More than 1,000 people took part in a demonstration organized by a coalition of left-wing groups at the Erez border crossing on Saturday, in solidarity with Gazans and Sderot residents, under the slogan: "Stop the siege on Gaza: A demonstration for Gaza and for Sderot."
A convoy of about 100 cars and 25 buses brought protesters to the crossing with northern Gaza in the late morning; a large number of soldiers and police were present, but the demonstration proceeded without incident.
A rally under the same slogan was being held by Gazans inside the Strip.
Speaking by phone to the demonstrators on the Israeli side, Dr. Iyad al-Sarraj, head of the Palestinian Community Mental Health Program, said: "We are joining hands today in the pursuit of peace, justice and security for all - security for Palestine, security for Israel, security for Gaza and security for Sderot."
The last speaker at the rally was 17-year-old Shir Shudzik, from Sderot. Standing on top of a truck loaded with donated supplies and speaking through a megaphone, she said: "I've lived for the last seven years under the threat of the Kassams. It's exhausting. Every time I go to a train station or to a supermarket, and I hear the PA system switching on, I jump, because it sounds like the beginning of the rocket alarm. But I know I'm not alone in this situation, that people are suffering even worse on the other side."
"I don't trust neither my government nor Hamas to bring peace. But the fact that we are here together, Arabs and Jews, might be a beginning and it brings me hope."
While the organizers originally intended to hold the two demonstrations side by side on both sides of the security fence, this was prohibited by the army due to security considerations.
The Israeli convoy carried food purchased by participants, which they intend to send to Gaza in the coming days in coordination with authorities.
"Civilians on both sides are victims of the conflict and we deplore any action against [them]," said Adam Keller, one of the organizers. "We call for an immediate cease-fire between Hamas and the Israeli government, which was proposed by Hamas several times, and we call for an immediate end to Israeli incursions and Palestinian shootings."
"I believe in nonviolence. I have always publicly opposed suicide bombings and rocket fire," Sarraj told The Jerusalem Post. "I believe that the people of Gaza could stop the rocket fire by popular pressure, but the siege is making the militants much more popular, because we are all thrown together as victims."
Discussing Sderot residents, Sarraj said: "Every drop of blood on either side is sacred. Jewish blood is the same as Arab blood. I hope that very quickly people on both sides will be allowed to live in peace."