Rally for Peace in Israel and against Terrorism*

More than 500 Staten Islanders gathered Sunday, December 9, 2001 in Willowbrook Park to express support for United States-Israel solidarity.

The Israel Unity Rally was organized by Rep. Vito Fossella and endorsed by more than a dozen Jewish congregations and institutions.

Island politicians and Jewish leaders addressed the crowd, condemning the recent and long-term violence plaguing the nation and reiterating the strong bond between the United States and its ally in the Middle East.

Representative Vito Fossella (picture on the right) addressed the rally stating that: "Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle Eastern world, For that reason, some people wanted to see nothing but the destruction of the state of Israel. But here we know no distinction between terrorists engaging in violence here on American soil or on the streets of Jerusalem. I don't believe the war on terrorism can ever be over until the people of Israel can live in peace. "Enough is enough," he continued. "We, the good people of Staten Island, and our city and our country speak with one voice to send a strong message to Israel -- we are one of them. We will not tolerate this."

Chazan Robert Vegh (above) leading the singing of the American National and Israeli National Anthems

The large crowd was undeterred by chilly temperatures and soggy ground. As the event got under way, there seemed to be a noticeable improvement in the weather. Fossella declared, "The sun is out for peace."

Many in the Willowbrook crowd proudly waved American and Israeli flags and held up posters with messages condemning terrorism and voicing support for President Bush and the Israeli government.

We want to show the world that we're united, and we don't stand for acts of violence against our country or other democracies," said Marvin Emmer of Willowbrook.

Joseph Stern's mother, Leah, was killed by a Hamas suicide bomber in Jerusalem in 1997
Norman Blaustein's wife, Sarah, a former Islander, was killed on May 29, 2001, in a terrorist shooting when she was traveling from Efrat, the West Bank, to Jerusalem.

Councilman Andrew Lanza (picture on the left), stated: "Israel really represents a beacon for liberty and democracy in an otherwise oppressive part of the world. The message here to the terrorists across the world is that things like this make us stronger, and more resolved to preserve liberty and anyone willing to fight for it."

*The text was excerpted from Maura Yates' article in The Staten Island Advance, December 10, 2001, and Bernie Kaplan's article in the Jewish Press, December 14, 2001

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