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1,000 Rally Around Israel in Bucks County
Proudly displaying signs bearing phrases like "Israel Must Defend Itself!" and "Israel Is on the Map to Stay," Jews in Bucks County rallied in support of the State of Israel as its battle against the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah hit its 20th day.
"This gathering sends a very strong message, and makes it unmistakably clear that our common bond with Israel is indeed unbreakable," declared Alan Sheinberg, president of Shir Ami-Bucks County Jewish Congregation in Newtown, speaking at the synagogue on Monday night. Shir Ami's executive director Hilary Leboff estimated that some 1,000 people attended the event.
Showing support for Israel were seven state legislators and candidates, in addition to leaders from 12 Bucks County synagogues and 24 Jewish organizations. The event was in part sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
"As we have watched what we have seen in the Middle East, and watched the reaction of the world, it is no surprise that there are so many of us here this evening to make a stand and make a statement," said Shir Ami's rabbi Elliot Strom.
Security for the rally was intense, with several police cars outside the building and a private security force stationed inside the synagogue.
Consul Shahar Shelef of the Israel Consul General's Office of Greater Philadelphia, upset at the international response to the Israeli campaign by countries like France, posed the question of what would happen if 15 percent of French civilians -- or 9 million of its people -- were confined to shelters because of incoming missile attacks.
"They would defend their people, and the world would approve," he said.
Ephraim Lapid, a brigadier general in the reserves of the Israeli Defense Force, was unequivocal about the importance of the current war.
"We feel like we are fighting -- literally -- our second War of Independence," stated Lapid.
David Gutterman, executive director of the Vaad: Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia, argued for the Jewish state's right to defend itself against the rocket attacks raining down on Israeli towns, but also for a civil response to the civilian casualties in Lebanon.
"We stand here this evening and say that a child that is killed in Kana evokes a response of sorrow, not celebration ... . Let us not lose our soul," said Gutterman of the Israeli attack that killed civilians. "But at the same time, my friends, let us not lose our voice."