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The Rally and the Realization

January 9, 2009

Like other Jewish communities across the United States and the world, on Wednesday night (January 7) the Atlanta Jewish community hosted a rally in support of Israel in its fight against Hamas terror. There were hundreds of individuals in attendance  – Jews from across the community, Christian supporters of Israel, elected officials and other members of the Atlanta community.  Sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and organized by members of the local Israel Professional Council, the rally included passionate presentations by numerous community members, including Steve Rakitt, the President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Ambassador Reda Mansour – the Consul General of Israel to the Southeast United States, Rabbi Ilan Feldman, Scott Allen  – a regional leader of Christians United for Israel, Mayor Jere Wood – the mayor of Roswell, Georgia, and numerous others.  It was a powerful evening of community and solidarity – from the opening notes of the Star Spangled Banner to the final notes of Hatikva, the night was filled with passion for Israel and support for its fight against the enemy it faces.

But the most powerful moment I encountered did not occur during the rally, but occurred just before the it began. As I was walking from my car toward the synagogue at which the rally was held, a young man yelled toward me, asking me to wait for him. He was new to town and was not certain exactly where the synagogue was. He had heard about the rally and cared enough to come, even though he would not know anybody there.

His name is Puneet. He is not Jewish, he is of Indian descent.

As we walked toward the synagogue we exchanged introductions and pleasantries. But I could help ask – why was he there? Why come out to a rally where he did not know a single person? Why spend that night away from his wife in a room full of strangers?

And then that most powerful moment occurred.  As we walked together in the cool night, Puneet shared with me that he was there because he felt, while not a Jew or an Israeli, that India’s fight against terror and hate, was the same fight that Israel was fighting. He recognized that the hate and venom that fuels terrorist murders in India, most recently in Mumbai, is the same hate and venom being rained down on Israel in the form of Qassam and Grad missiles. Puneet felt that even though he was not a Zionist, he too felt “enough was enough.” He came to stand with Israel because he believed Israel’s fight is just.

Puneet reminded me, in the moments of our conversation, that while supporters of Israel often feel alone, we are not. There are good people, Christians, Indians, people of all creeds and colors that believe in the justness of Israel’s fight against terror and the terrorist organizations like Hamas that traffic in hate and violence.  That while we often feel (and many times rightfully so) that the world opinion is resoundingly anti-Israel, there nonetheless are voices that join our chorus of support for Israel. They are not necessarily our coreligionists, but they are kindred souls. They believe in hope, in freedom, and in peace. They believe that people have a right to feel safe from the shattering explosions of terror, and freedom from the specter of death that is designed by merchants of division.

They stand with us as we stand with Israel.

As we entered the synagogue, Puneet and I were separated, and I did not see him the rest of the evening. But I received an email from him the next morning, and he shared with me how much he learned during the rally, and how much he was glad to meet with other like-minded people. He and I agreed to meet again – to continue a conversation we started as we walked to that synagogue in order to attend a rally for a country that represented our shared ideal.

Israel is important. It is important to Jews, to Christians, to Indians, and to people who appreciate its values and who support it in its struggles. It is important to Puneet.

And for that we should be grateful and inspired.

I know I am.  Thanks Puneet.

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