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Hundreds gather in La Jolla to show support for Israel in Gaza conflict

Micah Danzig of StandWithUs speaks at a pro-Israel rally at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla.
Micah Danzig, advisory board president for StandWithUs, speaks at a pro-Israel rally at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla on May 13.
(Ariana Drehsler)

A pro-Palestinian rally follows two days later at San Diego’s Balboa Park.

Looking to show solidarity with Israeli troops amid a conflict with Palestinians, hundreds of people attended a rally in La Jolla the evening of May 13.

Coordinated by Shield of David, a nonprofit organization dedicated to confronting anti-Semitism and teaching Jewish students how to counter acts of anti-Semitism, the event brought six speakers, including local politicians, rabbis and more, to the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center. Estimates of those in attendance ranged from 200 to 300.

During the event, Shield of David co-founder Eli Ben-Moshe said he saw Jewish people and “a lot of Christians” coming together, waving Israeli and American flags.

Demonstrators gather at a pro-Israel rally at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla on May 13.
(Ariana Drehsler)

“This was not an Israel against Palestine thing, this was an America against anti-Semitism thing,” Ben-Moshe said. “We wanted to pinpoint the fact that if any other country was being bombarded the way Israel is, that country would have responded in a more serious way. We wanted to show solidarity with Jewish soldiers over there.”

The conflict began in east Jerusalem earlier this month, with Palestinian protests against attempts by settlers to forcibly evict many Palestinian families from their homes. It has reverberated widely, with Israeli cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations seeing mobs from each community fighting in the streets and trashing each other’s property.

Contending to be defending Jerusalem, Hamas, the military arm of the Islamist group that rules Gaza, has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, which has pounded the Gaza Strip with strikes. The Associated Press reported May 15 that since May 10, at least 139 people had been killed in Gaza, including 39 children and 22 women. In Israel, eight people had been killed, including a 6-year-old boy and a soldier.

As a result of the conflict, there has been an increase in misinformation and acts of anti-Semitism, Ben-Moshe said.

“My kids are seeing things like ‘Israeli soldiers are killing babies’ and ‘They are taking over land that isn’t theirs’ when they go on social media,” Ben-Moshe said. “These soldiers have to defend themselves and they have no choice. ... It was great to see so many gather to show support for those fighting.”

On May 15, about 700 people marched in support of Palestinians at San Diego’s Balboa Park, many waving flags and holding signs with messages including “End the occupation” and “Israel is built on stolen land.”

Mohammed Afad sits on the shoulders of cousin Ahmed Abuziad at a pro-Palestinian rally May 15 in San Diego's Balboa Park.
Mohammed Afad gets a vantage point by sitting on the shoulders of his cousin Ahmed Abuziad during a pro-Palestinian rally May 15 in San Diego’s Balboa Park.
( Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“Of course I’m worried,” demonstrator Ismail Aqil said of his family in Palestinian territories. “This is beyond oppression, deeper than oppression.”

Rihanna Boulanouar, 21, of San Diego said she has family in the West Bank and that attending the Balboa Park rally reminded her of the Palestinian people’s strength and resolve. She carried a sign that said, “Exist, resist, return.”

“It’s amazing to see the resilience that everyone has,” Boulanouar said. “It’s beautiful to see all over the world people are protesting. It’s liberating.”

Israel is home to many sites of major religious significance to people of Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths, and the region’s history is marked by centuries of conflict as various groups have sought control of the land.

— The Associated Press and The San Diego-Union Tribune contributed to this report.