Thousands of enthusiastic supporters of Israel ran and walked during the 47th annual UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Walk with Israel, the largest event of its kind in Canada and second largest pro-Israel event in the Jewish diaspora. Participants included families, students, charitable organizations and churches.
Among the dignitaries who kicked off the walk were Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne, Consul General of Israel Galit Baram, leader of the Conservative Party Patrick Brown, Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak and many others.
Patrick Brown told CIJnews that the annual walk is an important celebration of the Jewish community as well as friendship between Canada and Israel. “There are ongoing issues that as a community we need to stand up for”, Brown said. “Last year we talked about the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions movement) and how important it was to pass a motion against BDS. When the community stands up and defends itself and says that we will never stand for anti-Semitism in this country, I think it’s important.”
“Events like these are an opportunity to say that we are proud of the Jewish community in Canada. We are proud of our friendship and we are proud to be an ally of Israel”.
Consul Baram told the crowd that it was heart warming to see such a huge outpouring of support for Israel in Toronto. “Democracy, multiculturalism and minority rights are just a few things Israel and Canada share in common. We appreciate the strong support Canadian government is giving to Israel.”
The goal of this year’s walk was to raise over $450,000 towards transformative projects in Israel, 100% of which will go directly towards agencies in Israel that are partnered with the UJA, including programs which support Israel’s Ethiopian community, hospitals, universities, job creation and youth employment in Bat Yam, Eilat and Sderot.
In recent years, UJA has focused its partnership on Sderot, a city which came to symbolize Israel’s remarkable resilience. Located just one kilometre from the Gaza Strip, it has been under relentless attack by Hamas terrorists who fired thousands of missiles from Gaza into Israel. The Sderot program was created in order to improve performance of students at school, to encourage community activism and involvement, enable youth to succeed, and encourage young adults to get a college education and well-paying jobs. Last summer, additional emphasis was placed on helping residents of Sderot cope with the trauma of rocket attacks and the conflict with nearby Gaza.
Ilana Shneider is the co-editor of CIJnews and the founding executive director of Canada-Israel Friendship Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the mutually beneficial, long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural ties between Canada and Israel. She can be reached at [email protected]