The giant rally in DC
The giant rally in DCStan Weiss

Tuesday, November 14 will be remembered as one of the greatest and most important days in American Jewish history.

Five weeks after the Hamas terrorist organization committed the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust, in the midst of a Hamas-inspired wave of antisemitism in the United States and around the world, the Jewish community gathered in an amazing display of courage, of unity, of strength, and of humanity.

Many rallies have been held throughout the West, in New York, Los Angeles, London, Sydney, and elsewhere, celebrating, denying, or excusing the massacre of over a thousand people for the sin of having been born Jewish. These rallies have often seen naked antisemitism, violence, and crowds chanting and screaming for genocide. In one such rally, anti-Israel activists smeared red paint on the gates of the White House. In another, activists illegally demonstrated in the Cannon House Office Building rotunda, leading to 300 arrests. The anti-Israel extremist group Jewish Voice for Peace claimed to have “shut down Congress.”

The March for Israel rally was different. At the National Mall, hundreds of thousands of people, Jews and non-Jews, showed the meaning of peaceful assembly. Instead of the calls for genocide, several speakers, including a woman who has six cousins who are being held hostage by Hamas, spoke of the humanity and suffering of the Palestinian Arabs in Gaza and did so without fear of arousing the anger of the crowd. Instead of signs calling to “keep the world clean” of Jews, the signs at this rally read “Our love is stronger than their hate,” Free the hostages,” and “The Jewish DNA is courage.”

According to estimates, 290,000 people attended the rally in addition to the 250,000 who watched the live feed, nearly tripling the largest pro-Israel rally of the years of the Second Intifada in 2002 and overtaking the rally for Soviet Jewry at the same location in 1987 as the largest gathering of American Jews in history.

These people came from all walks of life, young and old, from all over the country, to stand in solidarity with Israel and with each other.

College students facing a campaign of intimidation on dozens of university campuses came to say that they are not afraid. Ordinary people whose synagogues and schools have come under increased threat since October 7 came to say that Jewish life goes on. Friends and family of the 240 people held as hostages by Hamas whose posters of their loved ones were torn down by hateful people who cannot stand the idea that innocent Jewish victims exist came to say that they do exist.

And Jewish people of all backgrounds, from the most haredi to the most secular and from the left to the right, came to say that the Jewish people are united and stand with one another, whether in America or in Israel.

290,000 thousand people stood united, with one heart, but there was no mob mentality. There was no violence, no criminal activity. Jews have felt pain, anger, fear, and so many other emotions since the morning of October 7. But beyond that lies hope and faith.

The 290,000 were united in hope that the hostages will be freed, that antisemitism can be defeated, and Jews in Israel and the Diaspora will be able to live their lives in peace and security. Natan Sharansky, the former refusenik who spent years in a Soviet prison just because he wanted to live as a Jew in the Jewish homeland, articulated this hope in his speech at the rally where he spoke of how the support of world Jewry helped give him and his fellow refuseniks the strength to endure the oppression of the Soviet Union.

The 290,000 were united in faith. Many had faith in God. All also had faith in the Jewish people and in the United States of America. Perhaps most amazing of all after October 7 and the global outpouring of support for that massacre, they had faith in their fellow man.

That faith was rewarded by Rep. Ritchie Torres, who gave a magnificent speech before the main event began, by CNN political commentator Van Jones, who recalled the support the American Jewish community gave to the Civil Rights movement in the opening moments of the rally, by House Speaker Mike Johnson, whose first public address as Speaker was at the March for Israel, and by all of the non-Jews who came to show their support for Israel and their Jewish brethren.

The nearly 300,000 people who gathered at the National Mall were more than just a pro-Israel demonstration. They were a true light unto the nations. Their light showed that even when emotions run high, a crowd does not have to become a mob. Their light showed that peaceful assembly is louder than vandalism and intimidation. Their light showed that unity is stronger than fear and that unity does not require uniformity. Their light showed that love is stronger than hate.

As Alana Zeitchik, who has six cousins who are being held hostage by Hamas, said near the end of the rally, “love is the only thing that can repair our shattered hearts and bring us back together in the name of peace.”

If the rest of world gazes at the light of Alana Zeitchik and the rest of the 290,000 and absorbs some of that light, then the world will be a better place,