Over 50,000 supporters march in Walk With Israel rally in Toronto

Buoyed by the recovery of four Israeli hostages in Gaza, a record-breaking number joined the annual Walk with Israel in Toronto on Sunday morning.

Buoyed by the recovery of four Israeli hostages in Gaza on Saturday, a record-breaking attendance of more than 50,000 people are believed to have joined the annual Walk with Israel in Toronto.

“I think the other remarkable thing about today is that we have a high Iranian community that has shown up for us; Christian community that has shown up for us, as well. It’s extraordinary. It’s extremely meaningful,” Leshem added.

The march, organized by the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), also featured survivors from Kibbutz Be’eri, an Israeli community on the border with Gaza that suffered heavy casualties following the Oct. 7 invasion by Hamas.

“It makes us remember again, as always, that the Jewish people have been here for thousands of years, and we’re here to stay, and we have a very big mission to do in Israel, and there’s a mission to do here in the face of hatred,” one female member of the devastated community told the Post.

The survivor said that it was encouraging to hear about Saturday’s rescue of four Israelis abducted by Hamas but that it remained “difficult at the same time.”

“We still have 120 of them being held hostage and having their freedom taken away from them,” she said. “But each and every one of them that we get to release, that’s a huge comfort for every one of us.”

Noah Shack, the vice president countering antisemitism and hate with the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, was blown away by the attendance, which Toronto Police initially estimated to be well over 40,000, though the figures climbed as the day progressed. In a press release published Sunday afternoon, UJA projected that the number eclipsed 50,000.

“It is record-breaking attendance,” Shack told the Post. “We’ve been doing this event for the last 55 years and it’s just an unprecedented show of support from the Jewish community and beyond the Jewish community. It’s really inspiring to see.”

On Saturday, local law enforcement arrested Jonathan Szeftel, a 33-year-old man, for throwing a rock at a synagogue in Toronto, destroying a window. The skyrocketing levels of antisemitism in Canada were at the forefront of Shack’s mind.

“I never thought that we would see anything like this here in Canada. It’s absolutely shameful that this kind of a situation is facing anyone here, but in this case, particularly the Jewish community. We’re very grateful for the Toronto Police Service.”

A large police presence was scattered along the marching route on sections of Bathurst Street, a historically Jewish neighbourhood in Toronto, as interactions with counter-protesters were relatively tame. On at least one occasion, law enforcement used buses to block the two contingents from directly engaging with one another.

A couple of dozen anti-Israel demonstrators lined the path at various points carrying Palestinian flags and loudspeakers. On several occasions, counter-protesters chanted at the mostly Canadian Jewish crowd to, “Go back to Europe! Leave Palestine alone!”

One pro-Israel passerby encouraged fellow marchers not to get distracted by the counter-protester presence. “You can’t fix stupid. You’re fighting the wrong way if you’re trying to reason with them. I might as well reason with the bus,” the middle-aged man joked, pointing to the anti-Israel activists. “There’s no way to get through to them. There’s no way you can reason with them.”

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