Westchester's Jewish community chooses to 'stand with Israel'

Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 12:00 pm By: Richard Liebson Source: The Journal News
GHC at the Night of Solidarity with Israel' at Temple Israel Center in White Plains

Carol Lyons and Robin Rosenberg of the Greenburgh Hebrew Center waves U.S. and Israeli flags and cheer Tuesday at a 'Night of Solidarity with Israel' at Temple Israel Center in White Plains.
John Meore/the Journal News

WHITE PLAINS — As rocket fire and air raids continued between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday night despite efforts to broker a cease-fire, members of Westchester’s influential Jewish community were joined by public officials in a hastily organized, emotional show of support and solidarity with Israel.

Several hundred people gathered in the large sanctuary at Temple Israel Center of White Plains, which was filled with Israeli flags. Banners stating “We Stand With Israel” and “We Support Israel,” among others, were waved.

“Wherever we stand, we stand with Israel,” said Ron Burton, president of the Westchester Jewish Council. “There are hawks and there are doves, but in the end, here we are. We Jews in Westchester close ranks and support Israel.”

To loud applause, speaker after speaker had the same message: No sovereign nation would tolerate rockets fired on its cities, and Israel has the right and the responsibility to defend itself.

Speakers included Westchester Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins, County Executive Rob Astorino, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-Bronx, and Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison. Jenkins asked the crowd to pause for 15 seconds.

“That’s the amount of time you have to get someplace safe when alarms sound,” he said. “No one should have that fear of having 15 seconds to be as safe as possible.”

Engel described Israel as the United States’ best ally. “In Congress, support of Israel is strong and it’s bipartisan, and that’s the way it should be,” he said. “When all is said and done, I believe the only true ally Israel has in the world is the United States — and that’s a bond that shall never be broken.”

Mohammad Ziaullah, president-elect of the Islamic Center of Rockland in Valley Cottage, placed blame for the violence on Israel’s leadership as well as those leading Hamas and others who refuse to acknowledge the predominantly Jewish nation. Ziaullah, who spoke only for himself and not on behalf of the Islamic Center, said his fear is that the violence in Gaza will spread across the region, pulling the entire Middle East into even greater turmoil. He called upon President Barack Obama and other U.S. leaders to take the lead in bringing the warring factions together.

“We should not ever close the door for negotiations no matter what situation we are in because killing each other is never going to solve any problem,” said Ziaullah, 65.

Staff writer James O’Rourke and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photos: John Meore/the Journal News

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