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Hundreds gather in Aventura to mark Israel’s independence day

Jacob Solomon, left, is greeted by Consulate General Chaim Shacham, right, and his wife, Mishala. The Consulate General of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico hosted a celebration in honor of Israel’s 67th Independence Day anniversary at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center on Thursday. For more, go to MiamiHerald.com
Jacob Solomon, left, is greeted by Consulate General Chaim Shacham, right, and his wife, Mishala. The Consulate General of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico hosted a celebration in honor of Israel’s 67th Independence Day anniversary at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center on Thursday. For more, go to MiamiHerald.com

A day after the Vatican announced its plans to recognize the “state of Palestine,” hundreds of people gathered in Aventura to mark the 67th Anniversary of Israel’s independence.

The timing of the announcement, some say, was an unfortunate coincidence with the celebration, which was planned weeks in advance.

“It complicates matters,’’ said Aventura Mayor Enid Weisman, referring to the negotiations between Israel and Palestine. “But it's not going to stop us from celebrating Israel.’’

The gathering, which drew politicians, local leaders and other members of the community to Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, included songs of prayer and speeches from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Internet entrepreneur Jeff Pulver (founder of Free World Dialup) and Consulate General of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico, Chaim Shacham.

Shacham touted Israel’s strength in surviving as a state despite the unrest in the Middle East and the challenges it has faced over the years.

“I don’t think it’s just an achievement; I think it’s a miracle,” Shacham said. “The fact that we have not only survived for 67 years but have been able to develop and have been able to be one of the strongest economies in our region is something that is no short of being miraculous.”

Shacham said the Vatican’s announcement was a “meaningless declaration,” explaining that both Israel and Palestine need to negotiate so that both states can coexist.

“The state of Palestine doesn’t exist just because somebody recognizes it,” Shacham said. “It has to be negotiated. This doesn’t solve anything.”

Palestenian leaders, however, celebrated Pope Francis’ endorsement on Wednesday.

“The Vatican is not just a state. The Vatican represents hundreds of millions of Christians worldwide, including Palestinians, and has vast moral significance,” Husam Zomlot, a senior Palestinian foreign-affairs official told the New York Times Wednesday.

But Jewish leaders in South Florida said the announcement was “counterproductive” to peace talks.

“Formal Vatican recognition of Palestine, a state that, in reality, does not yet exist, is a regrettable move, counterproductive to all who seek true peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” said Brian D. Siegal, director of the American Jewish Council in Miami. “Peaceful coexistence is best served, we believe, by encouraging a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, rather than unilateral gestures outside the framework of the negotiating table.”

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