Why More American Jews Should Thank the City of Beverly Hills

After Oct. 7, the city council unanimously passed a resolution in support of Israel, and also condemned Hamas.
February 15, 2024
Photo by Ryan Torok

In January, San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey (D) attempted to offer documentation of how Hamas mutilated, raped and brutalized Israeli women on Oct. 7 during a committee meeting of the Board of Supervisors. The room immediately burst into booing, hissing and heckling, with attendees calling Dorsey a “liar” and shouting down his remarks. 

One day later, at a San Francisco supervisors’ meeting that resulted in a 8-3 resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, supervisor Catherine Stefani attempted to once again discuss Hamas brutality against Israeli women. “The tone of the meeting itself wasn’t so peaceful,” reported NBC San Francisco. “Members of the public jeered at Supervisor Catherine Stefani as she called out the sexual violence Israeli women suffered during the Oct. 7 attack.”

Needless to say, after the vote was announced, an eruption of excited cheering and “Free Palestine!” emanated from public attendees. 

In late November, Oakland passed a permanent ceasefire resolution. When councilmember Dan Kalb proposed adding an amendment that also explicitly condemned Hamas, it was rejected 6-2. A few weeks ago, Chicago approved a resolution that called for a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas by a 24-23 vote. Did I mention that Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson (D) cast the tie-breaking vote?

The fact that Chicago’s resolution, and every other resolution calling for a permanent ceasefire — from Seattle to Long Beach to Akron to Albany — are non-binding doesn’t matter. “Do I believe that the words that we speak today, how we vote today influences directly international policy? I don’t. I don’t have those illusions,” the Associated Press quoted Chicago Alderman Daniel La Spata, who was one of the sponsors of the city’s ceasefire resolution. “But we vote with hope. We vote with solidarity. We vote to help people feel heard in a world of silence.”

Apparently, those people don’t include Israelis and in particular, Israeli women who have been raped by Hamas. 

It hasn’t been easy these past few weeks for Alderman Debra Silverstein, the only Jewish member of the Chicago City Council. A few weeks ago, she all but begged her 49 colleagues to vote “no” on a resolution that demanded a ceasefire without so much as mentioning the release of Israeli hostages in Hamas captivity — a resolution which, shockingly, also made no mention of Oct. 7. 

She was jeered and heckled by an angry mob for her public pleas, including her admonition during the meeting that, “There’s not even a single mention of the dozens of raped women.” It was a good thing that police were present when Silverstein added, “We should not pass a resolution unless it makes clear that Hamas cannot and should not attack again.” Clearly, there were many in the room that seemed to believe that Hamas should continue its attacks until Israel no longer exists. 

By the day of that vote, Silverstein was perhaps used to the abuse. Several days earlier, protestors disrupted her speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day at city hall, as she spoke poignantly about Nazi atrocities. Yes, she was also heckled during her Holocaust Remembrance Day speech. 

A few days after San Francisco’s symbolic vote, something extraordinary occurred 380 miles south of the Golden Gate City. The City of Beverly Hills, working closely with the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, unveiled 1,400 Israeli flags on the lawn of Beverly Hills City Hall, as part of an art installation that also paid tribute to victims from 30 countries who were also killed on Oct. 7. 

“Our city has stood against Israel-hatred and Jew-hatred for as long as I can remember,” former three-time mayor and current Beverly Hills City Council member Lili Bosse told me. “For me, the 1,400 flags are probably among the most sacred spaces that we have in our city. With each flag of a different nation or each Israel flag, I feel the sense of sacredness and holiness of these souls. These were mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, Holocaust survivors and children,” said Bosse, whose late mother, Rose, was a survivor of Auschwitz (Bosse’s mother and father both lost all of their family members during the Holocaust). For Bosse, the installation is “a way for the world to see; it is also a response to the Holocaust deniers, and now, for those who deny the absolute evil of Oct 7.”

Walking past 1,400 Israeli flags, as well as 30 flags representing every country from Argentina to the Philippines, inspires a sense of solemn disbelief and humility. “I feel very changed by Oct. 7,” Bosse said. “I carry a heaviness and a sadness, and in the same way, I also carry this very strong sense of resilience and fight in me to speak up. As I see the darkness and see and hear the hate, it actually fuels me to speak louder and to ‘never give up,’ as my mother always told me.” Bosse believes that the installation and other expressions of support on behalf of Israel and the Jewish community send a clear message that Beverly Hills stands against terrorism. 

In November, Bosse, as well as council member John Mirisch, spoke at the North American Mayors Summit Against Antisemitism in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In November 2022, Bosse traveled to Athens, Greece to attend the Mayors Summit Against Antisemitism.

After Oct. 7, the city council unanimously passed a resolution in support of Israel, and also condemned Hamas. After a moment of silence following the Pledge of Allegiance and roll call, Mayor Dr. Julian Gold said, “I was thinking we should take a moment of silence for each of them, but we would be here, unfortunately, for a very long time.”

Maintaining the flag installation as a safe space includes the presence of 24-hour security, a real-time, around-the-clock watch center, drones and even signs describing the area as a sacred place. The city has a zero tolerance for “anything that’s illegal,” according to Bosse. “That was key. We will never cower; we will provide a safe space for others to walk by that sacred space,” she said.

Beverly Hills city councilmember John Mirisch counter-protests at an anti-Israel rally on February 3

A few days after speaking with Bosse, I spoke with council member (and former three-time Beverly Hills mayor) Mirisch, mentioned above. He told me that on Feb. 3, he was “one of the sole” counter-protestors at an anti-Israel rally near the flags’ installation. “I came alone to counterprotest and let them know they weren’t welcome in Beverly Hills,” said Mirisch. “They tried to intimidate me, and eventually I went to a private property on the southwest corner of Cañon Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard, with the permission of the owner, Shawn Far.” Surrounded by anti-Israel protestors, Mirisch, who was draped in an Israeli flag, held a megaphone and sang “Hatikvah,” “Oseh Shalom” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He even threw in a Broadway tune to mix things up, then chanted “Bring them home,” in reference to Israeli hostages still being held in captivity by Hamas in Gaza, and “Zan, Zendegi, Azadi” (“Woman, Life, Freedom”), the now-famous slogan in support of Iranian women.

Imagine that: A local city council member, draped in a blue and white flag, standing alone among a sea of Palestinian flags and singing the eternal Jewish prayer for peace, “Oseh shalom bim’romav …”

“As a community, we [in Beverly Hills] are a family. And it is the same as a Jewish community, and for anyone who stands with us. We are family. And no one messes with family.” – Lili Bosse

As the weeks and months progress, we can only expect to see more cities worldwide passing resolutions demanding that Israel should stop protecting itself. That is why I leave readers with a final promise from Bosse, who told me that she is going to fight antisemitism until her very last breath: “As a community, we [in Beverly Hills] are a family,” she said. “And it is the same as a Jewish community, and for anyone who stands with us. We are family. And no one messes with family.”

Tabby Refael is an award-winning writer, speaker and weekly columnist for The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Follow her on X/Twitter and Instagram @TabbyRefael

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