By Rachel Gross
The message at Victory Plaza on Aug. 22 was loud and clear: Dallas supports Israel. More than 5,000 Jews and non-Jews from the Metroplex gathered in downtown Dallas in blazing 105-degree heat to celebrate the land and people of Israel and the contributions Israel has made to the world. As the temperatures soared, so did the spirit of the crowd.
“The Party on the Plaza: A Celebration of Israel” was the first public celebration of its kind. The free event, sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, featured activities for the entire family. It was co-chaired by Stephanie Hirsh and Charles Pulman, and co-produced by Jason Schwartz and Zev Shulkin.
Activities included a Dead Sea spa; displays about technological achievements and humanitarian contributions of Israel; a mock Kotel; letter writing to Israeli soldiers; live music and Israeli dancing; and much more. Various Jewish organizations were on location as well.
Frisco resident and Temple Shalom member Ray Farris said he was proud to be among fellow Jews.
“I’m in outside sales and often don’t feel comfortable wearing my kippah, but here I can wear it proudly,” he said. “It’s amazing to see everyone here and it makes me proud to be Jewish.”
Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert; Meir Shlomo, Houston-based consul general of Israel to the Southwest; Rabbi Adam Raskin; and Pastor Terri Pearsons of Eagle Mountain Church in Newark, Texas, all spoke about why it’s important to favor Israel.
Leppert said the celebration allowed people to see the innovations Israel has brought to the world and showed how Texas supports Israel and its endeavors.
“Today, we live in difficult times and I cannot think of another time in history better to support Israel than right now in 2010,” he said. “It’s not just one day; we need to support Israel 365 days a year.”
Rabbi Adam Raskin, president of the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas and spiritual leader of Richardson’s Congregation Beth Torah, highlighted what it means to be a Zionist and how publicly backing Israel is beneficial for everyone.
“Zionism is the essential hope for the Jewish people,” he said. “I am a Zionist because I love Israel. I want peace for my brothers and sisters in Israel, for the entire nation. I’m a Zionist because nowhere else in the world do skyscrapers make me cry. When I see that sprawling city line of Tel Aviv and imagine that just 100 years ago that bustling metropolis of ingenuity didn’t exist, my Zionist heart bursts with pride. Israel is a courageous, free, industrious Jewish state and 62 years later, we are here in Dallas celebrating.”
Raskin added that despite all of the anti-Israeli propaganda in the world, it is imperative to band together and share the knowledge of Israel. He said having Jews and non-Jews celebrate Israel’s gifts to the world is crucial.
He said he hoped attendees realized that upholding Israel isn’t only a Jewish issue, but an American one.
“We have the responsibility to educate our community, leaders, neighbors about the contributions Israel has made,” he said. “Israel gives us so much to be proud of…Am Yisrael chai. The people of Israel, the land of Israel, the state of Israel continue to live forever as a beacon for Jewish people, as a free society. I saw that today as a patriotic American, as a committed Jew and a person devoted to freedom for all people.”
Shlomo, who took the position of consul general last week, discussed that although Middle East peace talks will begin on Sept. 2, there are still threats against Israel and it’s significant to have support from the United States.
He added that anyone who champions Israel is precious, no matter who, and that message needs to be communicated.
“It goes beyond Dallas; this is an unshakable alliance between Israel and the United States,” he said. “The ties you have with Israel are so important. We need you to know the real Israel to tell your neighbors, colleagues, elected officials and everyone else what Israel really stands for. Israel is more than what we see on the news every day. It’s a cultural place, a place of innovation. Israel is small, but is on the cutting edge of technology, science and culture.”
Pastor Pearsons exemplified the strong relationship between Jews and Christians. She said Christians espouse Israel because they believe the Bible is the word of God, Israel has made contributions to the Christian faith and, most importantly, because of their love for God.
“Reasonable people should support Israel because it is a bastion of freedom,” she said. “They should see the enormous cultural, economic, artistic, scientific and moral contributions Jewish people have made to better humanity. We are in front of you to defend, we are beside you when you call and we are behind you to remind you that you are not like any other race of people.”