Marching in solidarity with Israel

Marchers ended their trek at Temple B'nai Israel, where about 600 people attended a rally.

Published August 7, 2006

CLEARWATER - Nearly 200 marchers waving large blue and white Israeli flags headed south down Belcher Road for an Israeli solidarity rally on Sunday.

Organized by the Jewish Federation of Pinellas County at Temple B'nai Israel, the final rally drew more than 600 people, according to police. Many participants were wearing blue shirts to demonstrate their support of Israel.

Speakers included political analyst Raanan Gissin; Dr. David Wolstein, president of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas County, as well as Pasco County; Rabbi Arthur Baseman; Rabbi Stephen Moch; Rabbi Danielle Upbin; and Rabbi David Weizman.

Special guests included U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, Rep. Mike Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, and congressional candidate Gus Bilirakis.

On the milelong march from Congregation Beth Shalom south to Temple B'nai Israel, only a couple of protesters were visible.

No protesters were seen at the rally.

Phil Evans, 80, of Largo, marched into the temple with his daughter, Lisa Evans, 50, of Seminole.

"There's an anti-Semitism in the Muslim world," said Phil Evans. "Any opportunity for them to blame Israel for anything, they take it."

His daughter agreed. "This is my first time marching for my 'other' country," she said.

"I have a cousin who lives there and we're worried about her."

Inside the temple, Debbie Sokolov, a member of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas, was thrilled by the enthusiasm she was seeing.

"We call it ruach, meaning spirit in Hebrew," she said. "It is so palpable."

After the program began, Rabbi Baseman gave the invocation.

"Let's pray with spirits uplifted by what we are sharing together," he said.

"Surely God is in this place now sharing (with us) our hopes for Israel."

He said Jews stand with Israel against unbridled hatred, and asked God to help defeat evil.

"We look for something lasting in these turbulent days," Baseman said.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or schulte@sptimes.com.