March for Israel: The Ultimate Dichotomy
Ever since Hamas’ unprovoked, horrific October 7 attacks on Israel, a feeling of helplessness, yet a desire to take action, have blazed amongst the American Jewish community. These emotions, combined with the alarming number of pro-Palestianan protests raging throughout America, fueled the extraordinary turnout of almost 300,000 attendees for the March for Israel rally on November 14. Although the rally’s official purpose was to “March for Israel, March to Free Hostages, and March Against Antisemitism,” it was much more than that; it was the definition of unity itself. Before entering the rally, Shaina Trapedo, an assistant professor of English at Stern College for Women, explained to a group of Stern students that although we were in high spirits, we should not forget why we were here — the somber reasons that led us to Washington Tuesday.
However, the rally itself was the ultimate dichotomy — of remembrance, grief and indignation, mixed with love of the Jewish nation, appreciation for the State of Israel and the IDF as well as hope — hope for a better future. In fact, some of these sentiments were reflected by many of the speakers, which included politicians Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). The list also included celebrities such as Debra Messing, Tovah Feldshuh and Michael Rappaport, in addition to activist Natan Sharansky, Israel’s president Issac Herzog and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt.
A central theme throughout many of the speeches was the fierce outcry of “Never Again” in reference to the Holocaust and the passionate shout of “Am Yisrael Chai,” the nation of Israel lives. President Herzog stated, “To paraphrase the Prophet Zechariah: Boys and girls shall once again play in the streets of Be’eri and Sderot, and the elderly shall sit peacefully by the walkways of Nahal Oz and Ofakim. And when the sounds of life and laughter return to the villages, the kibbutzim and the cities, our constant yearning for peace will return as well.”
The intense feelings were brought close to home as the courageous family members of the hostages spoke, including Mika Alexander, sister of Edan; Orna Neutra, mother of Omer; and Hersh Goldberg-Polin’s mother, Rachel Goldberg, leading to emotionally charged chants of “Bring them home” and “No ceasefire” within the already passionate crowd. In fact, one of the most remarkable aspects of the rally was the countless number of posters that read “kidnapped” with the name and age of the captive. There was even a moment of silence for the hostages, as the crowd held up their signs, filling the sky with a sea of white and red.
The feeling of unity was palpable.
Even from a sideward glance, one could see the broad range of Jews present, from Chabad and Bais Yaakov schools; YU and other Modern orthodox institutions; and secular and traditional Jews. However, the usual religious and political labels and divisions disappeared as they stood together as one nation.
The crowd sang Hatikvah as if it was one Jewish soul.
In regards to the rally, YU students reacted with a range of emotional reactions. Elan Koshner (SSSB ‘24) felt, “It was incredible to join a rally of over three hundred thousand people all in support of Israel. Thank you Congress for standing strong with Israel.”
“Before this I never thought I could conceptualize what 300,000 people looked like,” said Raimy Vogel (SCW ‘25). “It was really cool that so many people from so many walks of life were together all there for the same cause.”
“It was such a gathering of all types of Jews, which was so amazing,” said Jessica Friedman (SCW ‘24). “Mi k’amcha Yisrael. We just want our people home.”
I too, witnessed unbelievable unity, especially when I overheard one Chabadnik comment to his friend that he found two secular Jews who had yet to put on tefillin. “Mendy, I’ve got one!” he exclaimed, rushing over with his tefillin to help two secular Jews fulfill this mitzvah.
I was overwhelmed with love for the Jewish people at full display at the rally.
As Alayna Higdon (SCW ‘25) put it, “I felt like I was a part of history. It was truly awe-inspiring.”
Photo Caption: American and Israeli flags are proudly waved during the March for Israel rally on November 14th
Photo Credit: Shoshana Escott