Moments of Inspiration – My Reflections of the Rally for Israel in DC

Posted on November 16, 2023

By Rabbi Michael Schwab.

On Tuesday, I, along with at least 150 people from NSS Beth El, who came by car, bus, and plane, joined nearly 300,000 people at the rally for Israel in Washington, DC. Nearly 300,000! This broke the record for the largest gathering of the Jewish people in the United States, which was set when American Jews marched for Soviet Jewry in 1987.  There were Jews from all over the United States, from Canada, from Israel and likely for several other countries.  There were multiple groups of non-Jews of various backgrounds.  I heard Hebrew, English, Yiddish, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese and more.  There were people putting on tefillin, davening and reading Torah, and secular Jews who joined in for the singing along with them. I saw joy and sadness. I saw gratitude and love. Perhaps mostly, I saw determination and conviction.  We chanted “Never again!” and we chanted “Bring them home!”, many of us crying as we chanted. 

The speakers were outstanding ranging from campus advocates, supporters from around the world, families of hostages, Israeli representatives and the top leadership from both the Republican and Democratic parties in Congress from both houses.  One of the most meaningful moments of the rally was when these important political leaders, who are often vociferous opponents of each other, stood arm in arm, hand in hand, on the dais in front of the entire crowd.  Their message was clear: Hamas is a terrorist organization that unleashed horror upon Israel and the threat of Islamic Jihad is real and must be stopped to safeguard Israeli citizens. The resulting rise of antisemitism in America is unacceptable and should be fought with all of our collective strength.  And Israel has every right to defend its citizens.  

I think, though, that what I was most proud of at the rally was the atmosphere. There was no graffiti or vandalism. There were no calls for violence against the Palestinian people or maligning anyone except Hamas and their supporters.  There was no physical violence at all. People were waving American flags and Israeli flags.  People were holding posters of those held hostage and of other messages of support. Banners spoke of Jewish pride, Jewish unity and Jewish aspirations. The rally was full of students from schools all over the country.  No one climbed on top of statues or buildings or disrespected the host city of Washington DC.  No one took down U.S. flags to raise Israeli flags.  In fact, there was great pride in being American and great gratitude for American institutions and leaders.  And I witnessed many people thanking law enforcement and emergency medical professionals for being there as we walked out.  And when the rally was over, people walked peacefully to their cars, buses and trains.      

I agree with a colleague who wrote after the event that after forty days of tension, worry, anger, sadness and stress, on Tuesday I smiled and felt happy for a few hours because the rally reminded me of who we are as a Jewish people and how incredible it is that I live in a country where we could assemble like that in safety and whose leaders seem to understand the gravity of the situation.  I felt like we were not alone and that with continued effort, determination, perseverance, and hard work we will indeed overcome not only the threat to Israel but the threat to Jews worldwide.  It will not be easy at all, but we will persevere!  Am Yisrael Chai — B’yachad N’natzeiach, the people of Israel will thrive and together we will succeed!