing of a Philadelphia City Council resolution, made on the day of the rally, condemning the abduction of the three teens and voicing its support of efforts being made to bring them home, according to Sideman.
Durry and Sideman urged the Philadelphia Jewish community to reach out to family, friends and press to vocalize their support of Israel in the hopes that international pressure will convince the terrorists to release the kidnapped teens.
"Talk to congressman, to City Hall, talk to all the news," said Durry. "Terrorism — we can't have it."
Those gathered sang "Am Yisrael Chai" and the Israeli national anthem "Hatikvah." Durry also encouraged people to join in a prayer service for the safety of the teens that will be hosted on June 23 at Temple Sinai in Dresher, adding that she hopes the teens will be released by then and that there won't be a need for the service.
Bucks County natives Ilya Shtulman, 29, who works in finance and his sister Maryanna Shtulman, 22, a student at La Salle University, offered words of support and sympathy to the families of the teens.
"Stay strong," the elder Shtulman urged, "the Jewish people are with you."
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