Toronto Jews Walk for Israel

Thousands of Jews greet PM Binyamin Netanyahu and walk the downtown and lakefront of Toronto on UJA's annual Walk for Israel.

Eli Stutz , | updated: 1:04 PM

Peter Ken
Peter Ken
Kortney Shapiro

It was a hot Sunday in downtown Toronto, as more than seven thousand Jews and supporters of Israel patiently waited to pass extensive airport-level security checks yesterday at RICOH Coliseum. They arrived to greet Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and to walk the streets of Toronto. The occasion: the annual UJA Walk for Israel. Every the year, the walk is a special event, in which Jews of all ages take part, raising funds for Israel. This year, though, was even more remarkable, with the walk being kicked off by the Israeli Prime Minister.

"When I arrived, the kids around me were raring to go. But Netanyahu's speech was delayed by an hour and a half, and families with small kids and strollers were getting somewhat impatient," said one attendee.  "But in the end, his speech was wonderful." Click here for more on the content of Netanyahu’s speech.

Netanyahu said that Torontonians are “surprisingly warm people,” as he described a walk that he took the day before in the city. He was given Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team sweatshirts for himself and his wife and children. “If you get me tickets to a hockey game, then I’ll definitely come back,” he quipped.

Several high-ranking Canadian officials also spoke. Noteworthy among them was Peter Kent, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Americas in the Canadian Cabinet, who impressed the crowd with his statements of support for Israel. “The Economist reported that Canada’s strong ties with Israel are unusual,” said Kent. “But there is nothing unusual about it. We have so many shared values of human rights.” Kent also spoke out against the world media who are biased against Israel. “Everyone attacks Israel, but where is the moral outrage on the other side? Palestinian squares are being named after terrorists. Where is the moral outrage of the media?”

Finally, two hours late, the walk got off to a start. Most of the walkers were families with young children and teenagers, many of whom were part of youth groups who walked in matching colors. One group sported T-shirts which read, “Offspring of Israelis in Canada.”

Kortney Shapiro, a twenty-something student of McGill University completed the whole route (she is pictured below, standing with Peter Kent). “There were so many volunteers at stations along with way. It was very heartwarming to see. To have Bibi here was really wonderful,” she said. When asked why she was walking, Shapiro replied, “If not now, when? If I don’t walk, then who will walk? We walk because we care about Israel. If we don’t support Israel, it may be gone tomorrow. We walk because we care. It’s who we are. Israel is my homeland.”

The walk itself spanned the Toronto lakefront, and then doubled back through the city streets toward the RICOH Coliseum, its last stop. Each station along the way was named for a different Israeli city: Eilat, Sederot, Bat Yam, Akko and Haztor Haglillit, Metulah, and finally Jerusalem.” The walkers were pleased to walk along the shore of Lake Ontario. “The route was very beautiful,” said one walker.

The Jewish Defense League (JDL) also attended the walk, but much earlier, and for a somewhat different purpose. Israel National News spoke with Eta and Julius Surasky, two JDL activists, who stood with approximately 100 JDL activists outside the RICHO Coliseum early that morning, across the street from a similar number of anti-Israel protesters.

The Surasky’s reported that the protest and anti-protest did not come to blows, with the Canadian police successfully keeping the protesters in check.

“We try to show up at any event where Israel’s reputation is besmirched, “ said Eta. “All of these anti Israel protests are organized by “Palestine House” a Toronto-based organization who operates under the guise of being an immigration organization, but whose real purpose is to demonize Israel. It’s a hotbed of anti-Israel activity, but it’s already under investigation by the Canadian government for receiving three million Federal tax dollars.”

“Jewish people really appreciate our efforts,” said Julius, “they honked as they passed by us this morning. We’re here in order to stand in the face of those who hate Israel, and to be a physical presence to confront them. That sends a message that we will not be victimized. When people hear Palestine House activists calling Netanyahu a war criminal and ridiculing our Prime Minister Stephen Harper, they understand them for what they really are. We are going to stand up and defend our rights for Israel.”