Photo: An estimated 300,000 attended the “March for Israel” rally in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14, 2023. Credit: JNS.
By Elishama Marmon (JNS)
Gideon Askowitz, 20, came with his family to Washington, D.C., on Monday in advance of the “March for Israel” rally on the National Mall the next day, which drew nearly 300,000 attendees.
The Macaulay Honors College student at the City University of New York’s Hunter College began the day on Nov. 14 by praying early in the morning outside the White House. Photos and videos circulated on social media of Jewish men in Lafayette Square, adjacent to the White House, wearing tefillin and tallits, some lifting up Torah scrolls.
“I came to join the masses and send a message that the United States stands with Israel,” Askowitz told JNS. “I wanted to be a part of the historic crowd and show the difference between U.S. and Israel supporters, and the people mobbing in D.C. in support of Hamas.”
Askowitz hopes that others take away from the rally that “being truly pro-Palestinian means being anti-Hamas and supporting Israel,” he said. “Hamas does not support any liberal rights. They have no vote. No gay rights. No women’s rights and no freedom of religion. They are barbarians, who slaughter Jews.”
The student was one of several march attendees who spoke with JNS leading up to and during the event.
Washington has designated Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, a terrorist organization since Oct. 8, 1997.
‘We have to support each other’
Freda Nemirovsky, 57, a painter who lives in the Boston area, told JNS that 42 years ago, “I escaped the vicious antisemitism that surrounded me for the first 15 years of my life.” (She did not elaborate on those experiences.)
“To my amazement, I’m back to where I was then, and now my three sons have to experience something that I experienced,” she said. “I just need to be here. I need to stand with Israel. I need to make sure that other Jews know that we are not alone. We have to support each other.”
Liron Almog, 48, of Boca Raton, Fla., came to Washington to “show our moral support and to be together with all our sisters and brothers.”
Almog told JNS that she hopes the rally will have some effect on the federal government. “I want the world to know that we are united. We are am echad—‘one nation,’” she said. “We’re here to stay. We’re never going anywhere. We want our hostages back as soon as possible, and we have one country and one country only, and we want to live in peace.”
Steve Glickstein, 62, of Columbus, Ohio, put things bluntly. “I’m here because people want us dead,” he told JNS. “We need to stand up and do something about it.”
‘We’re not going anywhere’
Jeff Harris, 45, of Cincinnati, came to the rally to demonstrate that Israel is the Jewish people’s home.
“They were attacked by people, who have no real reason except to try to kill Jews, and unfortunately, a lot of the world is being misled into thinking that the Jews are the criminals here when they’re clearly the victims,” Harris told JNS. “They have to be able to stand up for themselves, to continue to exist.”
A “false narrative” must not be allowed to win, he added.
“I think the world needs to see this and realize that they need to look into this a little bit harder and see what’s really going on,” he said. “A lot of the information that the world is getting isn’t true, and I think that the Jewish people aren’t going to just lie down and let ourselves be endangered by things that aren’t true being said about us.”
It’s very important that the world see “that there are people out there supporting Israel, supporting the truth, supporting the good in this versus the evil,” he added.
Standing with Israel amid its “difficult war against Hamas” drew Zevy Freidman, 27, from Baltimore, some 50 miles away.
“Somehow, there were a lot of pro-Palestinian marches, which is something very difficult to grapple with—why people would stand with atrocities and terrorism,” he told JNS. “We’re here to show that there’s a large amount of people in greater America, as well as the president, that stand with Israel, with all the actions that they’re taking in this war, that we’re fully on Israel’s side.”
Chana Esther Marinelli, 15, came to the District from Chicago. She told JNS that she feels people have an obligation “to show that we care about Israel, even living far away in America.”
“The world needs to know that the Jews are here, and we’re united,” she said. “That’s really big and important.”
Gailya Sanders, 36, of Cincinnati, said a large showing was crucial. “We needed numbers of people to come here and show that we are here, we belong here, we exist here in America,” she said. “The more people that come, the more unified we are, the bigger the message is, the more people it reaches.”
Sanders came with her community group, which secured a few buses.
“Our immediate message today was to free the hostages and to make it known that that’s our objective right now,” she said. “Our greater message is, again, that we’re here. We’re not going anywhere. We have Israel, and this is our home, in America. We are here.”