Nearly 300,000 Gather on National Mall to Advocate for Israel and Denounce Rising Antisemitism
In a historic display of unity and support for Israel, nearly 300,000 people convened on the National Mall in Washington D.C. on Tuesday. The rally, one of the largest gatherings of Jews in U.S. history, was a response to the ongoing war in Gaza and a stark increase in antisemitism globally.
Unprecedented Turnout Reflects Deep Concerns
Organized by the Jewish Federations of North America and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the rally brought together a diverse array of participants. Many attendees, like Jill Berkman from Maryland, expressed a sense of betrayal by allies who remained silent following the Hamas attacks on October 7. The turnout, estimated at 290,000 by organizers, was slightly lower than a pro-Palestinian rally held 10 days earlier.
Varied Voices Echo Unity and Resolve
The voices at the rally ranged from political figures to celebrities, each contributing to a mosaic of perspectives united by support for Israel. From Wayne Sachs, a Philadelphia demonstrator advocating against growing antisemitism, to Lauren Fialkow, a progressive Democrat and former Bernie Sanders delegate, the attendees reflected a wide political spectrum.
Political Tensions and Calls for Ceasefire
Politicians like newly-selected House Speaker Mike Johnson and actress Debra Messing were among the speakers. Johnson described calls for a ceasefire as “outrageous,” while Messing, a long-time Democratic activist, spoke of feeling abandoned by progressives. Controversially, John Hagee, a known antisemitic evangelical pastor, also addressed the crowd, advocating for Israel’s right to decide its military actions.
Rallying Around the Hostages
A poignant focus of the rally was the demand for the release of over 200 hostages held by Hamas. Rachel Goldberg, mother of one of the hostages, shared the torment experienced by the families, adding a deeply personal element to the political discourse.
Criticism and Concerns Over Antisemitism
Critics of the rally included progressive groups and individuals who disapproved of some speakers, like Hagee, and the overall political stance. Yet, the underlying concern shared by many, like Meredith Weisel of the Anti-Defamation League, was the alarming rise in antisemitism in the U.S. and around the world.
A Call for Unity and Peace
Despite differing views on how to achieve peace, the message of unity against terrorism and support for Israel’s right to defend itself resonated throughout the event. The crowd’s unified chant of “Am Yisrael chai” — “the people of Israel live” — encapsulated the spirit of the gathering.
A Historic Moment Amidst Conflict
The rally stands as a significant moment in Jewish history, marking a time when Jews from various backgrounds and beliefs came together to voice their concerns and hopes for the future. It underscores the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the diverse opinions within the Jewish community about how to navigate these challenging times.