In one of the largest and most bipartisan marches in recent memory, thousands of U.S. Jews and their allies gathered on the National Mall on Tuesday (Nov. 14) for the March for Israel.
Organized in response to the Oct. 7 attack by Gaza militant group Hamas, the demonstration drew between 100,000 and 200,000 participants, according to organizers.
The primary focus of the march was the opposition to any cease-fire in Israel’s military counteroffensive and the demand for the release of approximately 240 hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack. The crowd, holding posters of the hostages, chanted, “No cease-fire!” and passionately demanded the freedom of those held by the militant group. The rally also resonated with historical themes, as participants highlighted the long history of antisemitism and persecution, culminating in the Holocaust, with chants of “Never again!”
The event, lasting three hours and adorned with U.S. and Israeli flags, featured prominent Democratic and Republican lawmakers on an open-air stage, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Mike Johnson, House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, and Republican Sen. Joni Ernst. The bipartisan unity emphasized the strong support for Israel across party lines.
Speakers recounted their visits to Israel shortly after the Oct. 7 attack, expressing solidarity with the Israeli people in their time of grief. Schumer, leading chants of “Am Yisrael Chai” (the people of Israel live), reassured the crowd of continued support for Israel’s financial and moral needs during the ongoing conflict.
The march served as a response to various demonstrations worldwide, some calling for an end to Israel’s retaliatory strikes in Gaza. Rabbis for Ceasefire and other Jewish activist organizations had convened in different cities, advocating for a halt to the military actions. However, these calls were discredited at the March for Israel, with speakers rejecting any notion of a cease-fire.
Notably, the rally organizers, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, aimed to demonstrate broad support for Israel by inviting televangelist John Hagee, a fervent Christian Zionist. Hagee’s presence underscored the event’s intention to unite various communities in solidarity with Israel.
The event featured emotional addresses from three families of hostages, pleading for their loved ones’ release. Security measures for the march were heightened, with tall fences surrounding the National Mall and attendees required to pass through designated checkpoints with metal detectors.
Participants traveled from across the country, using various modes of transportation, to attend the rally. The reasons for attendance varied, with some expressing ambivalence about the Israeli government’s actions but feeling compelled to stand in solidarity with fellow Jews and against rising antisemitism globally.
The rally attracted a diverse crowd, including individuals from different faiths. Some, like Shira Shvartsman from Brooklyn, emphasized that global criticism of Israel’s response often stems from antisemitism. She argued that calls for a cease-fire might not fully grasp the complex situation faced by Israelis.
While the rally did not address certain aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its primary focus remained on expressing support for Israel during a challenging time.