More than 500 people grabbed Israeli flags and blue and white clothing and marched to show their support for Israel during the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the Israeli-American Council’s pro-Israel rally and march May 12.

The Beachwood march started at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, where participants traversed the half-mile stretch along Richmond Road to the Federation parking lot on Science Park Drive. There, participants listened to songs from Cantor Kathryn Wolfe Sebo from The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood and words from J. David Heller, Federation board chair; Rabbi Stephen Weiss of B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike; Rabbi Moshe Gancz of the Fromovitz Chabad Center in Beachwood; and Lydia Frankel, Israeli-American Council Midwest council chair.

The Cleveland rally and march was one of more than a dozen held throughout the country May 12.

In over a week of fighting, Israel has come under a barrage of rocket fire from Hamas, and the rally sought to gather Greater Cleveland’s Jewish population and show its unwavering support for their homeland as the violence continues on both sides.

Heller shared stories he had heard of those struck by the violence in Israel, and he described efforts being done locally by the Federation and The Jewish Agency for Israel to help Israelis on a physical and emotional level.

“The violence and terror that Israel is going through right now – imagine if this was happening in England or in France, what the response would be from those governments at this time,” Heller said in between claps and chants of agreement. “It’s just unimaginable that people think Israel shouldn’t have the right to defend herself. They absolutely must, and we cannot put up with this double standard anymore.”

He made a push for peace and a solution to the high tensions between Israel and Hamas.

“The attacks that have been perpetrated and the cycle of violence just delays the peace,” Heller said. “What we want is peace, we want that to come quickly, we want our leaders to work toward deescalating the violence and we want to work for a quick resolution.”

Weiss urged others to spread the impact the rocket firings have had on Israel, and he supported Israel’s use of retaliation through airstrikes in order to protect itself and its people against Hamas.

“Do not let your friends and others say, do not stand for the media saying, ‘Oh Israel, they’re the powerful one. They have the Iron Dome, they aren’t suffering,’” Weiss said. “These families suffered unimaginable loss. ... Our hearts are filled with grief and anguish over the loss of life on both sides. But we affirm strongly that we continue to stand tall alongside Israel, to defend her, to defend Israel’s right to exist in peace and Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Gancz encouraged attendees of all genders and ages to not only stand with Israel but make an effort every day to improve the world through meaningful gestures. From studying Torah to tefillah to tzedakah, those far away from Israel can still contribute toward a peaceful world.

“Each and every one of us plays a vital role in making the world a better place,” Gancz said. “We, together with the Israel Defense Forces and all of the great Israeli armies, could do the job making sure that Israel, Eretz Yisrael, Eretz HaKodesh, the Holy Land, should be safe and secure until the very moment that all of us will be reunited in Jerusalem.”

Frankel asked those present to remain with Israel during this time of armed conflict. Despite being gathered in Beachwood – almost 6,000 miles away from Jerusalem, Frankel reminded people that Israel is more than just some faraway nation.

“No matter the beauty of any country in the world, Israel is our home, family,” Frankel said. “No matter where we are, Israel is in our heart and in our spirit.”

For Beachwood residents Teri German and Pam Goodwin, showing support for Israel hit a deeper, personal level. German has two children living in Israel. Goodwin’s brother lives in Israel and her children each spent a year there.

“I think it’s time we all show our support and make sure Israelis know we’re behind them,” German said. “We need to show the rest of the community that it’s important and that we’re here.”

Goodwin echoed German’s remarks, adding she may want to live in Israel one day like the members of her family. She cited Israel’s stance as the only democracy in the Middle East as one of Israel’s many vital factors.

“America needs Israel, we personally need Israel, and we all need to support it,” Goodwin said. “It’s super important to come out and show how meaningful the country is. Even if we’re not there physically, our hearts are there now.”

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