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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
'In support of peace and solidarity'
Rally
Thousands attended the rally
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By Claire Hills
BBC News Online
line

They came to show solidarity - and they came in their thousands.

The Metropolitan Police put it at just over 30,000 but the crowds of flag-waving, singing and cheering pro-Israelis claimed nearer 55,000 had packed into London's Trafalgar Square.

Whatever the figure, the point was clearly made - they were standing hand-in-hand with Israel and its cause.

Yoram, a 35-year-old fitness instructor from Hendon, north London, said he gave up his Bank Holiday for one thing - solidarity.

Pro-Israeli supporter Yoram
Yoram: "We want to show exactly how we feel"

Wrapped in a blue-and-white Israeli flag and with face paint to match, he said: "I'm here just to show solidarity with Israel.

"Jews are sick and tired of the real truth not being heard.

"This is our way of showing exactly how we feel."

Billie Josephs, a retail-manager also from Hendon, said she believed the rest of the world was ignorant to the issues facing both Israelis and Palestinians and she hoped this event would change that.

She said: "Not everybody believes Sharon's policies, but we support all Israelis."

'Desperation'

Her brother Eli Goldsmith flew in from Israel on Sunday to join the rally.

Billie Josephs and her brother Eli Goldmsith
Eli Goldsmith (right) flew from Israel to attend the rally

He lives close to the Gaza Strip and said people were trying hard to live their day-to-day lives as normally as possible.

He added: "People do not understand outside my country that somebody of 16 can just blow themselves up for a cause.

"I hope events like this will make it clearer."

A small pro-Palestinian demonstration based itself on the edge of the square on the steps of St Martin in the Fields church.

Its cause was helped by 78-year-old Peggy Preston from London's Covent Garden.

She has been interested in the issue for 20 years and in 1992 she joined the peace corps and was arrested near Ramallah for taking part in a pro-Palestinian demonstration.

Peggy Preston a long-time supported of the Palestinina cause
Peggy Preston represented the Palestinian view

The former occupational therapist said: "All the Israelis can focus on are the suicide bombers.

"They don't appreciate it is an act of absolute desperation because the Palestinian land has been occupied by Israel for 35 years."

The rally lasted for just under two hours and speakers included Benjamin Netanyahu and the Chief Rabbi Professor Jonathan Sacks.

Balloons and banners

Both were greeted with stirring cheers and deafening applause from the masses gathered in the Bank Holiday sunshine.

Mothers, fathers, grandparents and children ate picnics, while old friends reunited.

Almost all carried Israeli flags, balloons and banners with slogans, such as "Israel in our hearts" and "Israel we are with you".

As one policeman put it, with a rueful smile: "If only it was this good-natured in Israel."

See also:

05 May 02 | Middle East
'Deal reached' to end Bethlehem siege
02 May 02 | England
Synagogue attack 'barbaric'
13 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Angry scenes at anti-Israel demo
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