Just hours before a 72-hour cease-fire was broken in Gaza, some 300 gathered on the Morristown Green on Aug. 7 to demonstrate solidarity with the State of Israel.
Sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and its Community Relations Committee, the event was heavily secured by a police force on both foot and horseback as rally participants waved Israeli flags, held signs, and cheered speeches by local politicians, Jewish leaders, and Christian clergy..
The rally was called to advocate Israel’s right to defend its civilians, to encourage and ensure the U.S. government’s strong support of Israel, and to show support for the innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians suffering from the current violence.
Among the speakers was Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty, who said he could not imagine living under the threat of rocket attacks.
“We need to make sure that we stand with nations that are community-minded, that are pro-life, that are about children and growing, and making this world a better place, and I believe Israel does that,” said Dougherty, who followed his speech with a moment of silence in support of the many people, in particular children, in Israel and throughout the world suffering from the threat of violence.
Amir Shacham, the federation’s associate executive vice president of Israel and Overseas, described the situation in the Middle East as “complex.”
“I am very sorry about the loss of so many innocent lives in Gaza. It is heartbreaking to see it. Believe me, the IDF is doing its best to avoid it. I know it firsthand,” said Shacham, a seventh-generation Israeli who recently returned from a three-week trip to Israel. “The soldiers are me, my children, family and friends who are wearing these uniforms. They are great kids and they are doing everything they can not to hurt civilians. But in urban war against an inhuman enemy, people are caught, or sometimes put, in cross-fire.
“It is as sad but as simple as that — our soldiers need to protect their country, their homes and their families.”
Rabbi Menashe East of Mount Freedom Jewish Center in Randolph wore an Israel Defense Forces shirt under his tallit. “What needs to happen for there to be peace?” he asked the crowd. “Turn to Hamas and tell them: ‘Start building bridges. Stop building tunnels.’”
Messages of support were read from Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Dist. 11).
Representing the interfaith community were Pastor Brad Motta of Mt. Fern Methodist Church and Pastor Dave Edwards of Millbrook Methodist Church.
Edwards told NJJN he believes the Jewish people “need the outside community as a strong force to stand with them,” adding, “There’s so many missions and ill-informed groups that would see Israel as an aggressor. Israel is not an aggressor.” Edwards later addressed the rally with a psalm and a prayer for peace.
Other speakers included CRC Israel chair Gordon Haas; federation president Leslie Dannin Rosenthal; Andrew Gross, political adviser to Israel’s deputy consul general; and Morris Township Committeeman Jeff Grayzel.
Many speakers also stressed the importance of supporting Israel as it remains the only democratic nation in the Middle East. Mark Dunec, who is running for Congress in New Jersey’s District 11, attended the rally and told NJJN : “I stand with Israel because she shares the same democratic values as the United States,” including women’s rights, minority rights, and religious freedom.
Rally members joined Cantor Galit Dadoun Cohen of Temple B’nai Or in Morristown, who was born and raised in the Israeli city of Ashdod, in singing “Oseh Shalom.”
As the sun went down and street lights lining the historic Morristown Green were turned on, the rally came to a close with several prayers. Rabbi Scott Roland of Temple Hatikvah in Flanders, accompanied by Esti and Ira Monkado, whose son is serving in the Israeli military, said a prayer for the IDF and parents of “lone soldiers” — those fighting for Israel without parents living in the country.
The rally concluded as the crowd joined several rabbis and rally leaders in singing “Hatikva.”