Jews in orange protest outside Israeli consulate

“Expel Sharon, leave Gaza alone.”

A protester held this sign high outside the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco this week. About 50 people joined her to protest disengagement, many of them wearing orange armbands and small orange Magen David stickers that said “Stop the Expulsion.”

They were part of a worldwide effort to protest Israel’s upcoming withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which is scheduled to begin in mid-August.

While the rally in downtown San Francisco on Tuesday, July 19 was small, a similar one in Washington, D.C., drew around 200, and one in New York City’s Times Square attracted as many as 1,000 people. Similar rallies took place in cities around the world.

The protesters also wore orange rubber wristbands, warning not to desert the people of Gush Katif, the Gaza settlement bloc about to be evacuated, and Shomron, the biblical name for a region of the West Bank.

Martin Wasserman of Sunnyvale was the first to take the megaphone and spoke about the imminent “forced expulsion of Jews from their homes. The handing over of land to hostile Arabs cannot be allowed to take place,” he said.

“The Israeli government made a deal with the United States president and secretary of state without consulting the Israeli military and security apparatus and circumvented the entire democratic legislative process in continuing the failed policy of the Oslo Accords,” agreed Leonard Atlas of San Francisco.

When asked about polls showing that the majority of Israelis support the withdrawal, Atlas charged that they were not accurate.

Noting that it depended on how the questions are asked, Atlas said that if Israeli Arabs were not counted in the polls, only 35 percent of Israelis were in support. “The disengagement amounts to a horrific collapse of the Israeli defense rationality, exposing the country to immortal danger,” he said.

Michael Franzblau of Greenbrae, who had an orange strip of cloth tied around his bicep, sounded a similar note, warning that the withdrawal would put Hamas terrorists 30 miles from the major population center of Tel Aviv.

Arthur Cohn, a Portola Valley resident wearing an orange T-shirt, warned that giving up the Gaza Strip would only encourage further Arab terrorism.

Joseph Eckstein of San Francisco held a sign calling a future Jew-free Gaza Strip “Judenrein.” An Israeli citizen, Eckstein said that his brother — who had helped establish a Gaza settlement in Gush Katif with his family — had just uprooted his family to relocate to Ra’anana.

“He told me to come here,” said Eckstein, sounding nostalgic for the place he’ll never see again. “There are great beaches there. It’s beautiful. But there are a whole lot of people who don’t want any Jews there.”

Khaim Sayfer, an immigrant from Ukraine, held up an article attached to cardboard from the former Jewish Bulletin, showing a photograph of himself in the same hat, protesting outside the Israeli Consulate when the Oslo Accords were signed. “It’s my second time here,” he said. “I was here before and maybe 10 years after, I will come again.”

Several speakers demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon hold a referendum to determine whether the Israeli public supports the withdrawal.

And David Rubin, president of the Shiloh Children’s Fund, took the megaphone to say, “I come from the heart of Samaria, which the media mistakenly calls the West Bank. This disengagement plan is disengaging Israel from its roots, and a nation disengaged from its roots cannot survive very long.”

Brian Tada, a member of Shiloh Christian Fellowship in Oakland, came with his parents Esao and Cheryl; all three wore orange stars on their lapels. “Those who bless Israel, God will bless, and those who curse Israel, God will curse,” said Tada, who lives in Mill Valley. “America has stayed with Israel, which is why God has blessed America.”

Aleksandra Fleigler of Daly City was the prime organizer of the rally, sponsored nationally by Alliance for Eretz Israel and locally by Americans for a Safe Israel, Jewish Club Maoz and Zionist Organization of America. She seemed a bit disappointed at the turnout.

“It was the usual suspects,” said Fleigler. “We didn’t change any minds today. The people who strongly believe one way or the other will remain believing so.”

The speakers were interrupted by Daniel Neves, a representative of the evangelical Christian group Schindler’s Ark, who loudly blew a shofar, and then muttered “Baruch HaShem.”

“Our tie to the people of Israel is like a marriage vow,” said Neves, who wore an oversize gold Magen David around his neck. Quoting the Book of Ruth, he said, “What they go through, we will go through.”

JTA contributed to this report.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."