Local and national power-brokers joined hundreds of Israel’s supporters Sunday night in North Miami Beach at a rally sponsored by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation in the wake of last week’s Gaza cease-fire and the ongoing turmoil in Egypt.
It was a bipartisan collection of dignitaries at the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami; U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston and chair of the Democratic National Committee; and U.S. Reps. Frederica Wilson and Joe Garcia, both Miami-Dade Democrats.
Joining them were Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, County Commissioner Sally Heyman and the Israeli Consul General to Florida and Puerto Rico, Chaim Shacham.
And providing introductions was billionaire auto magnate Norman Braman.
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First to speak was Rubio, who lavished praise on Israel and described the country as “a real miracle in the desert.”
“What I love about Israel is it stands for democracy and freedom,” Rubio said
Ros-Lehtinen asked the crowd, estimated by organizers at 1,200, if they supported democracy and human rights. The answer, each time chanted by the crowd, was “Support Israel!”
“Recent events provided a great reminder of the difference between Israel and its enemies, like Hamas, other violent Palestinian extremists, and their state sponsor — the Iranian regime,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
Wasserman-Schultz talked about the importance of community and the horrors mothers have felt as the rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel.
Speaker after speaker pledged the support of the United States, heaped praise on Israel and celebrated its Iron Dome missile-defense system.
Almost every speaker wore the colors of Israel, blue and white, and the stage was bathed in red, blue and white light. A chorus of singing children opened and closed the rally.
They all held the crowd’s attention, who waved Israeli and U.S. flags.
Sitting near the front was Ronit Bentolila, 38, with her daughters Yedida, 10, and Thalia, 8. The Hollywood family had small American and Israeli flags and a sign supporting Israel.
“There’s no other thing we would rather do than support Israel, our land,” Bentolila said.
Another rally, this one organized by a Muslim group and scheduled for Sunday afternoon at the Israeli consulate in Miami, calling for an “end of the Israeli attack on Gaza,” was postponed. The American Muslim Association of North America, which had organized that rally, said it was postponed as a sign of solidarity with the cease-fire agreement.
“Any cease-fire we support. Any war we are going to be against,” AMANA director Sofian Zakkout told The Miami Herald on Sunday. “Thank God the madness was stopped. I pray that it will stay like that, and that will bring more opportunities for solutions.”
But Zakkout said he was disappointed that the rally for Israel had not been canceled for the same reason.
“They always come out and rally to support Israel for whatever action. That’s what brings us war,” Zakkout said.
“I don’t think we can remind America and the world too often about the importance of the Israeli-American relationship,” she said.