By: Rebecca Bitton
Thousands of Jews, along with non-Jewish friends of Israel from all different parts of the world and different points on the religious spectrum, walked together on Sunday, May 30th for one reason: to demonstrate the Toronto Jewish community’s solidarity with Israel.
After a moving speech by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, walkers, sponsors, mayoral candidates and many other political representatives burst out the doors of the Ricoh Coliseum and commenced this year’s 42nd annual Walk with Israel.
“I want to thank the Toronto Jewish Community and the Toronto Jewish Federation,” PM Netanyahu told the enthusiastic crowd. “Year after year, you march for Israel. Year after year, you march for truth. Year after year, you show us that we are not alone.”
“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s historical appearance before the Jewish community here in Toronto presents us with two very important imperatives, one directed to the members of our community and one directed to the people of Israel,” said UJA Federation’s President and CEO, Ted Sokolsky. “For us, living here within the Jewish community of Toronto, the visit speaks to the passionate bond that connects us with Israel and the vital role that bond has in shaping our identity as Jews and as a community. For the people of Israel, I hope they find strength in recognizing that bond as well. I hope also they realize that the State of Israel is so much the stronger when it understands its pivotal role in ensuring thriving Jewish communities across the Diaspora and connecting us all as one people.
Walking on a beautiful day in downtown Toronto, lakeshore on the right of you, Coronation Park filled with beautiful green trees on the left, a mass of Israel supporters all with different coloured shirts from different schools and Jewish groups were led by Israeli Minister of Diaspora, Yuli Edelstein.
Annette, a walker who has walked with Israel six times before, tells of her granddaughter who turned to her and said, “Bubbie, when we walk we can pretend that were are the Israelites leaving Egypt and that we are walking together in the hot sun…this is what it must have been like.” Her granddaughter and grandson, both proud fundraisers among the hundreds of other children, were not too far from the truth in their description of today’s walk.
One of those colours that could be seen off in the distance is the orange colour of “Chai walkers”. These walkers, celebrated at the start of today’s opening ceremonies, raised over $1,800 each for UJA’s project for the Ethiopian children of Bat Yam.
Six year-old Noah Alter, who has been on the walk five times, raised $5,000 for UJA’s moving initiative. When asked why he walked, Noah responded with, “I want to raise money for Israel and I like to walk with my friends.”
Friends and family were rewarded after their walk at the RioCan festival where a Kosher BBQ, carnival games and rides, a petting zoo, camels, and live entertainment ended a sun and fun-filled day of Israeli solidarity.