From Finland with love: Almost a week after the war in Lebanon ended, thousands of Finns gathered in Helsinki Sunday evening to express their support for Israel.
The rally, which was secured by dozens of police officers, drew local Jews as well as non-Jewish residents.
Yaron Gorash, a businessman married to a Finnish citizen who has been living in the country for 18 years told Ynet: "We decide to show Helsinki residents other aspects" of the situation in the Middle East.
Answer to anti-Israel demonstrations (Photo: Yaron Gorash and Ofer Amir)
Israeli Ambassador in Finland, Shemi Tzur, told Ynet the evening newscast opened with a report about the rally, which apparently drew 2,800 participants. The television report noted that the rally "proved beyond any doubt the Israeli power and the fact there's great sympathy for Israel."
"People arrived from all over Finland. Some of them traveled almost the whole night – 10 hours – in order to reach Helsinki," Tzur said. "The protesters marched through Helsinki's two major streets on Sunday, while all coffee shops were packed. Reactions on the street were great – people yelled out 'let's go Israel.'"
Rally participants marched to the Israeli embassy in the center of Helsinki and later gathered at a building near the Finnish parliament where several senior figures delivered pro-Israeli addresses.
"Every day at 5 p.m. (during the war) Muslim communities protested against Israel by the embassy," Gorash said, explaining the motivation behind Sunday's rally, organized by the Jewish community in conjunction with other associations.
"We decided to respond to them (Muslims) and show them that there is support for Israel, and to urge the citizens to look at things from a different perspective," he said. "The Finns really love Israel and support it, even though the politics here is a bit different."
Call to release kidnapped troops (Photo: Yaron Gorash and Ofer Amir)
EU representative Hannu Takala was among those who delivered speeches at the end of the march. He called on the Finnish government and European Union to wake up and realize Israel shares the same values of democracy and peace.
"They must realize terrorism threatens us all and not only Israel," he said.
Ambassador Tzur, who also spoke, stressed that the war in Lebanon was against Hizbullah and not against the Lebanese people. He also urged Finland, which is known for its involvement in humanitarian issues, to do everything in order to secure the release of the abducted Israeli soldiers.
Tzur added that the Finnish support was important and reflected the love and friendship between the two countries.