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Jews reclaim Sydney Opera House

The placement of the event was a deliberate response to the controversial events of October 9, when pro-Palestinian protestors took over the iconic location.
Dan Goldberg
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Sydney Opera House lit in blue and white

Sydney Opera House lit in blue and white in solidarity with Israel on October 9 2023 (TJI)

Published: 8 April 2024

Last updated: 8 April 2024

A capacity crowd of 2000 Jews “reclaimed” the Sydney Opera House Sunday, six months after an incendiary pro-Palestinian protest that made global headlines amid contested claims that demonstrators chanted “Gas the Jews”.

Sunday's event was a response to the controversial events which happened when the iconic sails of the Opera House were lit up with the colors of the Israeli flag in solidarity on October 9, less than 48 hours after the October 7 massacre.

Jews were told by police to stay away amid fears they couldn’t guarantee their safety while pro-Palestinian supporters mobbed the footsteps of the Opera House, burning Israeli flags and chanting slogans, including some attacking Jews as well as Israel.

An observer known to The Jewish Independent clearly heard the phrase "Kill the Jews" chanted in Arabic and “Fuck the Jews” in English. Some observers claimed the crowd had chanted "Gas the Jews", although a subsequent forensic audio analysis by police found that the protesters were “almost certainly” chanting "Where’s the Jews?”. 

Many Jewish people were deeply disturbed by the disregard for the Israeli victims of October 7 at the demonstration, which occurred even before Israel had responded with its invasion of Gaza.

Demonstrators on October 9, 2023 wave Palestinain flags outside the Sydney Opera House (TJI)
Demonstrators on October 9, 2023 wave Palestinain flags outside the Sydney Opera House (TJI)

Sydney's Jewish Communal Appeal (JCA) made a deliberate decision to hold its fundraising event inside the Opera House on Sunday.

“Following the October 9 protests on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, it has been an overwhelming desire of mine for our community to gather at this iconic location and to proudly reaffirm our place as a strong and resilient Australian Jewish community,” JCA CEO Alain Hasson said.⁠

Several speakers referenced the now-infamous pro-Palestinian protest. Visiting Canadian former prime minister Stephen Harper drew widespread applause for suggesting the full house of pro-Israel supporters was like “giving a giant middle finger” to those who oppose Israel.

Harper, who visited Israel several weeks ago, went on to support Benjamin Netanyahu’s war on Hamas and blast politicians currently calling for a ceasefire. “The eradication of Hamas is the only viable course of action,” he said. “Hamas should surrender unconditionally.”

The first Indigenous woman elected to federal parliament, Nova Peris, spoke. Peris has been outspoken in criticising the misappropriation of the Indigenous flag by pro-Palestinian groups. She said she was returning the support the Jewish community had long given her community. 

“I will always stand with you like you’ve always stood with my people,” she said, referencing the late Ron Castan, the Jewish barrister who successfully waged the landmark 1992 Mabo verdict, overturning the legal fiction that Australia was uninhabited prior to European colonisation. 

Having just returned from a solidarity visit to Israel, she added: “I wear a Star of David around my neck…I’m proud to show my solidarity with you.  I’m really honored to be part of your family. Am Israel Chai.”

Australian PM Anthony Albanese, whose Labor government has recently called for a ceasefire, was booed when his name was mentioned.

Also on Sunday, Melbourne Jews held a vigil to mark six months since the October 7 massacre.

About the author

Dan Goldberg

Now a documentary filmmaker, Dan Goldberg was editor of the Australian Jewish News from 2002-07. He was also a correspondent for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, The Jewish Chronicle and Haaretz.


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