In Jewish lore, Hadrian, a Roman emperor 20 centuries ago, was bad news. He built a large temple to the goddess Venus in Jerusalem, and another one dedicated to the worship of Jupiter on the ruins of the destroyed Second Temple. He abolished circumcision and brutally quashed the Bar Kochba revolt, continuing to persecute Jews and Judaism.
Last week the name Hadrian was good news.
A pro-Israel demonstration, organized by Italy’s Friends of Israel organization, was held in the Temple of Hadrian, a towering structure in Rome built by the ruler’s son Antonius Pius.
Hundreds of members of Rome’s Jewish community attended the “For the truth, for Israel” rally, which drew several prominent politicians.
“My visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp as well as the horror of the Holocaust barbarism, gave rise to my indelible feeling of solidarity. Since then, I feel Israeli,” Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told the gathering, according to European Jewish Press. “Israel’s security within its borders, as well as its right to exist as a Jewish state, is the ethical choice for Italians and a moral obligation against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.”
The rally was billed as “the first European, bipartisan event aimed at restoring the truth regarding Israel, putting an end to the barrage of lies that are hurled at Israel every day and to the double standard used by the media and international organizations.”
Other speakers at the rally, which was organized by Fiamma Nirenstein, a member of the Italian parliament, included Jose Maria Aznar, former prime minister of Spain, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Gianfranco Fini, speaker of Italy’s House of Representatives.
“Israel is not a Middle Eastern country but a Western country of the Middle East,” Aznar said. “Every problem for Israel is our problem.”