Pro-Israel and Palestinian demonstrators protest outside West Bloomfield JCC.
Tensions were high and emotions ran strong during a protest outside of the West Bloomfield Jewish Community Center Thursday evening. Both Israeli and Palestinian supporters stood on opposite sides of Maple Road with signs, megaphones and heavy hearts.
The Palestinian group, which was organized by several groups including the Detroit Light Brigade and Jewish Voice for Peace, was there to protest the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) Michigan Region’s annual meeting. When pro-Israel supporters got word that a Palestinian group would be protesting, they chose to come out and counter with their own group.
The president of the ZOA’s Michigan Region, Eugene Greenstein of Farmington Hills, was outside with the rest of the Israeli supporters. He said there were no talks of moving the meeting to a different location.
“We heard about the protest on Sunday. [Moving the meeting] would be giving in to those who want to cause trouble,” he said.
Supporters for Israel began standing outside with American and Israeli flags about 4:30 p.m. singing songs and holding a wide variety of signs that included messages “Free Gaza From Hamas” and “Hamas Uses Children as Human Shields.” Counselors from the JCC Day Camps joined together in the singing of Salaam (Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu) which translates to “peace will come upon us.”
Ruth Moss of West Bloomfield, whose sign read “Israel left Gaza for peace and has received 5,000 rockets launched from Gaza,” explained that she was out there to make the message known to the public.
“I feel that the public needs to know that we support Israel and that Israel has the right to defend its sovereign territory,” she said.
Police from multiple forces including West Bloomfield and Novi came out to ensure the protest remained peaceful and the JCC remained secure. Each entrance to the JCC, as well as Henry Ford Hospital across the street, was blocked off except for people who had official business being there. Demonstrators were also not allowed to protest on the JCC property.
“The entire premises here is private property,” said West Bloomfield Chief of Police Michael Patton. “So when we first became aware of it, we met with the administrative staff here from the Jewish Community Center just to determine what their interests and wishes are and to see what limits and what they wanted us to do. We’re here as a neutral detached peace officer stance. We’re not here to support one side or the other. We do have a rule of law that we enforce, and that rule of law is that aspect of enforcing private property rights. So the determination was made by the staff here at the JCC that any protest activity was not going to be allowed on the campus.”
When the Palestinian group arrived around 6:15 p.m., the mood suddenly shifted from support to hostility. Each group screamed together toward the other side of the street. Chants of “Free free Palestine! Long live Palestine!” from one side and “Free Gaza from Hamas” and the singing of Hatikvah on the other drowned each other out.
“I would just like peace,” said Razan Mosharbash of Westland, a Palestinian supporter. “Peace is what we need right now; killing each other is not the answer.”
“I’m a Jewish person, and I’m just here to say that these Zionists don’t represent Judaism. They represent a racist, fascist ideology that’s based on occupation and murder of innocent Palestinian people. That’s not the heritage of Judaism,” Goldberg said.
Traffic was slowed on Maple Road and the roundabout connecting Maple and Drake roads as cars slowed to honk, give a thumbs up or just observe the situation.
Although tensions were high and voices were loud, each side was there with the same common hope, peace. Some hope arose during the protest as news spread that a 72 hour cease-fire had been agreed upon (a cease-fire that was not to last).
The protest continued throughout the evening, and each side stood strong.
“Seeing all of this support shows that people are really caring and loving Israel,” said Bruce Rubinfeld of Southfield. “I see people coming from all over, even non-Jewish people who show their support because they all understand that people cannot live with terror. Kids and families every night need to go in shelters, so we really need to show our solidarity and support.”
Michael Higer | JN Intern
Photos by Jerry Zolynsky