‘New York Stands With Israel’ Rally Draws Thousands


Ariel Gee, a recent college graduate, is standing near the corner of E. 47th Street and Second Avenue, perfectly still, holding a paper plate with the words “It’s better to be disliked than pitied” written on it in ballpoint pen, as a crowd of more than 10,000 roils around her. It’s an old quote attributed to Abba Eban, the foreign minister of Israel during the Six Day War, but, she says, “I think it really applies right now.”

Gee lives in New York, and she is Jewish. She doesn’t have any family in Israel, but she spent a couple of months studying abroad there during college. On Monday she was among of the thousands of people who squeezed into Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations, each with their own reasons for supporting Israel as it continues a military offensive that has claimed more than 1,000 Palestinian lives (most of those civilians), and the lives of at least 40 Israeli soldiers.

The crowd is peppered with signs that read “Kick Hamas Ass” and “Hamas = Al Qaeda,” with yarmulkes made of every imaginable material (knit, corduroy, velvet, polyester) and with countless Israeli flags–supporters have small ones clasped in their hands, and wear larger ones tucked into their skirts, wrapped around them as dresses, or draped across their shoulders like capes.

See all the photos here: The Stand with Israel Rally Draws Thousands

Dassah Kestenbaum, came with her daughter Lottie. “Her grandparents, my parents, live in Israel; my sister lives in Israel. I have nephews fighting in Gaza. I have friends up in the kibbutzim where the tunnels came through, and there was a mortar explosion like two hours ago, so I’m trying to find out how they are,” she says.

Lottie’s brother is in Israel too. He was drafted into the IDF in March; he will be serve until next July. “He’s still in training, so he’s not in Gaza, but a lot of his friends are,” Lottie says. “He’s known two people who were killed. It’s tough.”

From the podium, Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York hailed New York Stands with Israel as “the world’s largest display of support for the state of Israel at this difficult moment.” Aharoni was one of a long list of high-profile speakers that included a half dozen members of Congress and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

The rally, organized by UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, with co-sponsorship from a handful of local and national Jewish organizations, came at a time when Israel is struggling to convincing the rest of the world that its overwhelming use of force in Gaza is justified.

See all the photos here: The Stand with Israel Rally Draws Thousands

Speaking on a conference call with the leaders of the Jewish Federations of North America earlier this month, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer advised supporters to use analogies. “Anyone making Israel’s case should make the case of how other countries facing similar threats would act,” he said. Politicians at Monday’s rally appeared to have gotten that message.

Congressman Eliot Engel, who used the occasion to announce he was introducing legislation for funding to support Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, asked the crowd, “Would we in the United States tolerate a terrorist group in Canada, lobbing missiles at American citizens in New York? I don’t think so. Would we as a country tolerate a terrorist group on the Mexican border lobbing missiles into Texas? I don’t think so.”

Senator Charles Schumer sounded the same note. “What would happen if London or Paris or Berlin had rockets landing in it? Do you think Britain or France or Germany, while those rockets are flying, would listen to nations of the world who say sit down and talk? No! They would defend themselves,” Schumer said. “Every government has a right to defend its people, and Israel is no different.”

See all the photos here: The Stand with Israel Rally Draws Thousands

See all the photos here: The Stand with Israel Rally Draws Thousands

See all the photos here: The Stand with Israel Rally Draws Thousands