When state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and her husband rented a car and traveled through Israel to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary years ago, they decided to see the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip for themselves, she said.
“The minute we got to Gaza, we saw the rocks and the stones being thrown at our car,” Stavisky said. “Why? Because the car had an Israeli plate.”
Queens’ only Jewish state senator wasn’t the only one with a harrowing tale to tell on Thursday on the steps of Borough Hall.
Just hours before Israel sent troops into the Gaza Strip as fighting continues in the region, numerous elected officials and religious leaders joined Stavisky in Kew Gardens to share their own stories and voice their support for the Jewish state in its ongoing conflict with the Palestinians.
Some clerics called for lasting peace in the region, while others, such as Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), demanded a halt to rocket attacks launched by Hamas, the governing body of the Gaza Strip and a State Department-classified terrorist organization.
She emotionally described her mother’s fleeing of Poland in 1923 after the murder of her grandfather, who she said was taken from his home and killed because he was Jewish, and called on Israelis to defend themselves from the “warped” Palestinians hellbent on destroying the nation.
“I’ve lived my whole life with Jews being attacked. Enough is enough,” Koslowitz said. “The Palestinians, they don’t care. Hamas doesn’t care about their children. We do.
“Their thinking is warped. They are warped and they better stop killing our people,” she continued. “They started it, and we will finish it.”
The event, sponsored by the Queens Jewish Community Council, was attended by Jewish elected officials such as Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Assemblymembers Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) and Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows), who was born in Israel.
State Senate hopefuls John Liu and S.J. Jung were also in attendance, as was state Senate candidate and former Deputy Borough President Leroy Comrie.
Next to the rally stood two middle-aged Palestinian supporters, who silently held signs claiming Hamas isn’t the only “enemy to peace” in the region.
In Katz’ speech to the crowd, she asked supporters to put themselves in the shoes of Israeli parents with young children.
“I have two little boys, a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old I drop off every day at school. I can’t imagine if every time I left them, I had to worry about their safety,” Katz said. “You deserve a right to defend your people. You deserve a right to have a normal life and we are here to support Israel’s right to do so.”
Later Thursday, Israel launched a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip in order to halt Hamas rocket attacks and destroy underground tunnels allegedly being used by militants to illegally infiltrate Israeli territory.
Over 500 Palestinians, 70 percent of whom the United Nations estimates were civilians, and 20 Israelis were killed in the first five days of the ground campaign.