It was a quiet Friday, one in which I wanted to study and prepare for the coming Shabbat, when my phone rang. Renee said, “Did you get the flyer? The one about the CAIR anti-Israel rally this afternoon at 4:30? I thought you might want to do something about it.”
“No, I didn’t get the flyer. What’s happening.” And that began the end of a quiet afternoon.
CAIR – Council on American-Islamic Relations – was sponsoring a rally from 4:30 to 6:00 to “to decry Israel’s attack on humanitarian aid ship share.” Probably the last thing in the world I wanted to do on this very hot June afternoon was to stand on a street corner and protest the protestors. I thought about it for a moment. Could I, in all honesty and integrity, sit back in my comfortable, air conditioned home and do nothing? And what about my ten-year-old granddaughter who was with me until her parents got off work. Should I take her to a rally like this that could conceivably turn dangerous?
I thought about it for a moment and knew I had to act. If not me, then who? If not now, then when? I quickly forwarded the article on to my email list asking anyone and everyone that could to join me at 4:00 at the intersection. I called people whom I knew wouldn’t receive the email prior to getting home and told them of our intentions and asked them to call as many people as they could and to please join us.
My sister was across town with her daughter who is due to have a baby any day now. I called her and said, “Is the baby coming?” “No,” she responded. “Then I have something more important for you to do.” I gave her instructions and was happy when she said, “OK.” I wasn’t sure I would leave my daughter in that situation, but she is as committed to Israel as I am and she knew I wouldn’t be calling if it wasn’t significant.
I grabbed a box of Israeli window flags from my garage and threw them in the car along with a generous supply of ice water. An hour and a half in the sun could be a very long time and water would be necessary, not only for myself but for others who might show up. I donned white pants and my blue tee that showed crossed Israeli and America flags and said, “United We Stand…Divided We Fall” and backed out of the driveway. My heart and head were racing, and I wondered if I was walking into trouble. My granddaughter and I prayed as we drove towards the site of the rally where my son would pick her up. Rushing toward the freeway, I explained words to her like ‘flotilla’, ‘humanitarian’ and once again, “God’s love for the land and people of Israel.”
In the beginning Renee and I were the only ones at the intersection where the rally was supposed to be held. We took our stand across the street from the anti-Israel bunch and began waving Israeli flags at passers by. At her suggestion, I called the local talk radio show, a conservative station, and told host Lee Matthews what we were doing. He put it on the air and soon, cars were passing by and honking in agreement with the two of us. I had told the Lee that I had Israeli flags I would give out to anyone who pulled over and asked for one.
A man in a white pickup truck was stopped at the traffic light, going in the opposite direction. He sat watching us as he waited on the light and I hollered, “Would you like a flag?” He nodded yes and I ran one across two traffic lanes to him. He took the flag and said, “I’m going to park and come help you.” His name was David.
Every fifteen minutes, the radio station called for a report on what was happening. I was delighted to tell them people were listening and responding to us. He wanted to know how many there were at the CAIR site and I told him I could see seven, which later turned to eleven. As we talked on the radio, I continued to wave flags and smile at people.
Others came and joined us. One couple, Mike and Betty, said they were sitting on their porch in El Reno – a town approximately thirty miles away, when they heard on the radio about the anti-anti-Israel rally. Mike looked at his wife and said, “We better get down there.”
Another couple heard about it on the radio as they were driving home from work and they detoured to our location to join us.
A beautifully dressed young woman who lives in Northwest Oklahoma City heard about it on the radio, pulled into the Walgreen’s parking lot across the street and waited for the very long light to change so she could literally run across the street to join us. She grabbed a flag and began standing watch with us.
And they continued to come. They were individuals. They were couples. Some were on their way home from work. Some were just driving by. Others heard about it on the radio and were moved to action. They were Christians and they knew this was late on a Friday afternoon when Jews were preparing for Shabbat and most likely wouldn’t be able to come join in the rally, so they responded to the invitation and stood on the hot corner, waving flags and shouting “support Israel.” My spirits were lifted. I was thrilled to see the response and to hear the conversations of the people who joined us. They cheerfully pulled flags out of the bag and started waving them and giving them out and when we ran out, I ran back to the car and brought all I had.
We had a sign that said, “Honk for Israel” and people put the flags on their car windows and drove around the block two, three and four times honking for Israel. When the anti-Israel CAIR bunch mimicked our sign with one that said, “honk for Islam,” people on our side of the street honked even louder and longer.
Our group had grown considerably. There were suddenly twelve and then twenty and more came as some left. One woman, riding on a large motorbike flying an American flag pulled into the intersection, parked the bike and said, “I came to join you.” I laughed and said, “Welcome Biker Babe” and we continued to wave flags, hold up signs supporting Israel. I couldn’t help but give praise to God that the response from those joining us and those passing by with honking horns, were so supportive.
The CAIR group watched us and even sent someone over, dressed in intimidating black, with an camera to take our pictures from all angles. I made sure he got excellent pictures of us – what his rationale was didn’t matter. What mattered was that they – the CAIR – people saw not everyone bought their story of Israel’s unfairness to so-called humanitarian ships.
The hour and a half passed quickly and our spirits continued in spite of the hot sun. We were tired and thirsty but we shouted with the greatest of joy when one of Oklahoma City’s beautiful, large fire engines drove by and tapped out a tune of support to us on their air horn. We heard it loud and clear and I’m sure the CAIR people did as well, but there was no doubt whom the firefighters were supporting.
The rally was supposed to be over at 6:00 p.m. The hour came and went and the CAIR people stayed on. We were determined that we would win this demonstration by sheer will power, if nothing else, and we continued to stand on the corner, waving flags, shouting for Israel and laughing. Finally, at 6:30, the CAIR crowd had diminished to one person against our dozen or so remaining. We waited and watched as they packed up their last person, their signs and flags into a vehicle and drove off. Only then, did we call an end to our rally. One person in our group was determined to stay on the corner until he had given out his last flag and we left him there waving his flag and showing determination to all, reaffirming his – and our – solidarity with Israel.
by Margy Pezdirtz