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August 15, 2014  RSS feed
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Hundreds turn out for Israel at Tampa rally


Members of the Jewish communty at the rally included Mark Wright, LIli Kaufmann and Jack Ross. Members of the Jewish communty at the rally included Mark Wright, LIli Kaufmann and Jack Ross. A pro-Israeli rally drew a crowd of hundreds earlier this month to Lykes Gaslight Square Park in downtown Tampa in response to the Israel- Gaza conflict.

The rally was not sponsored by any specific organization, but organizers included prominent members of both the Jewish and Christian communities.

Speakers included Scott Thomas, pastor of the Free Life Chapel in Lakeland and director of Christians United for Israel; Mark Wright of Tampa who recently spent time in Israel volunteering in Ashdod during the conflict;

Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen, and state Sen. Jeff Brandes. Wright and Cohen are veteran Federation supporters and activists.

People of differing backgrounds and religions attended the rally, with a crowd of 200 to 400, according to police estimates. “We’re all family,” said one attendee, Danny Torrado, who described himself as a born-again Christian.

A sign at the rally A sign at the rally There was a consensus within the crowd that it was important to come out to show support for Israel.

“We won’t have a home to go to if Israel and its soldiers don’t physically put themselves out there, so why shouldn’t we go out there and show up too?” asked Laura Bischoff.

Each speaker who took the stage declared, “I stand with Israel,” as they stood before a graphic backdrop of the U.S. and Israeli flags proclaiming “Tampa Bay stands with Israel.” Free T-shirts and posters were also passed out bearing the “I stand with Israel” slogan.

The whole event revolved around trying to get the people at the rally to put themselves in the Israeli people’s shoes. To demonstrate that point, during Wright’s speech, a siren went off and a banner was raised that told the crowd that they had 30 seconds to get to a bomb shelter.

Pastor Thomas was the keynote speaker. His speech elicited cheers throughout the crowd. “In Israel, it is 1938 again and Hamas is one of the new Hitlers raising his head and he must be decapitated,” he said, later adding that those at the rally were in support of “Israel’s right to exist, defend itself, and make its own decisions as a sovereign nation.”

Thomas’ organization, Christians

United for Israel, claims more than 1.8 million members with the purpose to “provide a national association through which every pro-Israel church, parachurch organization, ministry or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to Biblical issues.”

Rabbi Mendy Dubrowski, director of the Chabad Lubavitch in South Tampa, and one of those who helped promote the gathering, said he hoped the rally would educate and “lend more facts and not just fiction” to the Israeli-Gaza conflict.

One man there, Antwuan Huggins, said he came to the event siding with the Palestinians, but left feeling like he knew more of the story than simply what he had seen in the media.

Most people were wearing blue and white, the colors on Israel’s flag. One woman even sounded a shofar, which really brought up the energy of the crowd.

State Sen. Brandes told the crowd, “Yesterday, Florida stood with Israel. Today it stands with Israel and long into the future this city, this state, this country will stand with our allies, Israel.”

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