WINNIPEG — A broad cross-section of Manitobans turned out on July 21 for two rallies in Winnipeg in support of Israel.
The first demonstration, held late in the afternoon, began in front of the CN Rail station in the heart of downtown and finished in front of the soon-to-be opened Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Sergei Did, the 23-year-old community college student who organized the outdoor demonstration, estimated the turnout at 250 people.
A counter-demonstration nearby attracted just a handful of pro-Palestinian protesters who didn’t stick around long.
The evening rally in the gymnasium at the Asper Jewish Community Campus, drew a standing-room-only crowd of close to 700.
“We had a huge number of supporters,” said Shelly Faintuch, one of the principal organizers of the evening rally.
“The turnout was much higher than we anticipated,” added Faintuch, who is both community relations director at the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and associate director of local partner services for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “It was gratifying to see so many people who wanted to show their support for Israel.”
Representatives of Sikh community at the Asper centre MYRON LOVE PHOTO
It wasn’t just members of Winnipeg’s Jewish community who came. Faintuch said there were a number of aboriginal people, as well as members of the Sikh and Hindu communities and evangelical Christians from outside Winnipeg.
“Our friends got the word out to their communities,” she said.
The rally was led by federation president David Kroft, and the roster of speakers included Shelley Glover, the Conservative MP for St. Boniface and senior minister for Manitoba; Ted Falk, Conservative MP for Provencher (to the southeast of Winnipeg); Kerri Irvin-Ross, Manitoba’s minister of healthy living; Eric Malloy, national director of Bridges For Peace Canada; Norway House Cree Nation Chief Ron Evans; and Rabbi Ari Ellis, spiritual leader of Herzlia-Adas Yeshurun Synagogue.
Also in the audience were Winnipeg Conservative MPs Joyce Bateman and Lawrence Toet, along with former provincial NDP cabinet minister Christine Melnick, who had recently returned from Israel where she visited the Playground for Peace, a joint Manitoba-Israel project.
Also recently returned from Israel was Falk, who went as part of a parliamentary delegation. He spoke of his experiences being under fire from incoming missiles.
He described watching Iron Dome batteries knock missiles out of the air and Israel’s three-step process of trying to warn Palestinians to get out of the way before bombing their neighbourhoods.
He also spoke about visiting the SodaStream plant in the West Bank – commenting on the number of Palestinians employed there – and a stop on the Golan Heights, where the group could hear shooting in nearby Syria.
In co-operation with Faintuch, Evans has been arranging tours to Israel for young people from his community (Norway House) for the past three years. He noted in his speech that his community leadership’s goal is to have 300 members visit Israel to learn from its example.
“I am here this evening,” he said, “to lend our support to the only democracy in the Middle East, to a country whose people have inspired us, to the Israeli people themselves who have every right to live in peace and security, and to thank the Jewish community for being there for us, the Norway House Cree Nation.”
The evening concluded with a prayer for the soldiers of Israel and for the fallen, the reading of Psalm 121 by children currently attending the Chabad day camp, Gan Israel, and the recitation of Kaddish by a young man whose best friend recently died fighting for Israel.