Netanyahu Vicar 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
TORONTO – Residents
of Toronto will get a chance to show their love for Israel on Sunday,
when 15,000 people are expected to join the annual, daylong UJA Walk
to Ted Sokolsky, the president of the UJA Federation of Greater
Toronto, the participation of Netanyahu has helped to raise the profile
of the walk, which the UJA staff has spent months preparing.
The walk, whose proceeds will go toward projects
initiated by the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto to help Ethiopian
immigrants in Bat Yam, is going to have an added attraction this year:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who will speak to the walkers before
they head off on their routes on Sunday morning.
“The timing is
perfect,” said Amir Gissin, Israel’s consul-general in Toronto, speaking
about Netanyahu’s visit to Canada.
“Canada is today a very close
friend of Israel, with both a friendly government and opposition. We
just had the premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, in Israel,” Gissin
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Netanyahu, who arrived in Toronto on Friday with his wife,
Sara, was expected to meet privately with members of the Jewish
community, as well as with selected members of the media during his stay
in the city.
“Looking at the list of the editors, broadcasters
and writers he’s meeting with, you see quite an impressive list and one
that reflects the interest Canada has in Israel,” Gissin said.
making the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to Canada since
1994, is scheduled to fly to Ottawa after launching the Walk on Sunday,
to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Netanyahu and cabinet members Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and
Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein will meet with Canadian
officials to discuss issues such as the expansion of trade and the joint
commercialization of hi-tech capacity in both countries.
said he expected anti-Israel demonstrations to take place during the
walk, but that they would pale compared to the support being shown for
Israel by the mainstream Canadian population.
“When you look at
the people who protest, you see very clearly that the demonstrators
don’t reflect the diversity of the Canadian population,” he said.
Jewish community 'fails to get mainstream support'
his office at the Israeli Consulate, about a dozen protesters were
handing out leaflets and waving Palestinian flags in support of the Gaza
aid ships that were making their way to Gaza.
“The fact that the
Jewish community here can bring 15,000 people out to hear the Israeli
prime minister and on the other side, you have maybe several hundred
people against Israel, shows that they are failing to get mainstream
support from wider segments of Canadian society,” he said.
had to increase security and make some
changes, but the excitement
around it really reflects the strong Jewish community in Toronto,”
Sokolsky said on Thursday.
“I’m incredibly proud to have the
prime minister here,” added Alan Winer, the chairman of the federation,
on Friday, a few hours before Netanyahu was due to land in Toronto. “I
think it’s really a tremendous matter of pride within the community to
have him here.”
It’s a little scary to have a sitting prime
minister launch the walk for the first time, admitted Winer, due to
possible ramped up protests by anti-Israel activists overjoyed at having
such a big target.
“I was a little
apprehensive about it, but we had conversations within
the community and we said, you know this is the time to stand up for
Israel,” Winer said. “This isn’t the time to back away or be afraid.
It’s time to say, ‘We’re proud of Israel, with all its challenges and
“People ask me all the time, ‘What can I do to make a difference?’ So I
sent out an e-mail saying many people ask what they can do to make a
difference; well, Sunday is the time, the walk is the place to show
While many Torontonians will heed that call, some are less than
enthusiastic about the security regulations surrounding Netanyahu’s
participation, which has moved the opening of the walk to the indoor
CNE Direct Energy arena instead of an open-field stadium, and is
forcing participants to arrive far in advance to pass security checks.
“I’m a huge supporter of Israel, and we’ve been going on the walk for
years, and love it,” 50-year-old Ken Gruber of Toronto said, “but this
year, I may just pass on it. it’s too much hassle.”
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