As relations between Israelis and Palestinians remained tense after days of rocket fire and airstrikes, their fellow countrymen felt the effects halfway across the globe.
Hundreds of Palestinians and sympathizers in Philadelphia rallied yesterday to protest the airstrikes, which began five days ago when Israel retaliated after rockets fired from the Gaza Strip began landing in southern Israel.
The local effort comes as protests rumbled across the world.
Starting about 4 p.m. outside the Israeli Consulate, on John F. Kennedy Boulevard near 18th Street, participants waved Palestinian flags and chanted "George Bush you will see, Palestine will be free. Israel, Israel, don't you cry, Palestine will never die!"
"We want to show the fact that military action doesn't accomplish anything," said Marwan Kreidie, executive director of the Arab American Development Corp. and an organizer of the rally.
Rally participants - whose numbers grew as the night wore on - continued to chant and shout as they migrated to City Hall. Yesterday, officials on both sides were considering a two-day cease-fire to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, which is controlled by the Palestinian political group Hamas.
Adam Kessler, director of Jewish Community Relations in Philadelphia, rebuffed the notion that Israel's retaliation was excessive. "We, of course, support the government of Israel," he said.
"They've been put in a bad situation. They've endured missile attacks from Hamas. They've been practically begging Hamas to cease and desist. They're doing what any government would do to protect their country."
Other Philadelphia Jews saw it differently.
"As a Jew, I have loved Israel and seen it as a place that acted out of justice and compassion," Rabbi Linda Holtzman, of the Mishkan Shalom Synagogue, said at yesterday's rally.
"What I'm seeing now is the antithesis. I'm seeing them killing children. As a Jew, I can't sit back and watch."
Protesters demanded that President-elect Barack Obama intervene on behalf of Palestinians.
"We are to call on the U.S. for aid," said Tawfiq Barqawi, another organizer. "We call on Egypt to open their borders and stop the siege on Gaza."
The attacks have been hard on local Palestinians, Barqawi said.
"Me and my wife were all crying as we watched our people, our relatives dying every day and everybody around the world is silent about it," he said.
"Our people are under fear."*
For a video of the demonstration, go to www.philly.com/philly/video.