Against a backdrop of furling flags and frigid temperatures, an estimated 2,500 people gathered in Center City yesterday to light a fire for Israel.Hey, it's the Philadelphia Inquirer. Gotta get that little "controversial" dig in there.
Sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the rally at John F. Kennedy Plaza was organized in support of Israel's recent and controversial incursion into Gaza.
Unlike similar events held around the country last week, the hour-long gathering went off without incident. No arrests were made, no rocks thrown, no anti-Semitic obscenities hurled.
Yes, the police did a wonderful job. There were apparently no clashes or confrontations.
Supporters held signs that had such messages as "4,000 rockets from Gaza will not bring peace"; "Let Israel Defend Itself"; and "How would you like rockets thrown at your home?"
One young man in shorts and flip-flops wore a T-shirt that read, "If I were a suicide bomber, you'd be dead now."
And the speakers talked a lot about peace. For both Israelis and palestians. Funny thing about that. I don't hear much talk about peace for Israelis at those "other" rallies.
The LOVE Park rally took place on a day when the United Nations suspended food deliveries to Gaza and the Red Cross accused Israel of blocking medical assistance after forces fired on aid workers, killing two.
Yep. That's my Inqui.
In a surprise appearance, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter told the crowd that Israel's attack of Gaza was justified because the country "has every right under international law to defend itself against rocket fire from Hamas."
The Republican's sentiments were echoed by virtually every speaker and drew a vocal reception from the audience, which included more than 500 students bused in from area Jewish day schools and colleges.
I got there a few minutes late and missed Specter's speech. Darn. (Who knew a Jewish event would actually start on time?)
Actually, the real surprise for me was this.
The final speaker at the rally was J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the local chapter of the NAACP. "This flag is my flag," he said, referring to the many Israeli banners being waved by the crowd.
"The black community and the Jewish community have been joined together for almost 200 years. . . . Israel is not alone. It will never be alone," he continued.
"It has friends all over the world."
He spoke about the ties between the black and Jewish communities and the support of so many Jews for the civil rights movement in its earliest days. He spoke strongly in support of Israel and its battle against the Hamas terrorists. I was impressed.