Hundreds of Israeli supporters gathered Sunday near the Federal Building in Westwood to support Israel's right to defend herself from ongoing Hamas missile attacks being launched on the country from Gaza.
The solidarity rally was organized by the Israeli Leadership Council, along with the Zionist Organization of America and StandWithUs.
Meanwhile a smaller crowd of Palestinian supporters stood across the street to protest the Israeli military action in Gaza.
The event blocked traffic and drew police in riot gear, though crowds were dispersed without incident by 5 p.m., according to California Highway Patrol officials.
Israel supporters showed up waving American and Israeli flags. Many held up signs with some bearing the words, "Israel wants peace" and "Israel we stand with you" as flocks of cars drove by on Wilshire Boulevard honking their horns. At least one driver painted "Israel" on the side of her car while other drivers displayed American and Israeli flags on theirs.
While some carried signs, others were draped in American or Israeli flags. Many brought their children along to watch and learn, including Eli Petel who had his young son, Jonathan, with him.
"It’s important for him to know where his father is from, and what’s important to his father and what’s important to him as a Jew as well," said Petel, who moved to the U.S. 20 years ago from Israel.
While Petel said the news of the recent airstrikes against Israel and in the Gaza Strip has been "disturbing," he said he still backs his native country.
"I served in the military," Petel said. "I know the realities of the ground. The situation is much more complex than it seems. We have nothing against the Palestinian people. I wish they had a reasonable government that would engage in talks."
Adee Drory, of the Israeli Leadership Council, which spearheaded the rally, said the organization was encouraged to see the large turnout.
"The message was that we are here to support Israel," Drory said. "Our goal is solidarity. We have to be able to fight for our peace."
Some college students also held up signs. Carolyne Amin and her friends posted the rally on the Internet to urge their friends to attend.
"We put it all over Facebook to show our support for Israel," Amin said. "We’re so far from there. This is the best we could do."
Sinuhe Luciano toted his 3-year-old daughter, Alessandra, on his shoulders while accompanied by his wife, Cheyenne Kozaski. Luciano, who said he is a Christian, was eager to support the effort primarily for his daughter and wife, who is Jewish.
"We support Israel," he said. "It’s important for my daughter. The way the U.S. stands with Israel is important."
Across the street, groups of pro-Palestinian protesters held up their own signs and shouted out chants, including "From the Jordan to the sea, Palestine will be free."
At times, security guards intervened when some supporters from both sides intermittently attempted to cross the street.
Police were out in riot gear south of the Federal Building, and local police were on a modified tactical alert, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Demonstrators blocked traffic at the intersection of Veteran Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard, and the California Highway Patrol closed the Wilshire Boulevard exit on the northbound San Diego (405) Freeway in an effort to help control the crowds.
"They’re bombing my family, killing kids over there," said Abir Elzowidi, who is originally from Gaza. "We’re fighting for our existence, our right to exist."
Elana Golden, who said she grew up in Israel in a "secular Jewish family," was standing on the side of the Palestinian supporters.
"I saw the injustice since my teenage years," Golden said. "I don’t have anything against Judaism. There cannot be a Jewish democracy. It’s an oxymoron. How can it be a Jewish democracy? There are 20 percent of Palestinians living within the state of Israel with Israeli citizenship, and they’re discriminated against."
—City News Service contributed to this report.