Blogging real events? Instead of random sentiments? What, Tobie? But yet I feel a certain obligation to record the events of the pro-Israel rally that took place today in Chicago.
First of all, the day was swelteringly hot. Heat index of over one hundred. The organizers (Jewish Federation, I think) were surprisingly well-prepared, handing out water bottles throughout the event, although I don't know if any got to the people in the back of the crowd. My family, because we came a few minutes late, ended up getting incredibly good spots, off to the side of the podium, but right in the front, so that we could see and hear the entire event.
The rally began with the singing of HaTikva and the Star-Spangled Banner. There were a series of politicians who spoke- Congressman Mark Kirk and Judy Baar Topinka, as well as a couple of State Senators. The entire event was very frum friendly- opening with a prayer (Misheberach for Chayalim), reciting Tehillim, and with all the songs led by a male singer, no accompaniment. They also had a couple of teenagers read the names of the killed- very powerful.
The most funny thing about the whole event was the counter-rally across the street- 75 people to our 5000. (Actually, I heard that they had scheduled first and this whole event was just thrown together to counter them. But in any case, we blew them out of the water. Hands down.) They were quite a dedicated lot, but then, they were doing the more fun kind of rally- inane chants and so forth. They kept trying to counter what the speakers were saying or to drown them out. It was actually hilarious to listen to them trying to draw the speakers into some sort of debate, and just getting totally ignored. But it wouldn't really have been much of a debate, since they were given to ridiculous slogans- if a speaker mentioned the Holocaust, they shouted back "Israel is the one causing the Holocaust!" Other gems included "Get out of Lebanon!" (what?) "Racist, go home!", "Stop killing children!", and of course "What do we want? Israel out! When do we want it? Now!"
It was actually fascinating to see the contrasts between the two events. As usual, the organizers handed out Israeli and American flags as a pair; I did not see a single American flag on their side of the street. Our rally was an organized bill of speakers, cheered intermitantly; theirs was a stream of slogans. Our side cheered or shifted silently when the war in Iraq was mentioned; theirs flaunted signs "Get out of Iraq" and had a sizable delegation of Not In My Name-ers. Our side had a large cross-section of population, including a lot of children; theirs was the traditional twenty something protesters.
One other special thing about this rally was the feeling among the crowd. I've been to plenty of Israel rallies, but there was a sense of camraderie today that I don't think I've sensed before. We did not only cheer speakers, but shouted "Yeah!" and comments; we passed water around and looked out for another. The man behind us mentioned that he was going to visit Israel in two weeks, and everyone around him murmured approvingly; later, somebody next to us complimented me on my whoop (I must say, I have a marvelous whoop/scream. And I get to use it so rarely that I really do enjoy trotting it out on occasions like this.) There was a palpable sense that today we were all one, standing with Israel, making our voices heard.