Source: Sue-Ann Levy

A day after Israeli Defence Forces announced the rescue of four hostages from Hamas in Gaza, thousands showed up to support Israel in Toronto, but that didn’t prevent anti-Israel activists from trying to disrupt the march.

The United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto organized the Walk for Israel, a fundraising and solidarity event that, according to them, broke records for the highest number of participants in the rally’s 55-year history. An estimated 50,000 people attended on Sunday.

In an email, UJA told True North its record-breaking turnout “speaks volumes” about the Jewish community’s pride, resilience and determination to live in peace and security.

UJA lauded the event as a family-friendly celebration which involved a symbolic walk in solidarity with Israel followed by a festival celebrating Jewish and Israeli culture.

The group said all $1.2 million dollars in proceeds made by the event will be directed to supporting the mental health of those recovering from trauma from terrorism and the Oct. 7 massacre.

“Today was a powerful demonstration that we have many allies who stand with us in support of democracy, freedom, and the right of Israelis and our Jewish community to live in peace and security,” Adam Minsky, President and CEO of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto said.

Contrary to UJA’s estimate, the Toronto Police Services told True North in an email it estimated 20,000 attendees at the walk.

TPS was tipped off that anti-Israel protesters would attempt to disrupt the event. As a result, police from Hamilton, Durham, York and Niagra joined Toronto police to ensure the safety of all participants.

Police made six arrests related to the event in the Bathurst Street and Sheppard Avenue area on Monday afternoon and released the names and charges of those arrested.

32-year-old Lou-i Bou-Chahine was charged with public incitement of violence after allegedly displaying antisemitic messages and calls to violence.

Syed Raza, 27, was charged with public incitement of hatred and resisting a peace officer.

Raza reportedly stomped on an Israeli flag, which police said caused a “breach of the peace.” Police then tried to separate him from the pro-Israel marchers. When officers attempted to arrest Raza, he allegedly resisted the arrest.

Another man, Eric Brazay, 59, was charged with causing a disturbance. Police accused Brazay of repeatedly pushing a camera mounted on a stick in counter-protesters’ faces despite being cautioned “several times” against it.

After allegedly refusing to leave someone’s private property and then allegedly assaulting an officer when asked to leave. Sharez Bin Salman Salman Hydri, 37, was charged with failing to leave the premises when directed, obstructing and assaulting a peace officer.

A 75-year-old man Michael Burszstejn was charged with assault after he allegedly bumped into a woman wearing a keffiyeh holding a child on purpose which caused her to stumble.

Omar Elkhawass, 22, accused of attempting to steal an Israeli flag from an event participant, was charged with mischief to interfere with property.

Notably, some frequent fliers in the anti-Israel protest circuit showed up to have their voices heard at the march as well.

Firas Al Najim, a pro-Hamas protester who was recorded calling Hamas “the only way forward,” a month after the organization’s Oct. 7 massacre of Israelis, was in attendance and was reportedly handcuffed.

Naveed Badahur, who goes by other names online such as Naved Awan was present as well. Badahur took up a leading role in the protest manning the microphone and organizing rides to intercept the pro-Israel crow.

In the past Badahur has worn pro-Hamas symbolism, such as an upside-down red triangle referencing Hamas military videos, has called for Zionists everywhere to be “held accountable” including at synagogues and has been recorded yelling at a Jewish person through a fence that “never again is now.”

When the protesters failed to intercept the marchers, a contingent of them, including Badahur, trekked through the woods between the West Don River and Maxwell Street in North York to reach them, but they were stopped by police.