Israeli Consul-General Yoram Elron hailed the participation of 13,000 joyous people at the massive downtown rally yesterday celebrating Israel’s 62nd anniversary of independence.The weather was kind to organizers, with near summer-like weather that had followed several days of dampness and much rain.
A stream of blue and white flags paraded from Phillips Square to Place du Canada at Peel and René Lévesque, where there was ongoing entertainment. The Jewish Unity Partnership rally also attracted prominent members of different levels of government, including speakers Senator Leo Housakos representing Prime Minster Stephen Harper, Westmount-Ville-Marie MP Marc Garneau representing Michael Ignatieff, and Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay. “This blue and white flag that you’re holding is a reminder that our destiny is in our own hands,” Elron said. “As I’ve said in the past, it’s not easy being an Israeli diplomat in this period of time, but seeing you all here is a great source of strength and encouragement. I’m ecstatic to be here.”
Housakos, told the crowd that “it’s people like you who create the bridge between Canada and Israel, a relationship which for 62 years has been growing and it’s just the beginning of the long history between our two countries.”
The senator also passed on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s greetings, which said that he is “steadfast in his support for Israel, not on anything other than principle. His support is not for political expediency, but he, like many Canadians, respect the principles of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Israel shares those fundamental principles and together, side by side, with pride, we defend them all over the world anytime, anyplace.”
Garneau expressed his own solidarity with Israel, and brought greetings from federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who said “an event such as this demonstrates very clearly the strong support Canadians have for Israel and I am proud to lead a party that is steadfast in its commitment to ensuring Israel is able to thrive as a democratic and independent state in peace and security.”
Tremblay told the crowd that “every time I come here, every year, you say to me ‘thanks a lot for being here..’ But the reason I come here is to say to you ‘thank you very much for being what you are.’ The reason we can have this special event year after year is because we share the same values, of human dignity, social justice and love, and of peace. That unites us.”
Rally host Beryl Wajsman, editor of The Suburban, welcomed participants to the “celebration of joy and of the free” and told young participants the event is “...very much your celebration.What we celebrate today are not the particularities of race and creed, but the universality of liberty,” he said. “And the survival and success of the frontline member of the family of free nations.
“In Quebec, Canada and the world today there are varieties of opinion on all manner of issues. It’s a battleground of free ideas. And that is a good thing. Many of these opinions we don’t like. But you respond as democrats, with reason and engagement. To you young people, we want you to know that you are not alone.”
Other prominent leaders in attendance were Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler, Laval-des-Îles MP Raymonde Folco, Côte des Neiges/NDG Mayor Michael Applebaum and members of his council, Côte St. Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather and members of his council, Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg and members of his council, Mary Deros, Montreal executive committee member for cultural communities, St. Laurent councillor Maurice Cohen and Dollard councillor Herbert Brownstein.
Elron said this year’s rally numbers should be in the Guinness Book of World Records.