Some 20,000 brave sub-freezing temperatures for pro-Israel Ottawa rally

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An estimated 20,000 attended an Israel solidarity rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 4, 2023. Photo by Robert Walker.

“It was really important to see the love, the support and the solidarity of Jewish people in Canada,” Ohad Lapidot, whose daughter Tiferet was murdered at the Supernova music festival, told JNS.

 

Maureen Leshem’s 23-year-old cousin Romi Gonen was abducted by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7. Until last weekend, the Canadian didn’t know if her Israeli relative was still alive. Good news came from a freed hostage, though the latter also informed that Gonen suffered from gunshot wounds.

“You’d think by now she would be visited by the International Red Cross, treated by Doctors Without Borders, advocated for by the #MeToo movement or any number of international rights organizations,” Leshem said wryly, addressing an estimated 20,000 people at an Israel solidarity rally on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill on Monday.

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“I implore humanitarian organizations: Do your job,” Leshem said. “Do not cherry pick your humanity. Support all of humanity, not just some.”

Jewish community members and non-Jewish allies from across Canada braved below-freezing temperatures to attend the outdoor rally. Crowds clad in winter-attire standing on snow-covered grounds intermittently chanted “Bring them home” and Am Yisrael chai, “the people of Israeli live.”

Raquel and Alain Look, parents of Alexandre Look, a Montreal native who was murdered at the Supernova music festival, made an emotional appeal to attendees.

“Let our son’s sacrifice not be in vain. Please honor his memory by standing up against the forces that seek to destroy the Jewish and the Canadian values we hold dear,” they said. “Let us send a powerful message that we will never tolerate terror. We will not let Jew-hatred fester in our society.”

Ohad Lapidot
Ohad Lapidot, whose daughter Tiferet was murdered at the Supernova music festival, speaks to an estimated 20,000 at an Israel solidarity rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 4, 2023. Credit: UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.

‘A pogrom happened’

Anthony Housefather, a Liberal Party parliamentarian who represents an area in Montreal, referred to Jew-hatred in his own city, including firebombings of a synagogue and community center and two Jewish schools hit by bullets.

“We saw bullet holes and blood trails, and heard from survivors stories of rape, torture and murder, and met with families of the hostages,” he said. “We did this so we could bear witness and say that a pogrom happened Oct. 7.”

Ottawa rally
An estimated 20,000 attended an Israel solidarity rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 4, 2023. Credit: UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.

Canada’s Jewish Federations, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and Jewish Federations of Canada-United Israel Appeal organized the event with support from other Jewish organizations nationwide. Organizers said the main objective was to convey that the Jewish community remains resilient, refusing to succumb to the pervasive antisemitism prevalent in the streets, campuses and online realms.

Speakers reminded the crowd of the shared values that bind Canadians and Israelis, including human rights, democracy and protecting innocent lives in the face of terrorism. They stressed the importance of standing together as a nation to support the people of Israel and uphold these fundamental values.

Melissa Lantsman, deputy leader of the Conservative Party and a parliamentarian representing Thornhill (Ontario), had harsh words for some of her colleagues. “More than 40 MPs have publicly called for ceasefire in the face of terror,” she said. “They’ve opted for mealy-mouthed platitudes.”

Lantsman, who is Jewish, also lambasted women’s groups for their silence about Hamas’s terrorists sexually assaulting women and excoriated universities that breed antisemitism.

“It is not over until those professors, who wrap themselves in woke progressive ideology and make Jewish students unsafe, are fired,” she said.

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