Demonstrators protest against real estate fair in Spanish and Portuguese synagogue

“They are disputed areas, but that does not make them off-limits to Israeli citizens or the Jewish community,” said the Rev. Hazan Daniel Benlolo.

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Two rival groups clashed in front of the Montreal Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in Snowdon, on the corner of St-Kevin and Lemieux Sts. On tuesday night.

On one side, people were waving Israeli flags. On the other side was a much more vocal group waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Judaism yes, Zionism no” and “From the sea to the river.”

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One group was expressing opposition to the synagogue hosting a trade show called The Great Israeli Real Estate Event.

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The group Independent Jewish Voices – Montreal has a problem with the trade show selling properties in three Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the legality of which is the subject of a fierce dispute. Those settlements are Neve Daniel, Ma’ale Adumim and Efrat.

“It’s not a synagogue event at all, the synagogue simply hosts a real estate tour advertising properties, including properties in internationally recognized illegal Israeli settlements,” said Sarah Boivin of Independent Jewish Voices.

“We didn’t really want to be there (today). We actually started an email and phone campaign from concerned community members, asking the synagogue to take leadership and be a force for unity right now and simply cancel the event. It was as simple as that. And the synagogue issued a statement to its members yesterday saying that this was intimidation and that they were not going to cancel the event.

“So, unfortunately, we’ve had to ask Montreal Jews and our allies to come together today to really demonstrate that it’s unacceptable that our religious and cultural spaces are being used for that kind of purpose.”

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The Rev. Hazan Daniel Benlolo of the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue questioned the idea that these settlements are illegal.

“They are disputed areas, but that does not make them off-limits to Israeli citizens or the Jewish community,” Benlolo said. “It’s going to be contested no matter what it is, even if it’s not these areas. Tel Aviv is going to be in dispute. Jerusalem is in dispute. So does that mean people have to stop doing everything and living?

“We are going to agree to disagree… that they do not want us to sell land and we are in the position that we want to sell the land or the properties that are rightfully ours, that rightfully (belong) to the Jewish people. . “It is going to be a long-lasting struggle and, at the end of the day, it will be disastrous for everyone because we have to come to the conclusion that the land of Israel is the land of our ancestors.”

Jason, who did not want to give his last name, stood on the side of the road with the group supporting the synagogue.

“They are exercising their right to protest, but in reality it is intimidation. Why are they allowed to bully us around our own institutions?”

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Simone, who also did not want to give her last name, criticized the police behavior on Monday night at the CJA Federation building.

“We couldn’t stand in front of our own building.”

Simone said she should be able to go to her neighborhood synagogue without being warned about her safety.

Police stand between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protest groups in front of the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue.
There was a heavy police presence outside the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests took place outside on Tuesday night. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

Across the street, Nasser Sweileh held a banner protesting “Israel apartheid.” He is half Jordanian, half Palestinian.

“We are not anti-Semites. We are anti-Zionists and anti-Israel. This shows that Zionism is not Judaism. “How can we be anti-Jewish when the Jewish people are organizing (the protest)?”

Boivin said it’s disappointing to hear a synagogue leader justify this event.

“It’s a real shame for me to hear that kind of mentality coming from our community leaders,” Boivin said. “That to be Jews we have to support the sale of land in illegal settlements or the massacre of 30,000 people (in Gaza) in a period of four months. We are really working as an organization to rebuild Jewish communities that are justice-oriented and that exist beyond Zionism because Zionism has never been the same as what Judaism is. “There is so much more to Judaism, and I truly believe that our community leaders are causing division when they do not give people the option to stand up for human rights and continue to live as full Jews in the community.”

But Benlolo maintains that canceling the event is giving in to intimidation.

“I myself even thought at one point, ‘Why are we doing this now?’” Benlolo said. “And we intended to withdraw… and then we changed our mind because if we give in all the time, we will have to stop doing the things that we have to do just because we have some pressure from the Palestinians or from those who are extremists. If we give in all the time, we might as well throw in the towel.

“So we decided no, this time we’re going to move forward. I mean we’re doing so many things in the Jewish community that might seem antagonistic, but they’re not. It is simply living. “It’s just about getting on with our usual day.”

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