BERLIN (JTA) — A moment of silence for civilian victims of the conflict in Gaza opened a pro-Israel rally in Berlin.
Some 1,500 people gathered Sunday, many waving Israeli flags, for the rally, which included speeches by Jewish leaders and representatives of all mainstream political parties.
It was one of three such events held Sunday in Germany’s biggest Jewish population centers – Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich.
The events were dwarfed by recent pro-Palestinian demonstrations, but organizers said they were content to get out their message of solidarity with Israel and their sympathy for civilian victims.
Frankfurt’s event drew about 2,000 Israel supporters, according to Sacha Stawski, president of the Frankfurt-based, pro-Israel media watchdog "Honestly Concerned." Reports put Munich’s pro-Israel rally crowd at about 1,100.
In Frankfurt, participants were asked to refrain from honking car horns, or from dancing at the rally, out of respect for the victims, Stawski told JTA in a telephone interview.
"There was much talk today about Palestinian children and civilians who are victimized by Hamas. And about how Israel has the right to defend itself and must defend
itself. And that it has to help Palestinians free themselves from Hamas."
Lala Süsskind, president of the Jewish Community of Berlin, urged Berlin’s significant Muslim community to "not let yourselves be influenced by propaganda" that "blames only Israel for all problems."
There are some 200,000 Muslims and about 12,000 Jews in Germany’s capital. On Saturday, some 8,000 anti-Israel protesters demonstrated in Berlin, according to reports.
"We hope that our Muslim neighbors in Berlin will not turn against the Jews living here, that they will not allow the conflict to be carried out here," Süsskind said.
Though there were small counter-demonstrators by both Jews and Arabs on the fringes of Sunday’s rally in Berlin, the only clashes were verbal.