1,000 Attend Solidarity Rally in Jerusalem

About 1,000 people, mostly American visitors, gathered yesterday afternoon at the Hurva Plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem to demonstrate their support for the Jewish state at the first Rally in Israel event.

Speakers at the rally, which followed a march from Zion Gate through the Jewish Quarter, included Housing and Construction Minister Natan Sharansky; U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli, a New Jersey Democrat; Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat; and Rabbi Avi Weiss, a political activist and congregational leader from New York.

Billed as apolitical, the rally was meant to send a message to Israelis as well as to Diaspora Jews, rally organizers said. The goal is both to "show Israel that we're with them" and to "go back home, and explain to people that they can come to Israel," said Allan Marks, one of six tour guides working for Rally in Israel.

But Israelis themselves did not appear to be participating in the rally. Those who did attend, many of them English-speaking students and immigrants, criticized the lack of publicity.

Some 300 North Americans arrived on the $995 airfare and hotel package arranged by Rally in Israel, a month-old organization headed by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, New Jersey. Other participants were already on vacation here and decided to stop in at the rally.

The vast majority of participants appeared to be North American, but rally organizers said people also came from England, France, Australia and Sweden and that some of the participants were Christian.

Although no particular political policies were espoused by the speakers, participants cheered at comments more closely associated with the right than the left.