Support for Israel was written across the signs and faces of approximately 100 demonstrators during a rally held on City Hall’s steps Thursday evening.
The demonstration, which was organized with the help of local community and temple leaders, was designed, according to Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami, to show the attendees’ support for the United States’ ally and their opposition to any indiscriminate killing of civilians.
“We can’t let any country be attacked like that,” said Blazer. “For me, it was at the point where Israel was being attacked constantly by (missiles), and I said it’s time we spoke out. This is not a Jewish issue per se, because many of the people killed by the rockets have been Israeli Arabs.”
During the event, a number of local rabbis spoke to those in attendance, and read messages from other Jewish and community leaders, Hebrew songs about hope were sung, and a giant national flag of Israel was unfurled.
The violence between different ethnic groups in the region has been an ongoing issue for thousands of years, but the conflict between Israel and Palestine has resulted in multilateral international involvement since the Israeli state was first formed in 1948.
The most recent violence in the last week has stemmed from the threatened eviction of a group of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, as well as violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police during the Muslim month of Ramadan.
The escalating tensions have led to missile launches and engagements between Israel and Hamas, a militant group in the Gaza Strip. The violence has already cost hundreds of lives and violent Jewish and Muslim mobs continue to clash in the streets.
In attendance at the Santa Clarita event was Aria Rosenberg, 8, who said it made her sad that there was violence in Israel. She said she had visited both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and both her grandparents still live there.
Rosenberg said she hoped things would be peaceful for the people in Israel and her grandparents. She stood by her father and held the Israeli national flag while the speakers passed the microphone.
The event, which had been supported by City Councilman Jason Gibbs, also featured a message from Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, who said he had cosponsored a resolution on Thursday condemning Hamas and reaffirming the United States’ support for “our greatest ally.”
“It’s heartbreaking to watch the people of Israel under attack, I strongly condemn Hamas’ attacks, and I stand by Israel,” he said, later adding, “In Congress, I promised to do all I can to support Israel; they are the keystone of stability in the eventual sustainable peace in the Middle East.”
A primary criticism from those at the Santa Clarita Valley rally is that the missile strikes are hitting civilian targets. Blazer said that children and citizens of all backgrounds who live in Israel have become accustomed to knowing how to flee to a bomb shelter.
In addition to advocating for peace in the region, officials at the event warned that events in the Middle East, especially when Israel is under attack, are accompanied by an uptick in anti-Semitism around the world.
“That is unacceptable,” said Rabbi Jay Siegel of Congregation Beth Shalom. “We stand here, strong, and we stand here with pride as Jews that live in Santa Clarita.”