Thousands of Montrealers turn out to celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary

Montrealers turn out in droves for Israel 75th anniversary rally

Despite a bit of inclement weather, some five thousand Montrealers, including many students from the island’s Jewish high schools, turned out April 26 for a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the rebirth of Israel.

The participants first gathered at Phillips Square for the first time in several years, and then proceeded in a massive parade of blue and white flags to Place du Canada.

The enthusiasm was especially intense as the participants danced to music provided by James Karls and batted around numerous colourful beach balls.Numerous dignitaries were on hand, including Israeli Consul-General Paul Hirschson, Consuls-general from Morocco, Panama, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Mexico, Germany and Armenia; Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather, a representative of D’Arcy McGee MNA Elisabeth Prass,Montreal Opposition leader and St. Laurent city councillor Aref Salem and St. Laurent borough councillor Jacques Cohen, Côte St. Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Hampstead Mayor Jeremy Levi and councillors Michael Goldwax and Jack Edery, Pointe Claire Mayor Tim Thomas, Dollard des Ormeaux councillor Errol Johnson, Côte des Neiges-NDG councillors Sonny Moroz and Stephanie Valenzuela, former CSL councillor David Tordjman, Eta Yudin of CIJA, Marvin Rotrand of B’nai Brith Canada’s League For Human Rights, Rabbi Reuben Poupko, Rabbi Mordechai Zeitz, Montreal Holocaust Museum director The Honourable Jacques Saada, the president of the CSUQ, members of the Filipino community and Iranian-Canadian supporters of Israel. Hirschson told the cheering crowd that “we’re now almost 10 million people in Israel and we’re only just beginning.”

“By our 100th birthday in 2048, we’ll be over 15 million people in Israel. The first 75 years were about establishment, we created an innovative economy, bringing technology to the world in many industries; we built a defence and security infrastructure, ensuring we overcome threats past and present; and we laid the groundwork for cultural excellence — art, dance, theatre, film and more. Together, with Jews and Jewish organizations around the world, we were the first at Ukraine’s borders, bringing aid. We are proudly number one, both our government agencies and our many NGOs, at bringing drinking water and electricity to remote villages across Africa. Over 350,000 African farmers have come to Israel for training in modern agricultural methods.”

Hirschson added that Israel is “making peace.

“Full peaceful diplomatic relations with Egypt and Jordan, with the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bahrain, Sudan and just two months ago, Chad opened up an embassy in Israel, bringing us to a new reality — more than half of the Arabs in the world are now our partners. We still need a deal with the rest, I know, and with some work, it will come. But for the first time ever, we are more than halfway there. There is an expiry date for the Arab-Israel conflict, and we’re only just beginning. The next 75 years is what is going to really be exciting. Chag Sameach, everybody, let’s make this a party!”

There were also video greetings, the first from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Friends of Israel around the world, together we’re celebrating 75 years of Israel’s independence. What a transformation it’s been to our people. Seventy-five years ago, we emerged from the Holocaust, scattered around the globe, decimated, annihilated by the worst evil in history. Yet today, Israel is a rising power around the world. It’s a juggernaut, one that is esteemed by the nations around the world, one that is helping people around so many countries in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America and elsewhere. We’ve become the example of how you build something, seemingly from nothing. We do more with less. But it’s not from nothing that we built this — we built this based on the age old dream that we never gave up, to return to our homeland, to be able to defend ourselves, to be able to create and forge a future, a future of peace not only for ourselves but others as well. And indeed, we’ve achieved peace, first with Egypt and Jordan, and most recently, in the Abraham Accords with four other Arab states. I intend to lead the expansion of this peace. We have a brilliant future ahead of us, it’s possible if we march toward it together. Despite the robust arguments we do have in Israel’s robust democracy, we will march forward together!”

The next video greeting was from the leader of the federal Conservative Party and leader of the Official Opposition leader Pierre Poilievre.

“Today, we celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary. We celebrate the return of the Jews to their ancestral and indigenous homeland. Finally, in 1948, after thousands of years in diaspora, suffering persecution and hardships, the Jewish people successfully reestablished sovereignty in their ancestral homeland. On Israeli Independence Day, we celebrate the resilience of the Jewish people, after decades of unimaginable oppression across the globe, most notably and most horrifically, the Holocaust. Ultimately, the Jewish people triumphed and reclaimed their natural right to be masters of their own fate. Even so, today, Israel continues to face many threats and challenges. Today’s celebration comes just weeks after a series of deadly terrorist attacks in the West Bank and Tel Aviv. As Canadians, it is our duty to condemn this violence in the strongest terms and to continue to stand with Israel as Israel defends its right to exist in peace and security. Israel represents a beacon of light in the Middle East, even in the face of these ongoing trials. Israel doesn’t compromise our shared values of democracy, equality and peace, these values that we are celebrating today. Israel’s democracy is dynamic and strong, its society is open and free. The Israeli story continues to inspire us and remind us that freedom will always prevail. On behalf of Canada’s Conservatives, Happy Israel Independence Day!”

The third video greeting was from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Today, we’re coming together to celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary and the close bonds between our two countries. We have one of the largest Jewish communities in the world.... While we’re here to celebrate today, I’d also like to recognize the frightening rise of antisemitism in our country. Attacks against the Jewish people go against everything we stand for, that’s why we’re stepping up. Through our anti-racism strategy, we’ve adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism. Last year, we invested in the construction of a new Holocaust Museum in Montreal and passed legislation against the denial or downplaying of the Holocaust. And we will continue to support Canada’s special envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, The Honourable Irwin Cotler, and the leadership of our own MPs, like Anthony Housefather and Rachel Bendayan. There’s a lot more work to do and we’ll continue working with you. We also celebrate the promise of peace and stability and the respect for human rights, and a promise of a solid democracy....On behalf of the Government of Canada, I wish Israelis, Jewish communities across Canada, and all those celebrating this important milestone, a Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach!”

“I’m very excited to be here,” said Mayor Levi of Hampstead. “It’s a great event and I’m looking forward to the next 75 years.”

“It’s a wonderful day,” Mayor Brownstein of CSL said. “It’s a miracle that the Jewish people have this country that has grown and is a model for all communities.”

The event concluded with the awarding of two $500 Visa gift cards to an École Maimonide student and a youth under 18 and a trip to Israel. Cantor Adam Stotland led a prayer for Israel, and sang O Canada and Hatikvah.
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