Aug. 24, 2001
Sharon and solidarity rally
Ariel Sharon appeals for help
Lower Mainland Jews hear plea at commuity-wide solidarity rally.
PAT JOHNSON REPORTER
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called on the Jewish communities
of North America to come to the financial aid of his country. The
plea was read at a community-wide solidarity meeting Aug. 16 by
Dina Wachtel, the Israeli emissary to the Jewish Federation of Greater
Vancouver. The assembly was held in the parking lot of the Jewish
Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.
Wachtel read the letter from Sharon, which was sent earlier that
day to all the Jewish Federations in North America, warning that
the increased security needs in the face of stepped-up terrorist
attacks may lead to budget cuts for such things as social services.
Sharon, through Wachtel, urged Diaspora communities to come together
in this year's Combined Jewish Appeal campaigns to provide cash
to aid in Israel's struggle.
Statistics indicate that North American Jews have been very willing
to send money to Israel when the fragile peace is the region has
been endangered, as it was in 1967, 1973 and during the Gulf War.
Wachtel's passionate presentation before about 300 local supporters
of Israel seemed to sum up the despair felt by many in the audience,
as she reminded them of the long and violent history of anti-Israeli
and anti-Semitic attacks.
The meeting was convened by the Local Israeli Action Team, an ad-hoc
umbrella group with representatives from a variety of local Jewish
organizations, in response to recent tragic attacks in Israel. Rabbis
and community leaders addressed the meeting, which included prayer
Dr. Michael Elterman, associate chair of the national executive
of Canadian Jewish Congress, attacked the Canadian government for
its neutrality on Middle East issues.
"There is a huge chasm between not being an enemy and being
a friend," he said. When there have been instances of Palestinian
violence, he said, the Canadian government issues a call for
both sides to end the violence. Elterman and other speakers
urged audience members to write to Foreign Affairs Minister John
Manley as well as media outlets and other politicians to make sure
their voices are heard.
He characterized Israel's struggle as a fight for survival and
rejected the idea that excessive force is being used against some
"What is excessive force, I wonder, when you are dealing with
people who are seeking your annihilation?" Elterman asked.
Rabbi Avi Baumol, of congregation Schara Tzedeck, said he knew
a man who mortgaged his house at the beginning of the Six Day War
in order to help the Israeli cause. He added that, though some friends
in Israel say he chose the ideal time to leave his home in Efrat
for Vancouver, he keenly feels his absence from Israel as his friends
struggle with day-to-day life and military service.
Rabbi Philip Bregman of Temple Sholom expressed a sense of grief,
but also an enduring defiance.
"We gather once again, not to celebrate and not to dance,
mourn," he said. "We will once again sit shivah, but we
will not lay