A lunch-hour rally in support of Israel drew a throng of about 250 people to a heavily trafficked Center City intersection, not far from that country's local consulate.
Waving Israeli and American flags at the corner of 19th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard, demonstrators hoped to counter criticism following an Israeli commando raid on an aid flotilla of Turkish vessels bound for the Gaza Strip that left nine activists dead.
"We're here to make sure the truth gets out," said Steve Feldman, executive director of the Philadelphia chapter of the Zionist Organization of America. "We're very concerned about the misinformation circulating about the flotilla incident."
Feldman maintained the ships had been given a choice to to turn back or unload their goods at an Israeli port where they would have been forwarded to charities in Hamas-controlled Gaza.
He exhorted the crowd to call lawmakers and news organizations "to demand they tell the truth" and to tell the Turkish embassy in Washington to "stop the shenanigans."
Passing motorists honked their support as the crowd - an assortment of businesspeople, students, Israeli nationals and Center City workers - waved placards reading "Stop Islamic Terror," "We Stand With Israel," and "Israel Is on the Map to Stay."
Strumming a guitar, Marc D. Pevar, co-president of the local ZOA, led the group in a collection of traditional folk songs in Hebrew that included "Jerusalem of Gold" and "Israel Shall Live."
The southwest corner of the intersection has been a weekly gathering point for Israel supporters for nearly eight years, said organizer Ruth Gleit of Bala Cynwyd. Turnout, she said, is usually much smaller.
"If we get a dozen we're lucky," she said. "But now we're in crisis."
The tradition began as a counterdemonstration against a group critical of Israel which has claimed the opposing corner of the intersection for its own weekly protest, Gleit said. About a dozen of those protesters stood quietly today, a handful waving signs condemning the commando raid.
The Israeli Consulate is on the 1800 block of JFK Boulevard.