Jews in Israel, the US and the UK are taking to the streets to express their pain, frustration and solidarity with the victims of fighting in Aleppo, which was retaken by the Syrian regime in recent days, wreaking harrowing scenes of death and destruction.
In Israel, a grassroots initiative called for citizens to show their solidarity with Syrian civilians by taking part in a rally of solidarity in Jerusalem on Friday morning. The demonstration was organized by women who wish to express their pain and condemnation of human rights abuses taking place in Syria.
“We cannot be silent, and must do all we can to raise our voices against this terrible massacre, that is taking place just north of us to our fellow human beings,” says the Facebook page for the event.
Organizer Roni Slonim said the aim of the event is to both express solidarity with the Syrian people as well as to raise awareness of their plight among the Israeli public and the Israeli government.
“We want to unite as an active force for human rights and against the terror taking place in Aleppo,” Slonim said. The rally is expected to be a “silent protest” and will provide an opportunity for concerned citizens to discuss what they can do moving forward to help Syrian civilians.
In the North, just over the border with Syria, dozens of residents of the Golan plan to simultaneously protest. Activists plan to march toward the border under the banners “The world is silent again” and “Stop the Holocaust of Syrian children.”
In London, the Union of Jewish Students planned an “emergency rally” for Thursday night under the title “Save Aleppo.”
Syrian general says Aleppo offensive in final stages
In a call to action on Facebook, Jewish students, friends and allies were urged to participate in the rally. “The crisis in Aleppo is well beyond the breaking point. International efforts are desperately needed to stop the massacres of innocent Syrian people, and as Jewish students, we have a responsibility to speak up,” the event description reads.
Citing the Jewish commandment, “Lo tuchal lehitalem
” (Deuteronomy 23:2), which means “You must not remain indifferent,” organizers called for a show of solidarity with victims of the Aleppo violence. “Indifference – to human suffering, to hatred and to genocide – contradicts everything that Judaism holds sacred,” they said. “Regardless of your opinion on the politics behind the conflict, the reality is that children and innocent civilians are being killed in a war waged by others.”
The rally, set to be held near Westminster where the British Parliament sits, also aimed to call on the UK government to take greater action to assist in the humanitarian aid effort and to increase pressure for a long-lasting cease-fire in the region.
“When we remember the Holocaust, we say ‘Never Again,’ but all too often we fail to act upon our words,” the group said. “Today, right now, Jewish students are standing up to demand that the citizens of Aleppo are afforded the most basic of all human rights – the right to life. The citizens of Aleppo need aid, but aid drops cannot take place until a cease-fire occurs. They need to be safely evacuated. They need to be allowed to live with the same freedoms that we enjoy in our homes here in the UK.”
The group also called on Britons to donate to the NGO White Helmets, which works to rescue people from the rubble of destroyed buildings.
Across the pond, Jewish groups slammed the Syrian government, and urged the international community to take action.
The American Jewish Committee called Thursday for coordinated world action to save Syria. The organization said it is horrified by “the wanton destruction of Aleppo, Syria’s third largest city, by the Bashar Assad regime, Russia and Iran.”
“We know all too well from history the tragic consequences of governments that failed to find the will to act in the face of such unspeakable crimes against humanity,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “Watching the boundless tragedy of Syria in real time only heightens the severity of the crisis and urgency, however late in the day, of a constructive, coordinated international response.”
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt released a blog post this week highlighting the Jewish community’s “special responsibility to speak out, having learned the price of the world’s silence.”
“The phrase ‘Never Again’ means not only a commitment to fight antisemitism, but ensuring that no group or people ever be subjected to such brutality,” he wrote.
In New Jersey, Israeli-American businessman Moti Kahana is planning two rallies – one in Tel Aviv on the first night of Hanukka (December 24) and one in New York on the last night (January 1). Kahana is the founder and CEO of nonprofit organization Amaliah, which delivers humanitarian aid to civilians in southern Syria by way of the border with Israel.
On Wednesday, Kahana took to Facebook to call on Jews around the world to join Amaliah in lighting the first “candle of hope.”
“We are asking our government to help stop the killing in Syria,” he told The Jerusalem Post
“I know my people [the Jewish people] can unite and help the people of Syria.” Noting his age, 48, Kahana remarked that he never understood how the Jews were killed in the Holocaust and nobody did anything. “Now I understand. Over the past five years, I finally understood how the Holocaust happened,” he said, pointing to silence around the world, including from the Jewish people as the Syrian civil war raged on. Evoking the post-Holocaust pledge “Never Again,” Kahana stressed that these words should apply to everyone and lamented that the Jews have “forgotten who we are.”
“Even if the government of Syria is the enemy of Israel, the people of Syria are not our enemy and we are not their enemy,” he stressed. “And in Rabin Square, the people of Israel will unite and people to people we will ask the world to help stop the killing in Syria.”
In New York, Kahana plans to appeal to President-elect Donald Trump by inviting him to light the hanukkia and calling on him to help stop the killing in Syria.
“The only ones who can do it is us, the Jewish people,” he said. “We vowed, never again, not to us and not to others; and if we unite, we get a voice out there and we demand, ‘This war needs to stop,’ I do believe we may have the miracle of Hanukka.”