Sunday, June 23, 2024

Toronto ‘Walk with Israel’ event held amid high security, faceoffs with protesters

First Published:

Thousands of members of Toronto’s Jewish community marched down a major city artery on Sunday as part of an annual pro-Israel event that unfolded amid heightened security and protests along the route.

The United Jewish Appeal held its annual “Walk with Israel,” which involves a five-kilometre walk and a festival in the city’s north end.

March participants, who were expected to turn out in record numbers, waved Israeli flags and carried posters of those taken hostage during the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that triggered the latest war with Israel.

The UJA estimated that 50,000 people participated, but Toronto police said they won’t have an official estimate until the event is fully wrapped up later on Sunday.

The march was accompanied by a strong police presence and private security personnel, with a large stretch of Bathurst Street blocked off for the event. Marchers encountered two groups of protesters within the first hour of the walk, with police using buses to obstruct demonstrators’ view of the event.

Duelling chants of “free, free Palestine” and “bring them home” rang out when the groups crossed paths at the corner of Bathurst Street and Sheppard Avenue and some heated exchanges occurred. Police officers formed barriers between the two groups and intervened in confrontations.

Several pro-Palestinian protesters encountered along the march route declined a request for comment. Their placards and chants expressed opposition to Israel’s massive offensive in Gaza since Oct. 7.

The United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto’s Noah Shack said the amount of security surrounding the event was “a sad testament to where our city is right now.”

In an interview before the march began, he said there’s been “an explosion of hate” directed at Toronto’s Jewish community since the start of the latest war and the event was a show of support and resilience.

“Walk with Israel” attendees also included some people whose family members were taken hostage by Hamas.

Avichai Brodutch, whose wife and three children were released from captivity in November, said it was “really important for us to come over to Toronto and meet the community and tell our story to the people of Canada.”

“I feel at home being here and seeing everybody come and showing their support,” said Brodutch, whose brother lives in Toronto.

Brodutch said the community is also celebrating the rescue of four Israeli hostages from Gaza on Saturday.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said Sunday that at least 274 Palestinians, including dozens of children, were killed, as part of that rescue operation.

Toronto resident Maayan Shavit said her cousin is still being held hostage by Hamas.

“We know from the beginning that she’s being held underground,” she said, adding that her family is hoping for a “miracle.”

Shavit said she wants the world to understand “that human beings are not for trade.”

“You don’t trade people … they are not soldiers, they are civilians.”

Several groups representing Jews who oppose Israel’s actions in Gaza urged community members to instead sit with the students at a pro-Palestinian encampment on the University of Toronto campus on Sunday.

“For a growing number of Jews here in Canada, witnessing the continued siege and assault on Gaza fills us with horror and grief for what is being done in our name,” Jonathan Brown Gilbert, a University of Toronto graduate student at the encampment said in an emailed statement a day before the march.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2024.

READ MORE: Police clear York University protest encampment a day after it emerges

More Top News

Paralympic athlete from Burlington set to compete in Paris Olympics

A local athlete is getting ready for the competition of her life. Eighteen-year-old Katie Cosgriffe from Burlington will soon be in Paris to compete against...

Soaring Spirit Festival marks Indigenous Day in Stoney Creek

The sounds of drums and regalia filled the air for the grass dance at the 16th annual Soaring Spirit Festival And Powwow in Stoney...

Evening weather forecast for June 21, 2024

Shelly Marriage shares the forecast for June 21, 2024 and the upcoming weekend.

Brantford couple still looking to recover stolen trailer one year later

A Brantford couple opened up to CHCH News about a crime that stole their plans for the future. It centres on the theft of...

Sportsline: Former Hamilton Ticats all-star receiver Luke Tasker

VIDEO: Coming off injuries in 2019 and the CFL's cancelled COVID-19 season in 2020, Hamilton Tiger-Cats all-star receiver Luke Tasker walked away from football....

Hamilton hospital delays nearly 100 tonsil and adenoid surgeries since death of 2 kids

The president of McMaster Children’s Hospital says approximately 100 tonsil and adenoid surgeries have been delayed after two children died following the procedures since...