WEST BLOOMFIELD — Displaying floats and signs that support the state of Israel, metro Detroiters are invited to participate in the annual Walk for Israel and 5k run May 18.
The run starts at 8 a.m., and the Walk for Israel begins at 1 p.m. Both events start at Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield and travel south on Orchard Lake Road before returning to the temple. The West Bloomfield Police Department will provide security detail and stop traffic while walkers cross Orchard Lake Road.
The location of the walk has been critical to the pro-Israel demonstration. According to Andre Douville, lead organizer for the Walk for Israel, with approximately 50,000-60,000 vehicles traveling Orchard Lake Road per day, walking down Orchard Lake Road allows for the participants to proudly display their support of the U.S. and Israel relationship to large crowds.
“We pull people from as far as Toledo, Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Jackson. It’s really exciting when we can have all these people come together from all walks of life … and we all get together just one day and we have this one thing in common,” Douville said.
Since the walk’s inception, Douville said, demonstrators fortunately have not been confronted with protesting groups or experienced altercations; however, with the recent shooting at the Jewish Community Center in Kansas City, security presence will take precedence at the event.
“There’s certainly a higher sense of alert right now. I get alerts from the (Jewish) Federation and the FBI, but that was such a random and senseless act, it’s hard to prevent something like that,” Douville said. “We’re always sensitive and keep our eyes and ears open for anything to happen. (It’s) inherent to the Jewish community.”
The Walk for Israel and the 5k run has attracted about 1,500 people in the past and has continued to grow, not only with Jewish participants, but non-Jewish demonstrators, as well, which Douville praised.
Tim Munger, leader for the nonprofit Christian organization Friends of Israel, has been involved with the walk since its inauguration. He said that it’s important for Christians to show their commitment to the Jewish people and “let them know they are not alone.”
“It’s very important (to attend) because it’s a very tangible and simple way to show and demonstrate our love for the Jewish people. That’s why we should (participate),” he said.
Prior to the walk, Holocaust survivor Aron Zoldan will discuss his own experiences during World War II, including entering Palestine in 1947 and fighting in Israel’s War of Liberation. Zoldan’s presentation will begin at 11 a.m.
Douville said organizers are cognizant of the dwindling number of Holocaust survivors remaining and decided to have Zoldan speak so that “one, we never forget, and two, we figure out a way to honor them for what they experienced and teach kids about the history.”
The walk draws from all three major expressions of Judaism — Orthodox, Reform and Conservative — and in order to unite all three, Douville said that they purposely have a free kosher lunch, courtesy of Jerusalem Pizza, to especially appeal to the Orthodox community coming primarily from Oak Park and Southfield. The lunch will begin at noon.
This year, organizers have added a unique component to the walk: Groups can purchase a standard wagon and build a pro-Israel-themed float for judging.
“We’re excited to see the different designs people come up with,” Douville said.
The 10th annual Walk for Israel will take place May 18 at Temple Shir Shalom, 3999 Walnut Lake Road. The 5k run will start at 8 a.m., and the walk will start at 1 p.m. Zoldan will speak at 11 a.m. A free kosher lunch will be served at noon.
The run’s entry fee is $36 for people 18 and older, and $20 for those younger than 18, and the walk is free. For more information, visit www.walkforisrael.org or call Douville at (248) 737-8700.
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