(Jacksonville, FL) -- On Sunday, May 30th, Christ the Messiah Church - JAX, together with the newly-formed northeast Florida chapter of StandWithus/Southeast, hosted a spectacularly proud and exuberant rally with Christians and Jews unequivocally supporting Israel and strongly condemning the onslaught of violent and global antisemitism we have seen. It was a magnificent, heartfelt bonding of our two faiths and the messaging could not have been more clearly and passionately proclaimed. Joining our Christian brothers and sisters in love and faith, rejoicing in our mutual love and irreducible support for the State of Israel, once again confirms our aligned eternal trust in our One True God, and the shared, core values of our Judeo-Christian heritage.
More than one hundred of us gathered in the broad green front lawn of the Church on San Jose Boulevard in Jacksonville, Florida as the blaring sounds of three Shofars announced the beginning of our highly charged rally.
Steering Committee member Dr. Alan I. Segal, Au.D greeted all and introduced Reverend/Doctor Ed Bez, of the Church of Christ the Messiah. Pastor Ed could not have been more kind and loving, more fervent in his passionate support for Israel and the Jewish people. With tears in his eyes, he emphasized the commonality of our goals and the pain he feels for the lack of support of many Christians during the Holocaust. His rock-solid commitment to our common cause was beyond inspirational. It was Pastor Bez and his Pastor wife Rachel, who mobilized their loving congregation to plan and host the chapter's first event, and we will forever remain grateful.
Rabbi Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, a retired local rabbi made some lovely additional comments acknowledging our collective appreciation of Christianity’s worldwide evolution towards the total support of Israel and our people.
Dr. Alan I. Segal, Au.D addressed our crowd with pure truth, and truth alone. He stated that Israel’s citizens were randomly and vehemently attacked with over 4000 rockets by Hamas, 600 of which mistakenly landed inside Gaza. Hiding their launch sites amidst their own civilians in densely populated areas including hospitals and kindergartens, only served to increase the numbers of the casualties, so that Israel would be blamed.
He continued that, "amidst the terror and fury of three weeks of non-stop violence, Hamas still holds the greatest advantage of all, which is peace— which Hamas, of course, refuses to deploy. If Israel’s enemies were to lay down their arms tomorrow, there would be peace. If Israel laid down their arms there would be genocide. We stand for the country that has offered peace five separate times to the Palestinians since 1947, only to be summarily rejected without so much as a serious counter offer."
Lonnie Lane, Steering Committee member was showered by love from all as she celebrated her 80th birthday. Her children set up a StandWithUs fundraiser in her honor that has raised over $1,200 to date.
Isabel Balotin, founding member of the northeast Florida chapter who organized the rally, shared the mission of StandWithUs as an international non-profit and non-partisan Israel education organization that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as challenge misinformation and fight antisemitism.
She thanked everyone who had lent their time, energy and resources to our rally, especially the Steering Committee members and the Christ the Messiah congregation. She reflected that "our common love of Israel and the Jewish people brought the two groups together in total unity. May the bond we have forged never be broken and may we go from strength to strength together to make the world a more loving and acceptable place." Isabel encouraged everyone to report antisemitic incidents to the northeast chapter so it can be properly handled by StandWithUs/Southeast.
After the speakers gave their heartfelt, inspirational presentations, the Israeli songs of Am Yisrael Chai and Hatikvah were loudly sung by all of us, followed by some serious, frenetic flag and banner waving on both sides of San Jose Boulevard, with countless cars and trucks waving back and honking. We stand with Israel— Am Yisrael Chai! The people of Israel live!
Of the hundred or so fervent supporters of Israel and the Jewish people who joined us on Sunday, May 30, many were from Hadassah’s Jacksonville Chapter, headed by Goldie Lansky. Others included local Israelis, several survivors of the Holocaust, residents from our local beach communities, members of local synagogues: Etz Chaim, Congregation Ahavath Chesed (The Temple), the Jacksonville Jewish Center, Beth-El at the Beaches synagogue, Chabad and Rabbis Dov Kentof and Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, as well as congregants of two other local churches.
As the rally drew to a close, we all gazed upwards in stunned wonderment towards the clouds as two magnificent rainbows appeared— a sublimely beautiful and unusual sight in late afternoon with no trace of any recent rain whatsoever. All of us gazed at the Heavens with reverence as we quietly accepted the rainbows as a truly loving message from our Creator that His blessings will forever be upon us.
For more information and to contact Sara Gold Rafel, executive director of StandWithUs/Southeast visit: www.standwithus.com or call: 561-961-0752
Antisemitism has remained a permanent global fixture since God gave us our Torah and selected us as His Chosen People some 34 centuries ago. Yet even as one of the 2-3 smallest religions on earth, we have nonetheless survived the ruthless, unending hatred, persecution and mayhem of every single dynasty, empire, totalitarian regime, colonial power and ruthlessly fanatic, religious dictatorship of every generation.
How is such an enduring miracle even remotely possible?
The answer is revealed and indelibly concretized through the Bible’s eternal and single most powerful message:
“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” - Genesis 12:1-3