Governor Deval Patrick pledges support for Israel during rally in Chestnut Hill

NEWTON—More than 2,000 backers of Israel, including Governor Deval Patrick, attended a rally at a Jewish synagogue here on Monday night to show support for the country amid its escalating military conflict with Hamas.

Under heavy security, rally attendees packed Congregation Mishkan Tefila, which was decorated with American and Israeli flags, as well as pro-Israel signs bearing slogans such as “We Stand With Israel” and “Israel Seeks Peace.”

Live music blared from the sound system before several speakers including the governor addressed the crowd. Additional speakers included Shai Bazak, the consul general of Israel to New England, and State Treasurer Steven Grossman.

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“I came here tonight to stand with my friends,” Patrick said during his remarks. “To stand with my friends who are worried sick about their friends and their family, here and in Israel. ... And to stand with all of those who, like me, yearn for peace.”

He added, to sustained applause, “Israel will endure and survive this, as scared and worried as we all are at this moment. Israel is timeless, it was meant to be, and she will survive.”

While other speakers echoed those remarks and strongly condemned the barrage of rockets that Hamas has recently fired into Israel, about a dozen demonstrators from the group Jewish Voice For Peace held signs outside the rally decrying what they said was the immoral military response from the staunch American ally. Israel has pounded Gaza with multiple air strikes in recent days.

“This rally here, this war rally, does not speak for American Jews,” said Liza Behrendt, 23, of Jamaica Plain, who organized the demonstration outside the rally. “Now is the time for us to be mourning violence on all sides, rather than supporting Israel blindly in [its] violence.”

Hamas announced on Monday that 107 people had been killed in the Israeli airstrikes since Wednesday morning, including at least 26 children and 10 women, the New York Times reported.

Three civilians have been killed so far in Israel, in a rocket strike that hit an apartment house in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi on Thursday morning, the Times reported. The report indicated that the Israelis have said at least 79 of their people have been wounded in rocket attacks.

At Monday’s rally in Chestnut Hill, which was hosted by Combined Jewish Philanthropies and the Jewish Community Relations Council, speakers told the crowd that Hamas was the clear instigator of the conflict, and that Israel must exercise its right to defend itself.

Bazak, the consul general, said he was perplexed by the demonstrators who protested last week after the Israeli military killed Ahmed al-Jabari, a top military commander of Hamas, in an air strike.

“Maybe they wanted to praise this guy Jabari,” he said. “ ... They’re demonstrating again and again, even here outside of this hall, telling all these lies against the state of Israel.”

Another speaker, Tziona Koenig-Yair, a lawyer and an official in the Israeli government who is currently in Massachusetts on a fellowship with Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, recounted her family’s routine of rushing to take shelter during rocket attacks.

“It’s quite terrifying, actually,” she said. “It’s more terrifying, I think, being a parent, being a mother, and having your children go through this, than if you’re doing it by yourself.”

Efforts to reach representatives from the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights and the New England Committee to Defend Palestine for comment were unsuccessful Monday night.

Speakers at Monday’s rally also exhorted the crowd to tell their friends and colleagues about Israel’s struggle to defend itself, in order to muster additional support for the country, among other types of advocacy.

“Let’s all leave this place tonight and get engaged in the battle,” said Jeffrey Robbins, chair of the Boston regional board of the Anti-Defamation League. “A battle which directly affects the safety, the security, and the future of Israel, a country we love, whose people we love.”

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