Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Sunday night that he would make his first visit to Israel since becoming Prime Minister in January of 2014, Shalom Toronto reports.
Harper’s announcement was made at the Jewish National Fund (JNF) annual fundraising gala Negev dinner which was held in Toronto. Prior to the speech, it was speculated that Harper would announce an Israel trip.
Harper has been a staunch supporter of Israel, a stance which found its expression shortly after his election, when he stood by the Jewish state during the Second Lebanon War against Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah.
Since then he has taken a consistently sympathetic line towards Israel; from the 2009 Cast Lead counterterrorism operation in Gaza, to attempts by the Palestinian Authority to isolate Israel diplomatically at the United Nations, and his uncompromising stance on the Iranian nuclear program.
The Canadian premier has repeatedly voiced his support for Israel "as a Jewish state" and his solidarity with it in its war against terrorism.
As Harper spoke at the JNF event, hundreds of pro-Arab activists gathered outside and protested against what they called Israel and the JNF’s "apartheid policies". Some were also holding up signs in protest of the “blockade of Gaza.”
Local police in large forces were on scene and prevented the demonstrators from entering the building.
Shalom Toronto reported that following his speech, the Canadian prime minister got on stage alongside the band and started playing the keyboard. He sang a few songs, including one by the Rolling Stones.
Harper received a standing ovation from the 5,000 heads of the local Jewish community who were in attendance. He then performed an encore, this time a Beatles song.