TORONTO — “To see the love of Christians is very moving for me,” Yona Yahav, LEFT, the mayor of Haifa, said at a fundraising gala this month in Toronto, where some 300 Christians and Jews gathered to show their support for Israel.
Among the chief sponsors of the evening was the recently formed group Christians United For Israel (CUFI), which aims to support Israel by to lobbying government leaders and by backing the Jewish state at the United Nations.
The April 10 event at the Canada Christian College was organized by Israel’s former consul general in Toronto, Ya’acov Brosh, currently executive director of the Haifa Foundation. Proceeds went to Haifa’s Crisis Management Control Centre, whose initiatives include financing bomb shelters.
Keynote speakers were Yahav and MK Rabbi Benny Elon, RIGHT, of the right-wing National Union party.
Yahav described his city to attendees as multicultural, European-style and strong.
“The strength of the society came up a year-and-a-half ago during the Second Lebanon War. This wasn’t the kind of war we were used to. It was the first time the city was under attack.”
After the first rockets fell on Haifa, the mayor was told that they, as well as others like it, contained some 40,000 ball bearings, meant to inflict and maximize serious injury, and that the ball bearings could scatter as far as one kilometre, he said.
The city declared a state of emergency, and Yahav advised Haifans to stay at home. Outside activity was halted.
“There were no weddings, no funerals, no get-togethers for over a month,” he said. “Public shelters were no good. This was a different kind of war. If you ran into a public area, you were dead.”
Remarkably, four-fifths of Haifa’s residents stayed in the city during the bombardment, he said.
In a single week in July 2006, almost 1,000 Katyusha rockets were fired on Israel, reaching up to 40 kilometres from their launch points – the farthest of any rocket attacks to date, the Israeli military reported. Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city, is about 35 kilometres south of the Lebanese border.
Two years earlier, Haifa prepared safety contingencies in the event of a predicted imminent earthquake, Yahav said.
“We were the only city in Israel that was prepared for this war. And we want to prepare ourselves for coming catastrophes,” he said. “We have to build more bunkers, from which we can control the city in a catastrophe, be it a flood, earthquake or war.”
In his remarks, Rabbi Elon assessed the growing dangers for Israelis.
“These proxies of Iran in the north have been strengthened since the war, and we know it,” he said, referring to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which fought the 2006 war with Israel.
Yet he said he is buoyed by Israel’s optimism.
“We, the Jews, have genes of survival. When you’ve lost your country for 2,000 years, and you lost your kingdom, your sovereignty, and you built it again from nothing… as the Israeli anthem says, ‘Hatikvah’ – we did not lose our hope.”
Despite his praise for Hatikvah, the MK lamented the absence of overt spiritual references in Israel’s national anthem.
“Why do we not have in Israel ‘In God we trust’ the way America has on its coins? Or do we not have ‘God keep our land’ the way your Canadian anthem says? Isn’t it good to mention the name of God?”
Shira Gilboord, a York University student and program director for Hasbara, a campus pro-Israel activist group, said Christian support for Israel is much needed.
“A Christian Zionist event was an absolute delight to attend. After all, there is strength in numbers, so the more people who are not afraid to stand up for Israel the better,” she said.
“Connecting supporters in both the Christian and Jewish community is also an important part of fighting the anti-Israel battle on campus.”
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