March for Israel rally
March for Israel rallyJFNA

About 300 Jews were stranded at Dulles Airport for 11 hours on Tuesday when a contingent of bus drivers staged a walkout so as not to drive them to the March for Israel rally at the National Mall in Washington DC held in the aftermath of the Hamas massacre of over 1,200 people on October 7.

The stranded passengers had taken a chartered flight from Detroit, one of three flights chartered by the Jewish Federation of Detroit to bring 900 people to the rally. The Federation also booked buses to bring its residents to the National Mall.

The passengers of one of the buses were prevented from leaving the tarmac when their buses failed to show up. They waited from their landing at 10:30 am until after 9 pm, missing the entire rally, which began at 1 pm.

The drivers from the bus company apparently staged a “mass sick out” to prevent the Jews from being able to reach the rally due to the rally's support for Israel.

A Federation spokesperson told the New York Post that “we have learned from the bus company that this was caused by a deliberate and malicious walk-off of drivers.”

Passenger Jonathan Kaufman told the Post that “our right to assembly is a constitutional right — and this was straight up blocking that.” He further called the drivers' refusal to transport Jews to a peaceful pro-Israel rally "a deliberate antisemitic act."

The Director of Community Affairs at the Jewish Federation of Detroit, David Kurzmann, told reporters on Tuesday: “In the way that this action prevented proud Jewish Americans from exercising their freedom to speak protest assemble gathered today at the nation’s capital, that to me was a malicious act. It was an act targeting the Jewish community as far as their participation in this rally."

The March for Israel rally at the National Mall drew about 290,000 people, making it the largest Jewish gathering in American history. An additional 250,000 people watched the event live.

One of the first speakers was former Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky, who compared the unity displayed by world Jewry in the wake of the Hamas massacre to the support Soviet Jewry received from their Jewish brethren during the Cold War.

"We defeated the Soviet Union, we'll defeat our enemies today," Sharansky said.

US Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt told the demonstrators that “when protesters chant ‘Peace and glory to the martyrs,’ that incites more hatred, more deaths. It is a danger to the values and underpinning of the stability and decency of any society anywhere in the world. Hate is not a zero-sum game, hate and violence directed at any member of our society because of who they are is un-American and wrong."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Americans and Jews "must not forget history," including the Holocaust, previous attempts to destroy the State of Israel, and the violent history of antisemitism.

Schumer led the crowd in several chants, including "never again" and "bring them home," in reference to the hundreds of hostages being held in Gaza.

Rallygoers also heard from Orna Neutra and Rachel Goldberg, the mothers of two hostages who are being held by Hamas in Gaza, Omer Neutra and Hersh Goldberg-Polin.

Rachel Goldberg asked: "Why is the world accepting that 240 human beings from almost 30 countries have been stolen and buried alive?”

"What the world needs to start thinking about today is, what will your excuse be?” she said.

Alana Zeitchik, who has six cousins who are being held by Hamas as hostages in Gaza, said that "for too many in the West, the suffering of hostages’ families like mine has become a footnote, collateral damage in service of some perceived higher universal truth."

“For too many, it feels like to care about one family, to love one child, is to diminish the suffering of another. But the simple human truth is that you don’t have to choose. You can abhor the suffering of Palestinian families and the suffering of Israeli families like mine," she said.