Under the banner of United Against Antisemitism, about 2,000 activists gathered in the heart of Beverly Hills on Sunday May 23 to show support for Israel amid the recent war that saw upwards of 4,000 rockets fired from Gaza on Israeli cities and towns before a ceasefire was declared on May 20.
The boisterous, flag-waving crowd composed of Israelis, American Jews, Christians and non-Jews of various denominations, was addressed by community and political leaders, writers, activists, political commentators as well as a pro-Israel teenager and former Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan.
Leading the speakers was Dr. Hillel Newman, Consul General of Israel to the Pacific Southwest who said the recent anti-Semitic violence has now forged a special bond between Israel and Los Angeles. “There now is a bond of blood and persecution that unites Israel and Los Angeles,” Newman said. “Whether it is in Los Angeles or Hamas in Israel, they are two sides of the same coin. The conflict in Israel with the Palestinians is not about territories, about water or the Temple Mount. It’s about the very existence of the state of Israel.”
Lili Bosse, two-time mayor of Beverly Hills and daughter of Holocaust survivors, noted how the recent antisemitism hit home for her. “We here in Beverly Hills stand side by side with Israel. We stand against antisemitism. We stand against Jew-hatred. We stand against all hatred,” Bosse said. “There have been many rallies in Beverly Hills, but this is the first one I am attending. I had to be here because this hits too close to home.”
Former Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combatting Antisemitism Elan Carr spoke of his time serving in Iraq. “After more than 4,000 rockets, it’s easy to become inured to what it means to have a rocket fall on a town or city. Let me tell you what it means,” Carr explained. “I spent a year serving in Iraq. You might hear a warning signal, then the ground beneath you shakes and if you’re lucky you can get to a shelter. But we pay soldiers to take fire. The children of Israel deserve better than to be subject to attacks of mass murder.”
Another speaker was Jennifer Karlan, a 17-year old high school graduate who is taking a gap year to work for the pro-Israel teen group Club Z before she starts at Harvard next year. “Never again will our lives and our safety be at the mercy of others,” Karlan said to the crowd. “Today in 2021 Jews are being attacked simply because they are Jewish. The quest to hate the Jew never dies. It just takes a different form. It calls itself anti-Zionism but it is anti-Semitism.”
Rabbi David Wolpe, Max Webb senior rabbi at Sinai Temple, noted that he had just come from a brit (circumcision). He mentioned it because he said he promised that child that the Jewish people would never stop fighting for peace and the land of Israel would be his forever. “Let the world know once and for all that not only the blood of Israel matters but that God’s eternal promise still lives and we will carry our flags in this country of freedom and goodness.”
“Let the world know once and for all that not only the blood of Israel matters but that God’s eternal promise still lives and we will carry our flags in this country of freedom and goodness.”
Former Miss Iraq Sarah Idan, who famously posted a selfie with Miss Israel at a 2017 beauty pageant and as a result received death threats, spoke of her Muslim heritage and how terror entities treat their people. “I know the trauma of war. It boils my blood that Hamas uses Palestinian kids to push their cause to eradicate Israel. The world has no problem with Muslim countries from Asia to Africa to Europe,” Idan said. “I am a Muslim who fights for Jewish rights. Forced to leave Iraq for taking a selfie with Miss Israel. In Iraq I never met a single Jew for 24 years until I came to America. There is a reason for that.”
Sam Yebri, attorney and candidate for Los Angeles City Council District 5 said, “As a young child I was told what my parents experienced in Iran could never happen here. Then after a week of marching, this Tuesday night all of our phones exploded. My mother said ‘take down your mezuzahs, don’t wear your mogen David, it’s not safe out there.’ Today we say no!,” he said. “In Los Angeles we are lucky to have elected officials, LAPD, Beverly Hills Police Department and the Sheriffs Department. They have all condemned in the most unambiguous terms that antisemitism and Jew-hatred have no place in Los Angeles.”
Rounding out the slate of speakers was author, radio host and political commentator Dennis Prager. “College teaches its students that America is evil and therefore, Israel is evil. There have only been three independent states in what was called Palestine. Jewish one, Jewish two and Jewish three,” Prager said. “That is not pro-Israel, that is true. Somehow there is room for 22 Arab states but no room for one Jewish state the size of New Jersey?”
Among the attendees was African-American Emma Simmons, an analyst for a utility company, who was there with her church. “I am here to stand against antisemitism,” Simmons said. “I have friends who have witnessed antisemitism. It’s crazy and has got to stop. “
The peaceful rally, despite a small gathering of pro-Palestinian demonstrators who were kept across the street by the Beverly Hills Police Department and private security, was sponsored by a large coalition of pro-Israel organizations including: The Lawfare Project, End Jew Hatred, Students Supporting Israel, Shield of David, Club Z Zionist Youth Movement, Yad Yamin Los Angeles, Almost Jewish, Black Jewish Coalition, Stand With Us, Israel-American Civil Action network and the Israeli-American Council.
Harvey Farr is a local community reporter for the Jewish Journal.