On Thursday, May 13, I was part of a crowd of Minnesotans gathered at the State Capitol building in St. Paul to show our support for the State of Israel during the current efforts to defend its citizens from the aggression of the recognized Palestinian terror organization Hamas. Following many rockets on Israeli citizens, the IDF began an operation in Gaza, officially calling it Operation Guardian of the Walls.
As the situation in Israel escalated, many pro-Israel communities quickly organized rallies in cities across the USA, and the Twin Cities was no exception. The call for the local rally first appeared on the Students Supporting Israel Facebook page, and within hours was shared by many other groups and community members.
Despite the short notice, nearly 100 Minnesotans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, liberal and conservatives, all united in their support of Israel, arrived at the State Capitol proudly waving their Israeli flags. The rally included several speakers who shared inspiring words of hope for the region, among them were JCRC Executive Director Steve Hunegs, Ilan Sharon, founder of Minnesotans Against Terrorism, Rabbi Yossi Bendet from Chabad Bloomington, Pastor George Wonlon, executive director of Liberian Ministers Association of Minnesota, and Ilan Sinelnikov, founder of Students Supporting Israel. All participants of the rally stood together in the reading of a prayer and the singing of the Israeli national anthem.
I would like to thank all those who made the effort to show up from the community, and for those who did not attend, to share some highlights from my own speech at the rally:
“Being here for me is not just an obligation, it is very personal because while I live here, a lot of my family members and friends are in Israel. While we are speaking here, they need to run to their safe spaces or to the bomb shelters hearing the sound of sirens. Over 1,500 rockets, last I checked this morning (now more than 3,200), were fired from the Gaza strip into the State of Israel, which is an unprecedented attack by a terrorist organization on the sovereign Jewish State. I do not think that any other state would be quiet when facing such an attack.
“This morning I remembered a short note, the words of an Israeli writer and a poet, his name is Tsur Erlich. A literal translation goes along these lines:
‘Two memorial days, just one week apart, to remind us about —
What is the cost of having a Jewish State, and what is the cost of living without’
“The poet is referring to the fact that in Israel, the Holocaust Remembrance Day happens just one week before the remembrance day of the fallen soldiers of Israel and the victims of terrorism, and we all understand from this poem that there is a huge price to having the State of Israel: the price of constant wars, attacks… we are in a tough neighborhood in the Middle East, having to face terror attacks and needing to constantly prove to the world that it is legitimate to have one state that will be designated as the Jewish State – but everyone who knows the Jewish history, knows that the cost of not having one, is much, much higher.
“Therefore, it is our duty here today to show up and stand up and not be afraid to voice our support for the State of Israel, for its right to defend itself, the right of a sovereign state to defend its own citizens against the terror organizations Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and all the other organizations that do not even recognize Israel’s right to exist.
We are here to show our support, right here at the state capitol, hopefully, to have the elected officials, the politicians, no matter from which party alignment they are, to support the state of Israel.
“We are here to call on the elected officials and the leaders in the community to support the State of Israel, and to be vocal in their support… and hopefully better days will come very soon.”
One of the reasons I am sharing this here is because, in the past few days, many people messaged me saying that “we do not know what to do, we are worried about what is happening in Israel, but are a little afraid to speak up.” I hope this piece about the 100 brave Minnesotans who came to the rally and some of my words will serve as an encouragement to others to also be vocal about their support for Israel. It does not matter what one’s opinion can be about other issues, but I hope that we can all be united in our support for the State of Israel. To quote the wise words of Ilan Sharon at the rally, Israel does not just have the “right” to defend itself against aggression, it has the “obligation” to do so.
Valeria Sinelnikov Chazin is the co-founder and chair of the board of directors of Students Supporting Israel.