BOISE – Hadas Eliyaho, a 31-year-old former member of the Israel Defense Forces, stood at the foot of the Idaho Capitol building steps with an Israeli flag draped over her shoulder at the pro-Israel rally Sunday afternoon.
“I didn’t expect so many people,” Eliyaho, who moved to Boise from Israel six years ago, told the Idaho Statesman. “It sends a very strong message.”
Hundreds of people attended the event organized by the Idaho Stands with Israel Coalition.
“We ran out of the 500 shirts we gave away a half hour into handing them out,” Margee Sell, an event volunteer, told the Statesman in an email.
Demonstrators showed their support for Israel in its conflict with Hamas, a militant group that took control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority in 2007.
Since Hamas carried out a surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, when the attackers took hundreds captive, Israel has retaliated with airstrikes in Gaza that have razed neighborhoods and hit refugee camps and hospitals, according to news reports. According to the Associated Press, 9,770 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and 1,440 residents killed in Israel as of Sunday. AP called it “the deadliest and most destructive of the five wars fought between the sides” since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip.
Tables with the names and photos of 130 hostages taken by Hamas were set up on the Capitol steps for the event.
“It’s like setting a Shabbat table, but the hostages are not here to share Shabbat,” Janet Lawrence, one of the event organizers, told the Statesman. “It’s our way of keeping them in our minds and in our hearts.”
Speakers included faith leaders, politicians and those whose families have been affected by the conflict. Idaho Gov. Brad Little had intended to speak but was unable to attend after his flight was delayed, according to event organizers. State Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, read a message on the governor’s behalf, declaring Sunday as Idaho Stands with Israel Day.
“The United States of America and Idaho must stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel against this unconscionable act of evil and barbaric terrorist attack,” Crane said on behalf of Little.
The event’s speakers all discussed the importance of supporting Israel and asked attendees to contact their representatives in Washington, D.C., to urge their support as well.
Idahoan Stacey Singh shared a message from her son Joshua Singh, who moved from Idaho to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces. The Israeli military recently called him out of his reserve unit to fight.
“He said we only have one home, one land, and we will fight to protect our women and children,” Singh said. “We don’t fight because we hate what’s in front of us. We fight because we love what’s behind us. And if we fall, then we lose everything.”
gather in Boise
In the past few weeks, several community groups, including Boise to Palestine, have organized two large protests in support of Palestinians.
Nearly 100 people gathered across the street from the Capitol on Oct. 21 at Cecil D. Andrus Park, holding Palestinian flags and signs, and donning keffiyehs – a traditional headdress often worn as scarves that have become symbolic of the Palestinian identity.
Hundreds of community members again protested, chanted and marched through downtown Boise in support of a free Palestine on Saturday, KTVB reported. Morrighan Nyx, an organizer for the Party for Socialism and Liberation told the Statesman, that protesters are demanding an end to the siege on the Gaza Strip.
Nyx, a 25-year-old Boise resident, said protesters are also asking for the U.S. government to end its aid to Israel and for a free Palestine “from the river to the sea.” Israel largely controls the economy in the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinians remain subject to Israeli restrictions on travel and trade. About 700,000 people were displaced after Israel was created out of the British Mandate of Palestine, once home to about 1.2 million Arabs.
The U.S. government has long supported Israel’s military, contributing roughly $130 billion in the last 72 years, Axios reported. President Joe Biden has requested another $14.3 billion for Israel.
“As Americans, our tax dollars go to funding the bombs that drop in Palestinian neighborhoods, on Palestinian hospitals,” Nyx said. “It is essential that we – living in the belly of the beast – are able to demand that we will not allow our money to fund genocide against people of the third world.”