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Pro-Israel rallies bring out thousands in US

By Melissa Radler
April 15, 2002

NEW YORK (April 15) – Two pro-Israel rallies brought out thousands of New Yorkers Sunday in mass protests against terrorism as tens of thousands more made arrangements to demonstrate for Israel in front of the US Capitol today.

Today’s rally, the brainchild of the president of the Coalition for Jewish Concerns-Amcha, Rabbi Avi Weiss, is expected to be the largest gathering of American Jews since 1987, when hundreds of thousands gathered in Washington in support of Soviet Jewry.

“Rallying at this time is absolutely critical,” said Weiss. “I was just in Israel last week, and everywhere you go, people ask, ‘Do American Jews really care?'”

In New York, many Jewish organizations planned to close shop today and bus their staff and supporters to Washington, and some day schools and yeshivas cancelled classes to send their students to the rally.

By Friday, over 700 buses were booked for New York demonstrators, according to the Jewish Community Relations Council. As of Sunday morning, there was limited availability on public trains and buses from New York to Washington, and supporters were booked to drive and fly in from as far away as Alabama, California, and Alaska.

College students from at least 60 campuses, including a busload from Memphis and two buses from Madison, Wisconsin, were also planning to attend, said Hillel director for campus affairs, Michael Jankelowitz. More than 10,000 placards with the slogan, “Wherever we stand, we stand with Israel,” will be waved and circulated by the students, he said. In New York, Yeshiva University cancelled its classes to enable students to attend.

While the message of the rally is one of solidarity with Israel and the US administration in its war on terrorism, more dovish Jewish groups appeared concerned last week that US policy in the Middle East might be criticized. Weiss said he plans to convey the message that the Bush administration should not pressure Israel to halt its military offensive before its anti-terror operations are complete.

In response, the Israel Policy Forum and the New Israel Fund circulated fund-raising appeals last week for full-page, $30,000 ads in today’s edition of The Washington Post to praise the Bush administration for encouraging peace negotiations.

Sunday in New York, a demonstration in front of the PLO mission to the United Nations, and a rally for Russian Jews in Brooklyn planned by the Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe – at which 1,000 candles were lit for the victims of terror – were held in what has become the Jewish community’s increasingly vocal support for Israel in recent weeks.

As for pro-Palestinian rallies, an estimated 2,000 people demonstrated in Times Square on Friday against Israel’s military action, and a national rally in Washington is in the works for April 20.

Detailed information on today’s rally can be found at

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