This Wednesday, I was proud to see the public show of support from the state of Minnesota to the Jewish state of Israel. On that day, the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis was lit blue and white, in addition to an order from the Governor that flags in the state will be at half-mast to honor the victims of the horrific terror the people of Israel went through.
The flag on top of the capitol building was also lowered as a group of nearly 150 Minnesotans gathered at the State Capitol Promenade steps in solidarity with Israel. The event, organized by the campus organization Students Supporting Israel, drew a crowd of all ages, who carried Israeli and American flags, along with handmade banners expressing support for Israel and calling to end terrorism.
The attendees were from all backgrounds and included Israelis living in Minnesota, Jewish Americans, and non-Jewish allies. Following chants of “Am Yisrael Chai” – meaning “The People of Israel Live” there was a heavy moment of silence, as the people were grieving and processing the tragedies that happened in Israel, and following which speakers came one after the other to express the current feelings of the community. The messages ranged from pain over those lives taken by gruesome terror, to the need to exhibit strength and unity.
My daughter Valeria Chazin, SSI’s co-founder, talked about our call to duty and our obligation to speak up on behalf of the people of Israel and the Jewish community, to make sure we do not remain silent. She said “we are the first few generations in thousands of years fortunate to live in a world where the Jewish State exists, and we should not take its existence for granted. Israel has the world’s support at this tragic time, and we must make sure the support remains strong for generations to come.” She called for action, of which a few examples included writing to elected officials, showing up to events, and using social media to spread messages of support to Israel and battle hate speech.
Valeria shared a message written by an IDF paratrooper soldier, an alum of the organization, currently called for duty in Israel. These were his words: “Share my story, my unit’s story of how the Tzanchanim (the paratroopers brigade) are fighting like lions…how much we are not afraid and proud and how much we love our country, how the history of the Jewish people is once again being written before our eyes, but we are holding the pen and will win, wipe this evil off the earth, and bring peace back to our beloved homeland.” Following this message, additional stories of bravery of Israeli citizens under terror were shared with the crowd.
Ilan Sharon, executive director of Minnesotans Against Terrorism and one of the partner organizations for the event, spoke at the rally. “The Palestinian Hamas organization was designated as a terror organization by the U.S. State Department many years ago. In 2006, the Palestinian people voted Hamas into power, and since then, there have been no elections. Opposing groups and moderates were eliminated, the Christian minority suffered tremendously, and Hamas became the dictator of Gaza with its goal not the well-being of Palestinians but the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews. Eliminating the Palestinian Hamas terror group is not just essential for Israelis. It is vital for the well-being of the Palestinians in Gaza and making the Middle East a better place for all its inhabitants. The most important message to the world: let Israel do the job of eliminating Hamas this time.”
Together with JoAnn Magnuson, a long-time Christian friend of the Jewish community and a leader in supporting Israel, Ilan Sharon led the crowd in saying a prayer for the IDF soldiers and the State of Israel.
Minnesota Senator Ron Latz spoke strongly against the threat of terror groups such as Hamas, and about the support to the state of Israel, no matter which side of the aisle one is on. Rabbi Yitzi Stiner from Chabad at University of Minnesota and another partner in the event, led the crowd in reading a prayer for those in captivity and delivered a beautiful message on Jewish unity.
A very touching part of the event was to see the solidarity and allyship from outside of the Jewish community. Rev. George Wonlon, African Pastors Director in Minnesota, expressed his support and invited everyone to attend a major event on Oct. 29 at a community church in Brooklyn Park, African Night to Honor Israel. A group of Minnesota residents from Ukraine came to the rally holding a Ukrainian flag and wearing Israeli flag pins, sharing words of solidarity with the people of Israel.
At this difficult time, we are thankful for all those who show up, speak up, and pledge support to the Jewish community in Israel in any way they can, and we all should continue doing so to show our strength and unity. Am Yisrael Chai!