Steve Weatherbe holds a Christians for Israel sign in Victoria with other supporters. The group gathers to protest pro-Palestinian rallies in Victoria. (Contributed photos)

Victoria Catholic picks up support while showing solidarity for Israel

Sometimes, a free afternoon is all you need to start a counter-protest.

Catholic pro-life organizer and retired journalist Steven Weatherbe was visiting Vancouver with his wife, who was attending a conference. He was at a loss for what to do with his afternoon, and then he saw a pro-Palestinian rally forming at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

“I know enough about myself by now to know that I go looking for trouble,” he told the B.C. Catholic. “I decided to make myself a sign.”

Collecting a black marker and a piece of cardboard from a local office supply store, the Victoria resident mounted the quickly filling steps outside the art gallery and wrote a simple slogan: “Christians for Israel.”

While it might seem spontaneous, it’s par for the course for Weatherbe, who has taken on the mantel of organizing Victoria’s 40 Days for Life rallies in recent years.

His interest in Israel/Palestine developed from a lifelong interest in the Second World War and the Holocaust. His father was enlisted in the war, and “our house was filled with books when I was a kid,” he said.

“I read books about people who saved the Jews and tried to protect them and Canada’s roll in turning them away. It was an interesting subject to me,” he said. With the Hamas attack on Israel and the subsequent explosion of anti-Israel demonstrations, “it was just a matter of moving from the theoretical to the active.”

“I had already done that with 40 Days for Life when I stepped from being a reporter to being an activist.”

Weatherbe says his first protest was mostly uneventful, but a few protesters came to talk to him. One man got worked up, but the organizers were careful to shepherd him away to keep things from escalating.

“I was being peaceful, but I said my regular prayers and that probably calmed me down,” he admits.

Since taking up his cardboard sign in Vancouver, Weatherbe has become a mainstay of the regular pro-Palestinian demonstrations at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria. He says his counter-protesting is about Israel’s right to exist.

“By now I know how to make signs, so I just needed to go find some people. It turns out that it really isn’t that hard,” he laughed.

He has successfully recruited a small rotating group of local Victoria Christians to counter-protest the pro-Palestinian demonstrations that regularly take place at the legislature. Usually, between three and six people join him.

Passers-by routinely approach and thank Steve Weatherbe, sometimes picking up an Israeli flag. 

While his group isn’t large, passers-by routinely approach him to thank him. Sometimes, they will take an Israeli flag and hold it for a few minutes before continuing on with their day. This is good enough for Weatherbe.

“We didn’t need to outnumber them, but someone needed to be there,” he said. “There needed to be a voice.”

Regardless, numbers aren’t unimportant. He has had some minor success recruiting from the local Victoria pro-life community and some Evangelical churches. Still, Weatherbe would like to see more local Catholic representation.

“I am disappointed that not too many Catholics have joined us,” he said. “The Evangelicals organize a rally every month, but Catholics have been less active.”

Steve Weatherbe with a pro-Palestinian rally behind him. “We didn’t need to outnumber them, but someone needed to be there,” he said. “There needed to be a voice.”

In a recent letter entitled My Jewish Brothers and Sisters in Israel, Pope Francis reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to solidarity with the Jewish community.

“My heart is torn at the sight of what is happening in the Holy Land, by the power of so much division and so much hatred,” the Pontiff wrote. “The whole world looks on at what is happening in that land with apprehension and pain.”

“I embrace each of you and especially those who are consumed by anguish, pain, fear and even anger.”

“My heart is close to you, to the Holy Land, to all the peoples who inhabit it, Israelis and Palestinians, and I pray that the desire for peace may prevail in all,” he said.

“Together, Jews and Catholics, we must commit ourselves to this path of friendship, solidarity and cooperation in seeking ways to repair a destroyed world, working together in every part of the world, and especially in the Holy Land, to recover the ability to see in the face of every person the image of God, in which we were created.”


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