WASHINGTON (RNS) — Thousands of U.S. Jews and their allies rallied for Israel on the National Mall Tuesday (Nov. 14), in one of the largest and most bipartisan D.C. marches in recent memory.
The March for Israel brought together between 100,000 and 200,000 demonstrators, according to organizers, who gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol in response to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Gaza militant group Hamas, which killed 1,200 people. Demonstrators and speakers loudly proclaimed their opposition to any cease-fire in Israel’s massive military counteroffensive and demanded that the estimated 240 hostages taken by Hamas be freed.
“No cease-fire,” the crowds shouted. Holding up posters of the hostages, they demanded, “Bring them home!” And pointing out the long history of antisemitism and persecution of Jews, culminating in the Holocaust, they chanted, “Never again!”
The three-hour main event, against a backdrop of fluttering U.S. and Israeli flags, featured an array of top Democratic and Republican lawmakers sharing an open-air stage and even holding hands. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, newly minted House Speaker Mike Johnson and the House Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, came together on the stage with Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa to declare that they have Israel’s back.
Several noted that they flew to Israel days after the Oct. 7 attack to comfort Israelis in their time of grief and said they will continue to rally for financial and moral assistance as the Israeli army mounts its ground attack on Hamas.
“We stand with you and we will not rest until you get all the assistance you need,” said Schumer, who is Jewish, before leading the crowd in chants of “Am Yisrael Chai,” or “the people of Israel live.”
The march was intended as a response to numerous demonstrations across the country and the world — some led by Jews — calling for an end to Israel’s retaliatory strikes in Gaza, which have reportedly killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, leveled much of Gaza’s infrastructure and plunged the territory into a humanitarian crisis.
Just one day earlier, a group called Rabbis for Ceasefire convened outside the Capitol. Other Jewish activist organizations such as IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace have demonstrated in New York City; Durham, North Carolina; and Philadelphia, among other places.
At the March for Israel, those pleas were roundly discredited. During his speech, Johnson, an evangelical Christian, declared calls for a cease-fire to be “outrageous.” The crowd erupted in response, with many spontaneously launching into one of the loudest chants of the day: “No cease-fire! No cease-fire!”
Rally speakers for the most part avoided mention of Palestinians, Israel’s 56-year occupation of Palestinian land or its 16-year blockade of the Gaza Strip. Nor was there mention of Israel’s government leaders or of the failed peace solutions.
The rally was organized by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, two of the largest and most centrist U.S. Jewish organizations.
In a bid to demonstrate pan-Israel support, organizers invited televangelist John Hagee, an ardent Christian Zionist, whose Christians United for Israel sends millions of dollars to Israel. Hagee made no bones of his Christian view that Israel is the fulfillment of God’s ultimate plan.