Competing rallies in San Francisco over Israel-Hamas war

The issues in the Middle East are having a major impact here in the Bay Area, and multiple rallies took place in San Francisco Friday.

Organizers of a rally in the city's South of Market neighborhood by self-proclaimed anti-Zionist Jews who say they are opposed to Israeli air strikes and bombings in Gaza.

It was just one of three demonstrations in San Francisco focused on Israel.

Hundreds of pro-Israel demonstrators gathered at Civic Center Plaza condemning Hamas for taking some 150 hostages in their early Saturday morning strike. Many of those had a personal reason to speak out. 

Efrat Rafaeli grew up on a kibbutz in Israel just five miles from the Gaza Strip and says she learned Saturday morning via WhatsApp posts that friends of hers had been killed, and now she has word that some have been captured and held by Hamas. 

"The news from my friends who had survived started to arrive," said Rafaeli. "My friend's children were taken hostage with her elder mom. My friend Noam's mom was taken hostage."


Demonstrators there were the targets of occasionally loud opposition, choosing to drown out those voices with chants rather than engage in a yelling match. More than a dozen Jewish community groups came together to condemn the kidnappings and called for the immediate release with organizers saying they are speaking with a unified voice. 

"We're in close communications with our Rabbinic partners," said Tyler Gregory from the Jewish Community Relations Council. 

"You know, a lot of people say two Jews, three opinions. We love fighting with each other. But, I have never since starting this role seen the Jewish community more united. Left, right, secular religious, reformed, orthodox, and everything in between. We are all on the same page. We are all in this fight together, and we're going to defend our people."

As that rally in front of City Hall was winding down, another smaller rally was picking up steam. Critics of Israel demonstrated in front of that country's consulate. 

Organizers say the violence of the last week has its roots in Israeli policies in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and that Israeli counterstrikes in the Gaza Strip are hurting innocent civilians. 

"Only a thousand militants went over the wall, you know across the wall," said Pro-Palestinian demonstrator, Sayid. "Masses of men women and children and old people. They cut off all electricity and diesel and water. They have no way of surviving. The wounded are going to go into hospitals with no electricity."

Though these rallies are over, there are more already in the works, with another pro-Israel rally planned for Saturday.