Israel is fighting three wars, Benjamin Krasna said during the mid-January rally in Princeton.
Photo by Ophir Busel
February 3, 2009
As Israel was in the midst of its all-out assault on Hamas, the Princeton-area Jewish community rallied to express its support for the Jewish state.
More than 300 people turned out for ‘We Stand with Israel,’ a solidarity rally held Jan. 13 at The Jewish Center in Princeton.
Headlining the evening were Sael Abecassis, who is serving a one-year stint as Israeli shaliah, or emissary, with the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, and Benjamin Krasna, deputy consul general of Israel in New York.
Abecassis, who was born and raised in Sderot, put a human face on the rocket-battered southern Israeli town, while Krasna raised an impassioned voice for the besieged people of Israel.
The Kassam rockets Hamas has been launching into Sderot over the past eight years have taken a personal toll on his family, the 22-year-old Abecassis told the gathering. Just a few days before, a rocket had destroyed the home of his grandparents, he said. And the constant explosions have terrorized his five-year-old brother, Amit.
“To see him when he hears the red alert — how he knows exactly where to go, exactly how much time he has to get there, and when he gets to one, he starts to sing, to very loudly sing,” Abecassis said. “Why does he do that? He just doesn’t want to hear the explosion.”
Abecassis said that his family suffered most deeply from the Hamas assaults in 2005, when his 17-year-old cousin Ela was mortally wounded by a rocket.
Sael Abecassis put a human face on the rocket-besieged Israeli town of Sderot.
Photo by Marilyn Silverstein
Herb Horowitz issued a call for grassroots advocacy in support of Israel.
Photo by Marilyn Silverstein
“I was the first to arrive at that scene,” he said. “In my three years as a combat soldier, I never saw a sight like that.”
‘War of conviction’
Some one million people live within the range of Hamas rockets in the southern part of Israel, said Krasna. “Overwhelmingly, they support the government of Israel, and that is a source of strength,” he said.
“We are fighting today three wars,” the deputy consul general said. “The first is a very dangerous, very bloody, very violent military conflict against an enemy of extremist terrorists that will indiscriminately fire rockets at civilians.”
When he assured the crowd that “the military war against Hamas to protect the people of the State of Israel — we will win,” they broke into spirited applause.
“We are fighting a second war,” said Krasna, “a diplomatic war, a war of words, a war of conviction, a war of making sure people understand that we are right, and making sure they understand when the military operation is complete.”
“The military operation will only be complete when weapons stop coming into Gaza and Gaza stops being a threat to the people of southern Israel,” he said.
“And we are fighting a war of public opinion,” Krasna said. “It is a war of images, a war to explain to your neighbor, your colleagues — why Israel had to take this action…. It is a war where we need you to speak out to a media that is consistently distorting the truth. That war, with your support, we will win as well.”
Israel is committed to peace, the diplomat said, but peace can come only from an accord between Israel and her neighbors — “when they realize we are not going away, when they realize that never again — never again — are we going to see a world without a State of Israel.”
The evening also included a call for community support for Israel from Herb Horowitz, president of the Central NJ Chapter of American Jewish Committee, and prayers for peace led by Rabbi Jay Kornsgold of Beth El Synagogue in East Windsor and Rabbi Eric Wisnia of Congregation Beth Chaim in Princeton Junction.
The United Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks and the Board of Rabbis of PMB served as lead sponsors of the event. Other sponsors, in addition to The Jewish Center, the AJC, Beth Chaim, and Beth El, were the Center for Jewish Life/Hillel at Princeton University; Adath Israel Congregation in Lawrenceville; Congregation Brothers of Israel in Newtown, Pa.; branches of Chabad Lubavitch of Greater Mercer County; the Jewish Community Center of PMB; and the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County.