‘We March for a Light over Darkness’: The D.C. Israel Rally
“I was told there was gonna be 90 people here,” said a woman as she walked among the masses. On the National Mall Tuesday, hundreds of thousands gathered from across the U.S. to stand firm amid horrendous controversy and anti-Semitism. But despite those in opposition, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) proclaimed boldly, “We are here united — Democrat and Republican — to say, ‘We stand with Israel.”
And together, Ambassadors from Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Guatemala, Jamaica, and North Macedonia were welcomed, as well as people of various faiths and ethnicities. The crowd was diverse, but the objective was unified: to condemn Hamas, anti-Semitism, and to pray home those held hostage by terrorists.
Israeli blue and white flooded the area as the crowd chanted, “Bring them home,” “Let them go,” and “Never again!” The event was filled with cheers, songs, and words of hope. The crowd sang the American national anthem, followed by the Israeli national anthem, adding to the unity of the event.
“We march for a light over darkness,” declared Isaac Herzog, Israel’s president. “We will heal, we will rise again, and we will build.” Walking around the Mall, it became evident many people in attendance had their own stories to share.
“I’m a child of two Holocaust survivors,” Carol said. “So, this is very, very meaningful to me.” She spoke about the kidnapped — the babies, women, and elderly — and how the numbers gathered today should be “counted and recognized” for their support of the voiceless. “I have no problem with the Palestinian people,” added Stu, sitting next to Carol. “They bleed the same way I do. They’re being put into a situation by people whose job is to eliminate Israel. They’re being brought up that way, so that’s what they believe.”
Yoni was standing alone surrounded by a moving crowd as he waved a large Israeli flag. “This is a historic moment for the American [and] Jewish community,” he said. “You know, you want to be able to tell your kids you were on the right side of history.” He shared that he has a lot of family in Israel, including his brother who is in the Israel Defense Force (IDF). “Not only is this standing up and showing up for Israel, but I think this is really a good versus evil moment,” he added. “It’s important. Not just for Jews [or] for Israel, but for the world” to see there are people standing for the same cause.
He commented on the anti-Semitism exploding across the globe and pointed out, “Look, this is nothing new. Societies that have allowed those kinds of opinions to be — not just held but be held very publicly and proudly — that is generally a sign of the decay of the society.” For Yoni, it’s important to stand up for a free society by coming together and speaking up. “And we don’t allow these kinds of things to permeate. … [We] call them out for what they are, which is anti-Semitism.”
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) spoke as well. He shared how earlier that morning, the House watched footage taken by the Hamas terrorists, “and we wept as we watched the film together,” he said. “Most couldn’t sit through it.”
He continued, “These Israeli hostages were kidnapped in their homes by barbaric Hamas terrorists for simply being Jewish and living in Israel.” Considering the barbarity of these tragedies, Johnson argued the “calls for a ceasefire are outrageous,” to which the crowd cheered and broke out into chanting, “No ceasefire!” What truly got the crowd amped up, though, was when Johnson said, “Israel will cease their counter offensive when Hamas ceases to be a threat to the Jewish state.”
Family members of some of the hostages spoke. They shared the personalities of those in Hamas’s grip. They shared their pain and their grief. They made what they want clear: “Bring them home.”
Across the world, pro-Palestine rallies and protests have caused chaos and violence. People have been injured, and buildings have been burned. But at this gathering was a sort of levity. Leading up to the speakers, there was laughter and singing. Throughout the day, strangers engaged in conversation, people held hands and hugged, and children ran around.
Finally, toward the end of the rally, Israeli singer and songwriter, Ishay Ribo, sang (beautifully) Psalm 121. As his voice rang out the Word of God, a peace could be felt through the crowd. A quietness occurred as people, starved for hope, for victory, stood and listened. In Hebrew, the words echoed across the Mall: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.