Compassion and concern were the common threads of speakers at the Rally for Solidarity with the People of Israel for Jews and Allies held in front of Burlington City Hall, Sunday afternoon, October 15.
The event was hosted by Chabad Burlington, Jewish Communities of Vermont 2.0, Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, Temple Sinai Vermont, and Draizy Junik.
Hundreds of peaceful protesters waved Israeli and American flags and held printed and handmade signs demonstrating that they stand with Israel. Attendees were from synagogues, churches, and homes inhabited by concerned citizens from across the region.
Local Rabbis gave an account of devastating current events that people in Israel have experienced in recent days. They shared scriptures and songs of hope. They extended copious appreciation for all who gathered to stand with and show support for Jews in Vermont and Israel.
Among the guest speakers were Vermont Governor Phil Scott, Burlington’s Mayor Miro Weinberger, Burlington City Council President Karen Paul, and representatives from the offices of Peter Welch, Bernie Sanders, Becca Balint, and others.
Governor Scott and others denounced the actions of the Hamas terrorists as evil. One of the Rabbis spoke of the importance of building loving kindness. The prevailing messages spoke of the need for peace in Israel. While the mood was somber, the rally appeared to encourage some with the realization that they were not alone.
Weinberger’s office forwarded his speech to the media. It appears below:
I am deeply saddened but proud to be here today to stand in solidarity with you. To stand in solidarity with the state of Israel. To stand in solidarity with my fellow Jews of Burlington and beyond during a time that recalls some of the darkest days in the history of the Jewish people. To stand in solidarity with all those who reject and condemn the horrific, inhumane attack by Hamas against innocent Israeli citizens whose only provocation was to exist.
Burlington has a long and brave record of speaking out against injustice, hate, and inhumanity. In these moments that test us, I am always grateful to be a part of this strong and supportive community.
The extended and painful history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complicated and nuanced, and well-intentioned people can disagree on the best way forward toward peace.
There was nothing complicated or nuanced about what happened last Saturday when Hamas massacred parents and young children, ambushed concert-goers, and kidnapped grandparents and babies in pursuit of their long-standing, genocidal goal of eradicating Israel and the Jewish people.
There can be no equivocation. Hamas committed a vile terrorist attack that violated nearly every article of international human rights law forged by our global community in the wake of World War II.
To legitimize in any way such horrific atrocities is to invite an expansion of such barbarism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and into disputes around the world.
We all want peace to prevail as quickly as possible, yet no one should question Israel’s right and duty to defend itself and its citizens. This attack reminds us why the State of Israel was founded – to provide safety to Jews in a too often hostile world – and of the vital, supportive role the United States has played since its founding.
I am grateful that President Biden has declared forcefully, and taken swift action to make clear, that the United States has Israel’s back, as we always have.
I am grateful that President Biden has reminded Israeli leaders that democracies are stronger and more secure when they act according to the rules of law and the laws of war.
My heart goes out to all citizens of Israel, and to innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere who have been thrown into the maelstrom by last Saturday’s attack.
And my heart is here with you – the people of Burlington and Vermont, who share the grief, fear, and trauma that Hamas has brought to Jewish and Muslim people in this community.
This is not a time to reject or alienate our neighbors. We know right from wrong. We know what to do when there is pain, suffering, and injustice in the world. Now is a time to welcome and love our neighbors – to care for each other, and to love each other.
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