Jerry Grafstein, a former senator for Metro Toronto, is hosting a Canada-Israel Solidarity Rally at the David Citadel Hotel at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, including an appearance by Canadian Ambassador Vivian Bercovici.
The event will include a broadcasted appearance by Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird and Canadian members of Parliament.
“Speeches will be very short,” Grafstein, first vice president of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians and a former senator for Metro Toronto, said on Tuesday. “It’s not a political event. It’s an act of solidarity and I’m absolutely astounded and amazed at how strong the Israelis have been through constant rocket attack, and my admiration for anybody living in Israel has gone through the roof.”
Grafstein, a proud Zionist, arrived on Sunday, inspired by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who came after the US Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights of US airlines to Israel, and many other carriers followed suite, including Air Canada. The FAA’s move was especially upsetting because the FAA had not taken similar action when terrorism affected other places such as Pakistan, Russia and Syria, he said.
“Then all of a sudden there was [a flight ban] in Israel, and I felt like that was support for the terrorists and that in my mind is unacceptable,” he said.
After booking his flight to Israel, Grafstein campaigned to bring as many Canadians and Canadian organizations as he could to Israel, both as a show of solidarity and for Wednesday’s rally.
With the help of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, the Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto, the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (the advocacy arm of the Jewish Federations of Canada-United Israel Appeal) and many of his friends and colleagues, Grafstein sent out approximately 40,000 emails to organizations and their members about Israel and the rally.
“In Canada, if you show people how to do something [like support Israel], get out of the way, because they’ll surprise you,” he said.
He knows of more than 100 people who have flown to Israel “to show that we want solidarity and that we want peace.”
Grafstein said he is impressed by the unity of Israelis throughout the process.
“I’m absolutely amazed about how strong and how supportive Israel has been in this war effort, but more important than that at how united they’ve been and how calm, cool and collected they’ve been,” he said.