"Let our people go!" Nearly 300,000 march in D.C. for Israel, call for Hamas terrorists to release hostages
The marchers received bipartisan support from leaders of both parties. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson came on stage with House Democratic leader Hakeem Jefferies
November 16, 2023 2:06pm
Updated: November 16, 2023 2:06pm
Nearly 300,000 supporters of Israel came to the defense of the Jewish homeland at Washington’s National Mall on Tuesday, rallying for solidarity in the fight against Hamas terrorists.
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations CEO William Daroff told press outlets that more than 290,000 people attended the march, making it the largest pro-Israel gathering in U.S. history.
The “March for Israel” was a response to the Hamas’ brutal incursion on Oct. 7, which left 30 Americans and 1,400 Israelis dead after the terror group breached Israel’s southern border from the Gaza Strip.
Marchers trekked across the country in both busses and on flights to Washington with the help of Israeli expatriate groups, Jewish community centers and local federations, schools, and synagogues.
Those participating in the march shouted, “let my people go” in a salute to the 240 victims who were kidnapped on Oct. 7, and “never again” in a reference to the six million who were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
The marchers received bipartisan support from leaders of both parties. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson came on stage with House Democratic leader Hakeem Jefferies.
The two House leaders were joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer from New York (D) and Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa (R) as the congressional members were flanked by U.S. and Israeli flags.
The members joined hands as Schumer said strongly, “We stand with Israel.”
U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson said: “We’ve heard many echoes of Hamas’s rallying cry, ‘From the river to the sea,’ and I’m convinced that a lot of these college students who are engaging in these protests do not understand that is an explicit call for the extermination of Israel.
“It is unacceptable for any political leader in this nation to give credence to this dangerous rhetoric,” he said. Johnson also described the calls for a ceasefire as “outrageous.”
Various speakers took the stage to support Israel’s right to self-defense and show opposition to the Hamas terror attack and what they described as a rabid spread of international antisemitism.
While Democratic leaders such as Schumer and President Biden have shown unwavering, strong support for Israel, some Democrats are divided on the Jewish homeland’s military response in the Gaza Strip.
Some, such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Rashida Tlaib have outright denounced Israel and blamed the Promised Land for responding to the Hamas offensive.
But that did not stop Congressional leaders from showing their support for the Promised Land alongside the near 300,000 pro-Israel marchers.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog described the phenomenon as “an embarrassment to all civilized people and nations,” as he addressed the crowd by video from the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
“Today we come together, as a family, one big mishpacha, to march for Israel. To march for the babies, the boys and girls, women and men viciously held hostage by Hamas,” Herzog said.
“To march for the right of every Jew to live proudly and safely in America, in Israel and around the world. Above all, we come together to march for good over evil, for human morality over blood thirst. We march for light over darkness,” he said.
“Eighty years ago, Jews came out of Auschwitz and vowed ‘Never Again.’ As the blue and white flag was hoisted over our ancient homeland, we vowed ‘Never Again.’ Forty days ago, a terrorist army invaded the sovereign State of Israel and butchered hundreds upon hundreds of Israelis in the largest massacre since the Holocaust. Let us cry out, together: Never Again. Never Again is now,” he said.
Sen. Ernst echoed Herzog and Schumer’s comments, saying that Hamas’ brutality was undisputed.
“They murder babies. They rape women. They abuse the elderly. How anyone in America could sympathize with these terrorists is unfathomable” she said.
The parents of hostage children also spoke out, denouncing Hamas for kidnapping their children. One of those mothers, Rachel Goldberg, the mother of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who was kidnapped while attending a music festival attacked by Hamas, described her days since Oct. 7 as “slow motion torment.”
“These children of God range in age from 9 months to 87 years,” Goldberg said of the hostages who were kidnapped into Gaza. “They are Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindu. Why are they being left underground in the dirt?
Many of the marchers draped themselves Israeli flags or waved small Israeli flags. They also held signs with names and photos of the hostages kidnapped to Gaza. Some held the signs up and shouted, “Bring them home!”
Organizers for the march also played a video with Jewish students discussing their encounters on campuses with antisemitism.
Columbia University student Noa Fay who has criticized her pro-Hamas peers, said that while some of her fellow students feel helpless about antisemitism she refused to be silenced.
“To demand the release of the hostages is not an act of politics, nor is it an act of war,” she said.
In a fiery speech, Columbia University student Noa Fay described how over 100 professors have advocated for the destruction of Israel on her campus.
“I am a Black, Native American Jewish American woman and I will not be silenced ... I will continue to shout,” said Fay. “We should not have to do this. But we can do this, we must do this.”
Security was stringent. Police used large construction trucks to block access to the mall, and horseback police dispersed were stationed throughout the area.
The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) designated the march a “Level 1” event, the highest classification in its system, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.
The “Level 1” designation means the event warranted significant law enforcement presence from federal agencies.
To ensure security, DHS and the FBI sent a joint bulletin to Washington based law enforcement officials warning about possible violence inspired by the Israel-Hamas war.
The officials noted they had not identified any “specific, actionable threat” to the march, however. There were no attacks and the march was concluded peacefully and safely.
Herzog also praised U.S. officials and President Biden for the “moral clarity and bold actions of our American allies.”
“Once again in Jewish history, we demand, let our people go,” he said. Whilst our loved ones are held captive in Gaza, and our soldiers are fighting for our beloved Israel – Jews all over the world are assaulted for being Jewish. The hatred, the lies, the brutality, the disgraceful outburst of ancient antisemitism are an embarrassment to all civilized people and nations.”
“Jews in America must be safe. Jews all over the world must be safe,” Herzog concluded.