Despite intense criticism of Israel from Finland, the current president of the European Union, hundreds of Finnish citizens participated in a rally this week in central Helsinki in support of Israel and the country’s right to defend itself. Many Finnish celebrities chose to show their support along with people who drove hundreds of kilometers to participate in the rally.
Because of the huge crowd, Helsinki police shut down the street where the rally took place.
Participants waved Israeli and Finnish flags, both blue and white, as well as signs with slogans supporting Israel and its citizens, a call for the release of the kidnapped soldiers and the disbanding of Hizballah.
“We came out here to express a message of support for the State of Israel in these harsh times,” said Paula Hovav, a Finnish citizen, and an organizer of the rally. “Israel has the right to protect its borders and we want the Israeli people to know they are not alone.”
Hundreds of people signed a petition expressing their solidarity with the Israeli people and its right for self-defense. It was presented to Israeli Ambassador to Finland Shemi Tzur.
“It’s very heartwarming to see so many people say ‘Israel – we are behind you.’ You are the force to lead public opinion in your support of achieving a just peace in the Middle East, to disarm terror, and return our sons home,” he said.
The rally ended with both the Finnish and Israeli national anthems.
“In times of hardship it is important to show that there is a huge number of Finns that love Israel and support it,” said Gilad Shperling, an Israeli married to a Finn and an organizer of the rally. “It is important to mention that the vast majority of the participants in the rally are not Jewish or Israeli, but Finnish citizens who support Israel. Throughout the organization of this rally it was extremely heartwarming to see such support and solidarity.”