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Rally draws 400 pro-Israel supporters; 50 pro-Palestine supporters across the street

About 300 students staff faculty from IdCrown Jewish Academy Chicago were part crowd  Jewish United Fund Community Solidarity Rally

About 300 students, staff and faculty from the Ida Crown Jewish Academy of Chicago were part of the crowd at the Jewish United Fund Community Solidarity Rally for Israel outside the Thompson Center Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 22, 2012 6:29AM

As international forces worked for a cease-fire, a Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago rally drew some 400 pro-Israel supporters and politicians, while about 50 pro-Palestinian supporters were across the street.

The pro-Israel rally Tuesday featured Jewish song, prayer and speeches by U.S. Reps. Danny Davis, Mike Quigley, Jan Schakowsky and Congressmen-elect Brad Schneider and Congressman-elect Bill Foster at the Thompson Center. At the same time, Palestinian prayers and chants rang out from just across Randolph. The sides were separated by police.

“We live in a modern era. My kids talk about my ‘friend count’,” Quigley said.

“My wife and I try to teach them that even more important than your friend count are friends you can count on. We have always been able to count on Israel, and I’d like Israel to know they can always count on the U.S.,” he said to cheers.

He and the other politicians spoke in support of Israel’s stance on the seventh day of violence that has left civilians dead in both Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Amidst diplomatic efforts by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement between Israeli forces and the militant Hamas group governing Gaza was said to be near.

“If we’re lucky, we’ll look back on these last several days as a time when the region stared into the abyss of an unending war and stepped back,” Foster said.

As the politicians, rabbis and representatives of Jewish organizations and the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest spoke, a helicopter whirred overhead and those held across the street by mounted police struggled to be heard. A pro-Palestine rally at Federal Plaza the day before had also drawn hundreds.

“I’m here to stand against Israeli occupation, and in support of innocent people being killed in Gaza,” said protester Mariam Kittaneh, 31, of Albany Park.

Added Hatem Abudayyeh, 41, of Jefferson Park: “This massacre would not be happening were it not for the political, diplomatic and financial support Israel gets from the U.S. We’re citizens too, and we’re here to tell those politicians that we don’t want our tax dollars going to support the killing of civilians.”

But the politicians across the street said the U.S. stands squarely with Israel.

“We stand for Israel’s right to defend itself against the constant terror of Hamas rockets. Today, we all stand together and say with one strong, clear voice, ‘We are here for Israel,’” said Schneider, echoing his political peers.

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