PM Netanyahu in Canada. 'You are by our side'
Photo: AFP
Photo: Jupiter
Toronto. Successful event
Photo: Jupiter

Toronto Jews raise $350,000 for Bat Yam

Thousands take part in 42nd annual Walk with Israel in solidarity with Jews state. Event culminates in speech by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who draws enthusiastic cheers from crowd

Thousands of Jews, along with non-Jewish friends of Israel from all different parts of the world and different points on the religious spectrum, walked together on Sunday for one reason: To demonstrate the Toronto Jewish community’s solidarity with Israel.


This year’s 42nd annual Walk with Israel began with a unique and historic launch featuring a who’s who of speakers that culminated in a speech by Benjamin Netanyahu, the first Israeli prime minister to visit Canada in almost two decades.


Prominent community member Julia Koschitzky gave opening remarks at the Ricoh Coliseum, calling Sunday morning’s opening a “once in a generation event, the kind our children and grandchildren will never forget.”


Israel’s Ambassador to Canada Miriam Ziv said that she was “deeply moved by the energy in the building.”


She commented that Toronto’s Walk with Israel is the second largest walk in the Diaspora.


She said that she feels fortunate to work alongside the community in Canada, a generous group that is always willing to do more. She added that there has been a strong relationship between the Diaspora and Israel ever since the Jewish State’s founding in 1948. “Each needs and depends on the other.”


She commented on the large turnout, saying that the presence showed “incredible solidarity.” The ambassador quoted Hillel: Do not separate yourself from the community.


According to Ziv, the challenges Jews face as a people are great but our bond is greater. Furthermore, she said that all the community members, politicians and officials present at the launch send a message to the world: “We are strong in faith and spirit and we will continue to defend the state of Israel.”


Alan Winer, chair of UJA of Greater Toronto, thanked Ziv as well as Israeli Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein who also spoke. He also thanked all the politicians from various levels of government for being there.


Toronto is a “city of people who truly understand tzedakah and tikkun olam,” he said. “Your generosity allows us to truly transform thousands of lives each year.”


'One of largest Israel solidarity events'

Next up, Eric Hoskins, Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, welcomed Netanyahu on behalf of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.


“I am delighted to extend greetings to everyone participating in this Walk with Israel,” stated McGuinty, adding that all Ontarians benefit from the contributions of the Jewish community to Canadian life.


Hoskins called the walk a “laudable cause,” saying, “While we are citizens of Canada, we also are citizens of the world.”


The minister accompanied McGuinty on his recent trip to Israel and he told the audience that he was “impressed at Israel’s many accomplishments.” He visited Bat Yam during his trip – the money raised by the Walk is going to the children of Bat Yam, a city with a large population of Ethiopian immigrants that faces many challenges, including high unemployment, subpar living conditions and an education system that needs lots of help – and said that “UJA is making a remarkable difference in Bat Yam” with very meaningful results.


Peter Kent, Thornhill MPP and minister of state for foreign affairs of the Americas, also spoke.

“I am honored to be bringing greetings on behalf of the government of Canada and a man who always walks with Israel, Prime Minister Stephen Harper,” said Kent.


He talked about both Israel and Canada having shared values of democracy and human rights. “Canada and Israel are the likeliest and most natural of allies.” He noted that “Israel can always count on our undivided support.”


Kent reiterated that “Those who threaten Israel also threaten Canada.”


He said that even though Israel faces many challenges, including “state-sponsored hate,” a far-reaching peace is attainable. He described it as a “viable peace (that) will be a reality for all the people of the Middle East.”


He said it was a great honor to welcome the Israeli prime minister, especially given the last Israeli Prime Minister to address the community was Menachem Begin in 1978 and the last prime minister to visit Canada was Yitzhak Rabin 17 years ago.


“We’re all looking forward to working in support of our ally, the democratic State of Israel,” said Kent.

Gerald Schwartz, Tomorrow Campaign co-chair welcomed Netanyahu, his wife Sara and the entire Israeli delegation. He called the Walk “one of the world’s largest Israel solidarity events.”


“You can count on our commitment to Israel and the people of Israel,” he told Netanyahu. “We are honored by your presence and privileged to have you with us today.”


'Beautiful city full of beautiful people'

Netanyahu took the stage to rapturous applause and an audience of 7,000 in attendance.


“I’m delighted to follow in the footsteps (of Rabin and Begin)… to be here in Canada with all of you,” Netanyahu said to enthusiastic cheers from the crowd. He said it was one of the warmest receptions any Israeli prime minister has ever received.


Netanyahu, who called Toronto a “beautiful city” full of “beautiful people”, said that the ties between Israel and Canada have never been stronger than they are today. He thanked the people of Canada and our federal and provincial governments, specifically praising Prime Minister Stephen Harper for being such a good friend to Israel.


He also noted the ever-present bond between the Toronto community and the State of Israel.


“This community has a well deserved reputation for its passion and commitment to Israel,” he said. “Though you are thousands of miles away, you show that you are by our side.”


He warmly thanked the community and UJA for their “passion and commitment to Israel.”


“Though you are thousands of miles away, you show that you are by our side,” he said.


Netanyahu said he had one simple message: “March with pride. March with clarity.”


March against those who oppose peace. March for Israelis who yearn for “peace today.”


He noted that Israel is a success today that was barely imaginable 62 years ago at its founding. In 1948, only five per cent of the world’s Jews lived in Israel; today that number is 50 per cent. In 1948, Israel was poor – “We had nothing.” Today, the country is a “high tech power,” said Netanyahu who had come from Paris where Israel received membership into the OECD.


“We can seize the future because we have the hearts and the minds to do so,” he said. “We regained the power of self-determination after being a powerless people subjected to every evil under the sun.”


Netanyahu finished by saying, “I want to thank you for standing up for Israel and the Jewish people.”


Howard English, vice president of Strategic Communications at UJA Federation said that Netanyahu’s speech received a “very strongly positive response” among the members of the Toronto Jewish community. “He showed himself to be a champion of Israel’s right to defend itself, a champion of fair play when it comes to judging Israel, and a champion of the unity of the Jewish people and the presence of Israel as the Jewish state,” said English. He added that Netanyahu’s presence “really solidified Toronto’s standing as one of the world’s strongest communities supporting Israel.”


He summarized the walk as a successful event but also an extraordinary one. “It was a walk that was very different from other walks because of the presence of Israel’s prime minister. There was an electric atmosphere to this walk. It wasn’t the same as the exciting atmosphere that has been a component of all the walks with Israel.”


English added that about 12,000 people participated in the event and about $350,000 was raised towards the UJA project for Bat Yam. “We were very excited about how the walk went and I think this walk will produce memories for thousands of people for years to come,” he said.


Rebecca Bitton contributed to this report


Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life


פרסום ראשון: 06.03.10, 09:27
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