Supporters Gather in Solidarity With Israel in Concord

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Supporters holding Israeli flags watch Rabbi Marc Philippe sing in Hebrew in front of the New Hampshire State House on Wednesday night.

Above, Israeli emissary Guy Ben David sings a song in Hebrew in front of the New Hampshire State House in Concord on Wednesday night. ANI FREEDMAN photo


CONCORD – The crowd was overcome with emotion when Israeli emissary Guy Ben David played his guitar and sang a song in Hebrew for about 200 people in support of Israel in front of the State House Wednesday evening.

Ben David left the stage in tears as many others in the crowd cried alongside him, waving Israeli flags.

“Let the world see with its own eyes that there is a good side and a bad side,” Ben David said.

Ben David has been in New Hampshire since August, away from his family in Israel. He spoke of his experience since the violence began on Saturday. He said while his childhood in Jerusalem got him accustomed to living under the threat of terror, the Hamas attack was like nothing he had seen before.

The Jewish Federation of New Hampshire hosted the gathering in solidarity with Israel in light of the recent attacks on Israel by the terrorist group Hamas. The crowd surrounded the statue of Daniel Webster as politicians and members of the community unified in support of Israel.

Ben David discouraged the crowd from watching any of the violent videos that have emerged online of Hamas’ attacks, but to instead focus on the morale of Israel.

He spoke of friends currently serving in the Israel Defense Force, sending him photos each day of letters that children have sent them, asking for their protection and to come home safely. One of his friends did not, though, and was killed in combat at age 25, Ben David said. While Ben David said he missed his family, who are in lockdown in their homes, and his friends fighting on the front lines, he conveyed gratitude for New Hampshire.

“Thank you, New Hampshire, for making me feel safe inside this chaos,” Ben David said.

Director of the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire Allyson Guertin thanked New Hampshire residents and state representatives for attending and continuing to unite to support Israel. “The Jewish community around our state sprang into action,” Guertin said on a stage in front of the State House. “New Hampshire’s Jewish community will never give up its commitment to the people of Israel.”

Ambassador Meron Reuben of the Consulate General of Israel to New England came onstage to speak, after having traveled to other cities in New England including Stamford, Providence, and Boston.

“The outpouring of solidarity and grief of communities Jewish and non-Jewish around New England has been heartwarming and impressive,” Reuben said.

Reuben stated that over 1,200 people have been killed, over 3,000 wounded, and over 150 people classified as missing or captives of Hamas since Saturday’s attack.

“It is nothing less than war crime after war crime,” Reuben said. The ambassador accredited the United States’ support for helping save lives in Israel via the Iron Dome missile defense system, which the U.S. has continued to fund, according to President Joe Biden. Reuben called Biden’s speech on Tuesday a “watershed of support” that he has never seen from a U.S. president before.

President Biden’s speech emphasized the United States’ continued support for Israel. “We are going to continue to stand united, supporting the people of Israel who are suffering unspeakable losses, opposing the hatred and violence of terrorism,” Biden said.

Biden confirmed in his speech that at least 14 American citizens have been killed and an unknown number are being held hostage by Hamas.

The Israeli government reported that the United States has offered military aid for the Israel Defense Force through planes and weapons. The Empire State Building and the White House were also lit up in white and blue, the colors of the Israeli flag, according to the government’s statement.

The Israeli government called the assault a “Jewish genocide” in their statement.

Rep. Joe Schapiro (D-Cheshire 16) has witnessed anti-Semitism first-hand in the New Hampshire legislature. In December 2020, Schapiro said in a phone call, former Rep. Dawn Johnson (R-Belknap 3) posted a link on Twitter to a neo-Nazi website with an anti-Semitic image. The ethics committee did not take the case, Schapiro said, because it was unclear if these beliefs related to her political position.

In October 2021, Rep. James Spillane (R-Rockingham 2) also posted an anti-Semitic image, Schapiro said, of an anti-Semitic street mural painted in London. Spillane was reprimanded by the Legislative Ethics Committee for the post.

“Anti-Semitism is a real, persistent force,” Schapiro said.

After Schapiro and several other Jewish representatives requested the House Speaker to move a House session that was scheduled on the first day of Passover this year, the small group of Jewish legislators received a concerning email.

A man representing the group New England White Network told Schapiro and the other representatives that he agreed with the Speaker’s choice to schedule on Passover, and that the Speaker “should not allow Jews to browbeat him to get what they want.”

Schapiro said he does not fear for his own safety as a public figure with a Jewish identity, but he worries about the rise in hate speech throughout the country as it has become more politically polarized.

“When I received that email, I wasn’t that concerned,” Schapiro said, because he thought the email had been sent to the whole legislature. “When I found out that it was only written to a handful of Jewish legislators, then I felt more concerned.”

There have also been incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti in Portsmouth and Laconia.

Jewish Federation Director Guertin thanked state representatives in attendance, including House Speaker Sherman Packard (R-Rockingham 16) and Rep. James Spillane (R-Rockingham 16), who Rep. Schapiro said had previously been admonished by the House for his anti-Semitic social media post. Packard read a letter from Governor Chris Sununu, who voiced a firm stance against anti-Semitism, stating, “Anti-Semitism will never be tolerated here.”

Several of the members of the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire read statements from Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01), Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), Sen. Maggie Hassan, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen who declared their solidarity for Israel and echoed President Biden’s stance alongside the Israeli people against Hamas.

Jackie and Glen Davis, retired residents of Concord, attended the event proudly wearing blue-and-white t-shirts and caps they had gotten from one of their trips to Israel. They said they were happy to see such a large turnout at the vigil as a community sharing grief and hope over what is going on in Israel.

The couple was moved by Ben David’s speech. “Hearing first-hand from someone who isn’t there, but who I’m sure is broken-hearted not to be there helping them,” Glen Davis said.

Like Rep. Schapiro, Jackie and Glen have felt safe in their Jewish identity in New Hampshire for the most part, but there were times when they lived in Leominster, Massachusetts when they felt threatened. “Our synagogue that we went to there was defaced,” Jackie said. They called this a “rarity,” after it happened twice, and never felt their lives were in danger.

Jackie said she has cousins who live in Haifa, located in northern Israel, who she hasn’t been in touch with since the war broke out. She said after hearing Hamas has expanded their efforts to target other parts of Israel from Ambassador Reuben, she plans to check in on them.

The event concluded with Ben David singing the Israeli national anthem in Hebrew. Most of the crowd sang along with him, waving their Israeli flags.

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