Archive for the ‘Judy Lash Balint’ Category

Israel boycott rejected by co-op in Port Townsend, Washington

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment

By Judy Lash Balint

Judy Lash Balint

JERUSALEM–Last month when I was visiting Seattle, I had the opportunity to take part in a “hearing” of the Olympia Food Co-op whose board had voted to boycott Israeli products. The 15,000 Co-op membership had not been consulted and some of them were upset–not that they were pro-Israel, they were ticked off that the Board had not consulted the members before they launched the Co-op into progressive history by becoming the first co-op in the nation to boycott Israel.

More of that later. In another part of Washington state–the charming, quiet community of Port Townsend–another Israel boycott was brewing. This time however, saner voices prevailed and Jewish activists from all over the state, led by the Seattle StandWithUs group, together with a flurry of letters and op eds in the local paper, resulted in a “no” vote on the boycott last night. Read more…

16 ways Jerusalemites know Sukkot is coming

September 20, 2010 1 comment

By Judy Lash Balint

Judy Lash Balint

JERUSALEM — Sixteen ways Jerusalemites know Sukkot is coming:

1. The clang of metal poles and the sounds of hammering are practically constant as Jerusalem’s apartment dwellers hurry to erect their sukkot and squeeze them into small balconies, odd-shaped gardens and otherwise derelict rooftops.

2. The tourists have landed! Overwhelmingly religious, English and French speaking, they jam the city’s take-out places and restaurants, and may be seen in packs wandering up and down Emek Refaim Street and through the glitzy Mamilla Mall talking to their friends at top volume on their cell phones.

3. Almost every non-profit group worth tits salt has scheduled a fund-raising and/or familiarization event for the intermediate days of Sukkot, aimed at capturing the attention of the wealthy temporary Jerusalem residents. Read more…

Jerusalem spends a day without traffic lights

September 18, 2010 Leave a comment

By Judy Lash Balint

Judy Lash Balint

JERUSALEM — I know most Jews call Yom Kippur by other names, but here in Jerusalem, it’s the Day of No Traffic Lights. There are no traffic lights because there’s no traffic on Yom Kippur in Jerusalem. The city just turns off the lights for 25 hours. Imagine—an entire country without any motor vehicle traffic apart from emergency vehicles and security patrols. The quiet is absolutely stunning. Starting from sundown on erev Yom Kippur, 25 hours of blissful peace and quiet. Think of the negative carbon footprint impact! No traffic; radio and TV stations are silent; no phones ringing; no home appliances whirring; no airplanes overhead—you can actually hear the wind in the trees and the song of the birds.

Pedestrians share the road with bicycles ridden by hundreds of secular Israelis who savor the day as a safe opportunity to try out their biking skills with no annoying traffic lights or crazy Israeli drivers. But the overwhelming sense is of a people taking a complete day to evaluate and perhaps change their lives.

Walking to Kol Nidre, the streets are thronged with people clad in white, to signify purity and a withdrawal for one day from the vanities of our usual fancy clothing.

Every synagogue is packed to overflowing, and several hundred community centers around the country also offer Yom Kippur services with emphasis on discussion and openness for those who might never before stepped foot in a synagogue. Read more…

As Yom Kippur approaches in Jerusalem…

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

By Judy Lash Balint

Judy Lash Balint

JERUSALEM–In the days before Yom Kippur, thousands of Torah observant Israelis rush to finish the ritual of kapparot, where human sins are symbolically transferred to a fowl–generally a chicken. It’s a custom that does not appear anywhere in the Talmud, but whose origin seems to come courtesy of several 9th century rabbis.

In a parking lot near Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market, dozens of live chickens are whirled above the heads of men, women and children while a pronouncement is made declaring: “This is my substitute, my vicarious offering, my atonement: This chicken will meet its fate while I will proceed to a good, long life of peace.” [See my Kapparot photos from Machane Yehuda at] The chickens are then donated to the needy or redeemed with money that goes to the poor.

Meanwhile, curious secular Israelis by the hundreds take part in pre-dawn Selichot tours, where they look in on dozens of congregations where the faithful are immersed in penitential prayers chanted to ancient melodies.

Members of the Kurdish Bashari Synagogue in Nahlaot dance to selichot tunes.

In the streets later in the day, men hurry along with towels to the nearest mikveh (ritual bath). Many have already started building their sukkot (booths) in readiness for Sukkot, the one-week festival that starts the week after Yom Kippur. Sukkot structures of all kinds have sprung up on balconies, street corners and in front of cafes. The final decorations and the schach covering will be added right after the conclusion of Yom Kippur.  Read more…

Sights and sounds of Rosh Hashanah in Jerusalem

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

By Judy Lash Balint

Judy Lash Balint

JERUSALEM–Anyone venturing into the shuk or even a local supermarket in Israel this week could be forgiven for thinking that a famine was imminent in the land.

Shoppers laden with huge nylon bags bulging with every kind of produce, fish, meat and bread may be seen staggering under the weight of their purchases, secure in the knowledge that they have sufficient provisions for the three days when stores are closed for the holiday and Shabbat.

Certain foods are traditional to eat on Rosh Hashana, and the markets are full of the most beautiful pomegranates, succulent dates and crisp apples. All the produce is local—pomegranate trees grow everywhere, even in private gardens; dates are from the Jordan Valley and apples from the Golan.

For some, the three-day Jerusalem shutdown of entertainment and shopping is a little much. One of my more secular neighbors informed me she’s running off to a hotel in Tel Aviv for the duration. Tel Aviv’s beaches are generally packed on every holy day.

Other secular Israelis, however, are intrigued by the pre-Rosh Hashana traditions, and join 3 a.m. tours of the selichot (forgiveness) services at Jerusalem synagogues in the old neighborhoods. It’s mostly the Sephardic congregations that host the melodic recitation of penitential prayers in the month before Yom Kippur. Late at night, the Old City is jammed with visitors making their way down to the Kotel for selichot, and taking a walking tour of the back alleys along the way. At 11:30 p.m in the square in front of the renovated Hurva Synagogue, industrious groups of young yeshiva guys feverishly unload panel after panel of plywood and 2 by 4 poles to construct the sukka there.

[See the You Tube video ]

Newspaper polls report that only 47 percent of Israelis plan on attending synagogue services to pray during Rosh Hashana, but hotels all over the country report 95 percent occupancy rates. The traffic jams generated by all that coming and going are truly monumental. In the hours leading up to the leyl Rosh Hashana family dinner, it seems as if the entire country is on the road. Roads anywhere near shopping centers have been packed for days now, so we should be used to it.

A uniquely Israeli tradition is the “haramat cosit” literally, “lifting of the glass”, in honor of the New Year. Government ministries, corporations and municipal offices all host toasts where wine and good cheer flow. The fleet of diplomatic vehicles double-parked outside the official presidential residence in Jerusalem is an indication that President Shimon Peres is hosting the diplomatic corps for the traditional New Year bash.

No doubt, the foreign emissaries were discussing the tensions of the day, which this year, once again include the Iranian nuclear threat and the current direct peace talks.

So as we prepare to sign off for a few days of introspection and stocktaking, we take this opportunity to wish Jewish readers and their families a year of health, fulfillment and success—oh yes, and peace and quiet.

Judy Lash Balint is a freelance writer whose posts may be found regularly on the blog: Jerusalem Diaries:In Tense Times

Poetry abounds in Jerusalem as Rosh Hashanah approaches

September 2, 2010 Leave a comment

By Judy Lash Balint

Judy Lash Balint

JERUSALEM–One of the great things about living in Israel is how easy it is to really “feel” any upcoming holiday. Just take a walk through the shuk and the stacks of honey jars, piles of perfectly ripe pomegranates and barrels of shiny Golan apples all make it easy to anticipate the High Holydays. Radio & TV ads are full of New Year wishes and mailboxes full of heart-wrenching holiday appeals. But paradoxically, all that can be a downside, because it’s just too darn easy to take it all for granted.

In the old country, where you had to finagle time off from classes or work and explain the intricacies of why you were living in a booth for eight days in the chilly autumn rain, getting ready for the high holidays was a more deliberate and serious endeavor. Here in Israel, it’s too easy to take things for granted and can sometimes become just a matter of anticipating a week off work and deciding which trips to take during chol hamoed–the intermediate Sukkot days.

That’s why events like the Festival HaPiyut are just the right antidote.

It’s hard to explain piyutim. Essentially they’re the poetry that adorns various prayers throughout the year. The pre-High Holyday piyutim are the verses Jews recite at this time of year to butter up God. They’ve evolved over the centuries and are generally sung as a community, not by the individual, and for some reason Sephardim have a more finely developed sense of using piyutim than Ashkenazim.

Piyutim are experiencing a revival here in Israel with young paytanim (singers of piyutim) commanding large audiences; a website devoted to the genre as well as a wealth of scholarly research and concert halls filled with devotees.

In the delightful walled courtyard of the Beit Avichai Center on King George Street, several hundred mostly religious people gathered for the opening of last year’s Festival.The event was billed as encompassing three generations of paytanim from Nachlaot, the old Jerusalem neighborhood not more than 7 minutes walk away.

Indeed, the all-male performers range in age from 10 to 80, each one chanting one of the soulful but lively piyutim to the accompaniment of an outstanding group of musicians.

Many of the piyutim are from the 19th and early 20th century–mostly originating in Tunis or Egypt. The music is amazingly complex with changing rhythms and odd beats with darbuka drums, the oud and violins all playing major roles.

The two hour concert draws to a close after two veteran paytanim were honored. One, Rabbi David Raichi, who immigrated from Tunis in 1956, was a long-time piyut practitioner at the renowned Ades synagogue in nearby Nachlaot.

As Rav Raichi drew out his final notes, I couldn’t help thinking of Rev. Samuel Benaroya the late chazan of Sephardic Bikur Holim, my congregation in Seattle, who was a world-renowned expert in every kind of Sephardic makam, and whose personality and ability to pass on those traditions is legendary. His special knowledge of the Ottoman style maftirim would have been a worthy addition to the evening.

Walking home with the melodies and the poetry of the piyutim still in my head, I realize that the journey toward the High Holydays will no longer be so easy to take for granted.

Balint is a freelance writer based in Jerusalem.  This is reprinted from her website, Jerusalem Diaries:In Tense Times

Completion of Torah Scroll in Old City prompts celebration

July 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Scribe completes a Torah scroll

By Judy Lash Balint

Judy Lash Balint

JERUSALEM–The Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem’s Old City celebrated the completion of a new Torah scroll Wednesday night, July 28, in a lively celebration of Jews from around the world.

A scribe dips his quill pen into special ink and puts the finishing touches to a new Torah scroll before sewing up the parchment with special thread and dancing with the Torah through the streets of the Jewish Quarter.

Dozens of people from all over the world took part in the dedication of the scroll that was donated by families from Morocco and the United States.

A delegation of Sephardic leaders from Los Angeles and New York took part in the festive event, with many men putting their hand over the hand of the scribe as he finished the last letters of the scroll that contains the Five Books of Moses.

Scribes who are trained in the art of writing a Torah must undergo rigorous training. It takes about one year to complete the writing of the quarter million letters that make up the scroll.

The parchment must come from a kosher animal–usually a goat, bull or deer and generally takes about 80 skins for one Torah scroll.

A special feather quill and ink are used and the scribe must not write anything from memory. After checking the scroll with another scribe, the ceremonial completion is scheduled. It’s considered a great honor to take part in the writing of a letter of the Torah.

The last part of the scroll was sewn together, a cover and silver bells placed on it, and the entire congregation accompanied the Torah under a wedding canopy, dancing through the streets of the Jewish Quarter.

Balint is a freelance writer based in Jerusalem.  This is reprinted from her website, Jerusalem Diaries:In Tense Times

Commentary:Tisha B’Av feels more auspicious in Jerusalem than elsewhere

July 20, 2010 Leave a comment

 By Judy Lash Balint

Judy Lash Balint

JERUSALEM — I’ve never been in Tel Aviv or Haifa for Tisha B’Av, but my guess is that it probably doesn’t feel too much different than Tisha B’Av in Seattle–a few hardy souls sitting on the floor of their synagogues in the evening and then spending the day itself struggling to keep awake through some talks and appropriate films, while the rest of the city goes about its usual business oblivious to the significance of the day.

That’s not how Tisha B’Av is observed in Jerusalem–the focal point of much of the mourning. Here,as restaurants and places of entertainment close down, thousands take to the streets leading to the Old City and the remnants of the Temple. New traditions mingle with the ancient as Israelis commemorate the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people on and around the 9th of Av.

In recent years, much like Tikun Layl Shavuot, the all-nighter of learning that marks the eve of the Shavuot holiday, Tisha B’Av has turned into an opportunity for dialogue and reflection on the rifts that continue to tear at the seams of our peoplehood.

For the first time in many years I chose to forego the traditional walk around the walls of the Old City in favor of a new initiative organized by the Jerusalem Challenge. Oblivious to the fact that this was a group targeting 20 & 30-somethings, I found myself quite possibly the oldest participant in another meaningful observance of Tisha B’Av opposite the Old City walls.

The Challenge folks chose to hold their megilla reading and panel discussions in the courtyard of one of Jerusalem’s staunchly secular institutions–the Cinematheque, which was one of the first places in Jerusalem to stay open on Shabbat.

After having spent most of the last 10 days running in and out of the Cinematheque to catch films at the Jerusalem Film Festival, it was a little strange to be sitting on the ground in the forecourt listening to the mournful tones of the prophet Jeremiah’s lament over Jerusalem. [Click here for video}

After the reading, English-speakers went off to listen to a panel that included Jewlicious blog founder, David Abitbol; Amotz Asa-El of the Jerusalem Post and Aharon Horowitz, Co-Director of Presentense. I stayed outside to catch the Hebrew panel that included a Modern Orthodox professor, Moshe Meir; a black-hat rabbi, Eliyahu Linker; an Ethiopian woman who works in immigrant absorption and Dr Ilan Ezrahi, a secular educator and former head of the MASA program.

Against the dramatic backdrop of Mt Zion and the Jerusalem walls and overlooking the Gehinom Valley, the discussion was fairly predictable, but interesting, nevertheless. Dr. Ezrahi recounted how he was completely unaware of Tisha B’Av as he was growing up, and only learned about the day while serving as a staff member at an American summer camp.

For Moshe Meir, whose father had fought and died fighting for the liberation of Jerusalem in the Six Day War, the day has a different significance.

Following the panel, groups set out for walking tours of the Old City, joining the throngs that swarmed the Kotel plaza all night long.

Meanwhile, at the tent set up by the family of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit in front of the prime minister’s residence in Rehavia, Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger read Lamentations for Gilad’s parents, Noam and Aviva and dozens of others who came to show solidarity.

As I walked home through the quiet streets away from the Old City,along an uncharacteristically silent Emek Refaim, the street lights along a stretch of the Greek and German Colony were all dark. Had some city or electric company official flipped the switch to create the gloomy Tisha B’Av mood, or was it a fluke? In Jerusalem you never know.

Judy Lash Balint is a freelance writer and blogger on the to Jerusalem Diaries:In Tense Times  website

Remembering Entebbe, 34 years later

July 4, 2010 Leave a comment

By Judy Lash Balint

Judy Lash Balint

JERUSALEM, July 4–Today marks the 34th anniversary of Operation Yonatan, Israel’s dramatic rescue of 103 hostages that took place on July 4, 1976 at Entebbe, Uganda.

As a college student in the US, I vividly remember watching events unfold as most of the rest of the nation was focused on the celebration of America’s bi-centennial.

Jews around the world held their breath as the terrorist incident ended with a relatively minimal loss of life. Pride and admiration for the daring and courage of Israel’s decision-makers and generals was the order of the day.

In Israel, the anniversary of the operation was marked for years by public official commemoration ceremonies. This year, it appears that the only remembrance will be for Yoni Netanyahu, commander of the operation and the only Israeli soldier killed at Entebbe. The Netanyahu family placed a newspaper ad announcing the annual pilgrimage to the grave of Yoni, older brother of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Back in July 2001, during the height of the terrorist war that followed the Camp David talks, things were different and an official state commemoration of the 25th anniversary took place at the Binyanei Hauma Convention Center in Jerusalem.

In a masterful, moving event that was at once entertaining and educational, the state of Israel marked the passage of a quarter of a century since the dramatic hostage rescue. If the event were to be translated and exported, Israel ‘s image problems could be improved dramatically, and Jews the world over might even begin to regain pride in the Jewish state.

In the week leading up to the anniversary, Israel’s media focused on the unprecedented operation that took dozens of soldiers from Israel’s elite brigades on a daring and dangerous mission to rescue Jews thousands of miles away.

A TV documentary focused on Yoni Netanyahu’s career, featuring extensive photos, film clips and interviews with his brothers and former girlfriend.

True to form, a post-Zionist columnist in Haaretz said the program, “Seems more like a propaganda film,” and opined “the Yoni that emerges from the film is not a flesh and blood character, but something closer to a modern day Bar Kochba.”

A few years after his death, the Netanyahu family published a book of Yoni’s letters written over a 13-year period between 1963-1976.

Entitled ‘Self Portrait of a Hero,’ the letters paint a picture of a passionate Zionist as they chronicle Yoni’s passage through the army and his participation as a paratrooper in two of the most crucial battles of the Six Day War.

The 25th anniversary event was attended by the nation’s leading politicians; those who took part in the Entebbe operation, former hostages and their rescuers; and thousands of soldiers from Sayeret Matkal, Tzanchanim and Golani, the brigades that carried out the rescue 25 years ago.

On film, we watched as the political leaders of 1976 debated what to do about the Jewish hostages who had been sitting under Ugandan dictator Idi Amin ‘s guard for days. The familiar faces of Yitzhak Rabin, Yigal Allon, Yitzhak Navon and Shimon Peres flitted across the screen.

Interspersed with film clips, the accomplished singing troupes of several army and air force divisions belted out some of the old rousing Israeli anthems.

President Moshe Katzav thanked those who had liberated the hostages. “We say to the terrorists of today: we did it then and we can do it now if we want.”

Following Katzav ‘s speech, several minutes of film of former hostages describing their ordeal were screened. The hostages tell of their disbelief that the IDF had sent their forces across the African continent to rescue them. In excruciating detail they calmly recount the selection procedure that separated the Jews and Israelis from the non-Jewish passengers on the Air France flight.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres rose to speak and chose to address himself to the assembled young soldiers who filled the hall. He urged them not to think of the Entebbe fighters as legendary heroes. “Each of you has the potential to do the same thing,” he said. “You represent the best hope for the people.”

Next on film was a short clip of an interview with a handsome middle-aged civilian who was a pilot of one of the Hercules planes that left the Sirkin air force base for the seven -hour trip to Entebbe. “We were so afraid of failure,” he says, his dark eyes looking unflinchingly at the camera. “But on the way back, I felt like it was Pesach. I recalled the words of the Hagaddah: ‘I and no angel: I and no messenger brought you out of the land of Egypt,’ concluded the pilot who wore no kippa on his silver hair. “If they told me now, 25 years later to go on such a mission, I’d go without hesitation. Ayn Lanu Eretz Acheret! We have no other country,” he said, in a theme that was to echo throughout the evening.

Film interviews with others involved in the rescue followed. Almost all those who played significant roles in Entebbe went on to illustrious military and political careers. We watched as Ehud Barak, Matan Vilnai, Dan Shomron and Ephraim Sneh spoke of their recollections twenty-five years on.

Shomron, the overall planner of the operation told the former hostages: “We knew we were endangering you too. No one had any idea how many would fall.

You were part of the campaign, you’re part of the fight against terror.”

Two of the paratroopers came on stage to read short statements in their own words about their feelings on the anniversary of the operation.

One tall, balding man with a gray mustache said he was disappointed that his teenage son ‘s classmates knew nothing about Operation Yonatan. “We’re facing the same things today, they need more than virtual Zionism, ” he said.

Benny, a younger man who was only 13 years old when he was taken hostage by the terrorists, told the audience in a trembling voice that he remembers every moment of the torment. “I was a kid who saw death in front of him.”

Tzipi Cohen was only 8 years old when she witnessed her father Pasco bleeding to death as he was accidentally shot by Israeli soldiers in the confusion of the rescue. Pasco Cohen lifted his head to look for his son when the shooting started and became one of four Jewish hostages who perished in Uganda. His daughter ended her brief remarks by reiterating her gratitude to the IDF for saving all the hostages, despite her personal tragedy.

The final segment of the two-hour program was entitled ‘The Price.’ Besides the loss of Yoni Netanyahu and the four hostages, one soldier, Surin Hershko, became a quadriplegic as a result of the injuries he sustained at Entebbe. We watched on screen as Surin used his computer at home. He uses an elongated straw manipulated by his mouth to write on the keyboard.

Hershko is completely paralyzed, but rolled to the front of the auditorium in his wheelchair to reminisce about the last time he ran or walked. “I remember what it was to be a fighter,” he recalled.

After presenting Hershko with a special medal commemorating Entebbe, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delivered a speech that tied Israel’s efforts to combat terror in the 1970s to today’s struggle against the same enemy:

“In these confusing times, when there are those who question our capabilities or the justness of our cause, we return to those few hours when Israel stood up and in the face of the entire community of nations, waged a battle against violence and terrorism, proving that we can win.

These days, when we are in the midst of an ongoing battle against terrorism, violence and incitement, and when we are making a joint national effort to return to political negotiations without fire, we must rekindle the spirit of that operation. The secret of our strength lies in such spirit and faith, and if we learn how to renew it we will be able to meet all the challenges that still lie ahead.”

Nine years after those words, how little has changed…

Balint is a freelance writer based in Jerusalem.  Her column appears on the website, Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times

An Oklahoma friend tells of her efforts in behalf of Israel

June 7, 2010 Leave a comment

By Judy Lash Balint

Judy Lash Balint

JERUSALEM–Margy Pezdirtz lives in Oklahoma.  Margy Pezdirtz loves Israel. Margy Pezdirtz is willing to stand up for Israel.  Here’s how Margy describes events in Oklahoma City last Friday afternoon:

” It was a quiet Friday, one in which I wanted to study and prepare for the coming Shabbat, when my phone rang. Renee said, “Did you get the flyer? The  one about the anti-Israel rally this afternoon at 4:30? I thought you   might want to do something about it.”     “No, I didn’t get the flyer. What’s happening.”

And thus began the end of a   quiet afternoon.   CAIR – The Council on American-Islamic Relations – was sponsoring a rally from 4:30 p.m to 6:00 p.m to “to decry Israel’s attack on humanitarian aid ship …”

  Probably the last thing in the world I wanted to do on this very hot June  afternoon was to stand on a street corner and protest the protestors. I thought about it for a moment. Could I, in all honesty and integrity, sit back in my comfortable, air conditioned home and do nothing? And what about my ten-year-old granddaughter who was with me until her parents got off work. Should I take her to a rally like this that could conceivably turn   dangerous?  I thought about it for a moment and knew I had to act. If not me, then who?   If not now, then when?

I quickly forwarded the article on to my email list asking anyone and everyone that could to join me at 4:00 p.m at the   intersection. I called people whom I knew wouldn’t receive the e-mail prior to getting home and told them of our intentions and asked them to call as many people as they could and to please join us.   

 My sister was across town with her daughter who is due to have a baby any day now. I called her and said, “Is the baby coming?” “No,” she responded.   “Then I have something more important for you to do.” I gave her instructions and was happy when she said, “OK.” I wasn’t sure I would leave my daughter in that situation, but she is as committed to Israel as I am and she knew I wouldn’t be calling if it wasn’t significant.   

I grabbed a box of Israeli window flags from my garage and threw them in the car along with a generous supply of ice water.  I donned white pants and my blue tee that showed crossed Israeli and America flags and said, “United We Stand…Divided We Fall” and backed out of the driveway. My heart and head were racing, and I wondered if I was walking into trouble. My granddaughter and I prayed as we drove towards the site of the rally where my son would pick her up. Rushing toward the freeway, I explained words to her like ‘flotilla’, ‘humanitarian’ and once again, “God’s love for the land and people of Israel.”   

In the beginning, my friend Renee and I were the only ones at the intersection where the rally was supposed to be held. We took our stand across the street from the anti-Israel bunch and began waving Israeli flags at passers by.

At her suggestion, I called the local talk radio show, a conservative station, and told host Lee Matthews what we were doing. He put it on the air and soon, cars were passing by and honking in agreement with the two of us. I had told Lee that I had Israeli flags I would give out to anyone who pulled over and asked for one.   

A man in a white pickup truck was stopped at the traffic light going in the   opposite direction. He sat watching us as he waited for the light and I  hollered, “Would you like a flag?” He nodded yes and I ran one across two traffic lanes to him. He took the flag and said, “I’m going to park and come help you.” His name was David.   

Every fifteen minutes, the radio station called for a report on what was happening. I was delighted to tell them people were listening and responding to us. He wanted to know how many there were at the CAIR site and I told him I could see seven, which later turned to eleven. As we talked on the radio, I continued to wave flags and smile at people.   

Others came and joined us. One couple, Mike and Betty, said they were   sitting on their porch in El Reno – a town approximately thirty miles away, when they heard on the radio about the anti-anti-Israel rally. Mike looked at his wife and said, “We better get down there.”     Another couple heard about it on the radio as they were driving home from work and they detoured to our location to join us.

A beautifully dressed young woman who lives in Northwest Oklahoma City heard about it on the radio, pulled into the Walgreen’s parking lot across the  street and waited for the very long light to change so she could literally run across the street to join us. She grabbed a flag and began standing watch with us.   And they continued to come. They were individuals. They were couples. Some were on their way home from work. Some were just driving by. Others heard about it on the radio and were moved to action.

They were Christians and they knew this was late on a Friday afternoon when Jews were preparing for Shabbat and most likely wouldn’t be able to come join in the rally, so they responded to the invitation and stood on the hot corner, waving flags and   shouting “support Israel.”

My spirits were lifted. I was thrilled to see the response and to hear the conversations of the people who joined us. They cheerfully pulled flags out of the bag and started waving them and giving them out and when we ran out, I ran back to the car and brought all I had.   

 We had a sign that said, “Honk for Israel” and people put the flags on their  car windows and drove around the block two, three and four times honking for Israel. When the anti-Israel CAIR bunch mimicked our sign with one that said, “honk for Islam,” people on our side of the street honked even louder and longer.   

 Our group had grown considerably. There were suddenly twelve and then twenty and more came as some left. One woman,riding on a large motorbike flying an American flag pulled into the intersection, parked the bike and said, “I came to join you.” I laughed and said, “Welcome, Biker Babe” and we continued to wave flags, hold up signs supporting Israel. I couldn’t help but give praise to God that the response from those joining us and those passing by with honking horns, were so supportive.    

The CAIR group watched us and even sent someone over, dressed in intimidating black, with a camera to take our pictures from all angles.  I made sure he got excellent pictures of us – what his rationale was didn’t   matter. What mattered was that they, the CAIR people, saw that not everyone bought their story of Israel’s unfairness to so-called humanitarian ships.   

 The hour and a half passed quickly and our spirits continued in spite of the hot sun. We were tired and thirsty but we shouted with the greatest of joy when one of Oklahoma City’s beautiful, large fire engines drove by and tapped out a tune of support to us on their air horn. We heard it loud and clear and I’m sure the CAIR people did as well, but there was no doubt whom the firefighters were supporting.   

The rally was supposed to be over at 6:00 p.m. The hour came and went and the CAIR people stayed on. We were determined that we would win this  demonstration by sheer will power, if nothing else, and we continued to  stand on the corner, waving flags, shouting for Israel and laughing.

Finally, at 6:30, the CAIR crowd had diminished to one person against our dozen or so remaining. We waited and watched as they packed up their last   person, their signs and flags into a vehicle and drove off. Only then, did we call an end to our rally. One person in our group was determined to stay  on the corner until he had given out his last flag and we left him there waving his flag and showing determination to all, reaffirming his – and our – solidarity with Israel.”

Balint is a freelance journalist and columnist in Israel.  She can be read on the website Jerusalem Diary-In Tense Times