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Thousands of Clevelanders Join March for Israel in Washington

At+least+twenty+BHS+students++attended+the+event%2C+joining+1%2C800+from+the+Cleveland+area.+The+crowd+on+the+national+mall+was+estimated+at+290%2C000.+Organizers+are+calling+it+the+largest+rally+of+Jewish+people+in+modern+history.
Isaac Gorodeski
At least twenty BHS students attended the event, joining 1,800 from the Cleveland area. The crowd on the national mall was estimated at 290,000. Organizers are calling it the largest rally of Jewish people in modern history.

The Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations held a rally for Israel on Nov. 14 at the National Mall in Washington, DC.

According to the ‘March for Israel‘ website, the rally was a show of support for Israel and the Jewish people. 

“The March for Israel was an opportunity for all Americans to unite in solidarity with the people of Israel,” the website states. “It served as a platform to demonstrate their commitment to America’s most important ally in the Middle East, condemn the rising trend of antisemitic violence and harassment, and demand the release of every hostage kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7th.”

Over 1,800 people traveled from Cleveland to D.C. for the rally, many riding in the twenty-five charter buses sent by the local Jewish community. At least twenty students from BHS also attended the event, which organizers are calling the largest rally of Jewish people in modern history, with more than 290,000 people attending.

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“I am here today as a Jewish student from Cleveland to rally in support of Israel, to stand against terrorism, and to demand that the innocent hostages taken by Hamas be released,” said junior David Mardakhayev of Mayfield High School. 

Before the rally, all Cleveland groups convened at the John F. Kennedy Center, from which they took the two-mile-long march to join the demonstration on the National Mall, in proximity to the United States Capitol Building.

Attendees entered the highly secured, fenced-off location and were met by crowds of enthusiastic and joyful people from across the country, all gathering in support of Israel and the Jewish people. 

While the spirit of the event was joyful, attendees were also met with hateful graffiti that had been sprayed onto porta potties, medical tents and the grounds, calling for the destruction of Israel and proclaiming that Hamas would win the war. 

“When we entered the rally, I saw graffiti sprayed onto the porta potties and floors that said how Gaza and Hamas would win against Israel,” junior Max Jacobs said. 

Despite this disheartening incident, the rally showcased moments of resilience and unity. With performances from The Maccabeats, Matisyahu, and Israeli singers: Omer Adam and Ishay Ribo, rally attendees united in song and prayer for the State of Israel. 

The event also showcased a variety of speakers including celebrities, politicians, actors, leaders of the Jewish community and families of the hostages themselves. A powerful moment for many attendees was when Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Joni Erns all spoke together on stage and held hands in support of Israel, demonstrating unity at the rally regardless of political affirmation. 

When we entered the rally, I saw graffiti sprayed onto the porta potties and floors that said how Gaza and Hamas would win against Israel.

— Junior Max Jacobs

“Let me be very clear, the United States stands unequivocally with our [global] neighbor, our friend, and our ally Israel,” Johnson said. “These Israeli hostages were kidnapped in their homes by barbaric Hamas terrorists for simply being Jewish and living in Israel. As Prime Minister Netanyahu says so well, this is a fight between good and evil, between light and darkness, between civilization and barbarism.” 

A controversial moment that occurred during the rally was when CNN political commentator Van Jones called for an end to the bombing on both sides. This resulted in many attendees in the front of the crowd passionately chanting “No ceasefire.” 

Many in the crowd believed that agreeing to a ceasefire would enable Hamas to persist in committing atrocities, hinder Israel’s efforts to secure the return of hostages and allow Hamas to continue terrorist operations.

“If a ceasefire were to happen then it would tell Hamas that they are allowed to do whatever they want without punishment and without freeing the hostages,” junior Jude Landes said. 

As a Representative for New York’s 15th congressional district, Richie Torres spoke at the rally in support of Israel and against the call for a ceasefire until justice has been restored. 

“Israel must do to Hamas what the United States did to ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the 21st century,” Torres said. “We must do to Hamas what we did to the Nazis in the 20th century, we must rid the world of the terrorism and barbarism that was perpetrated against humanity and the Jewish people.” 

Johnson had similar beliefs regarding a cease-fire. 

“The calls for a ceasefire are outrageous,” Johnson said. “Israel will cease their counteroffensive when Hamas ceases to be a threat to the Jewish state.”  

As American politicians conveyed their support for Israel, the President of Israel, Isaac Herzog, joined the rally through Zoom to express his messages of dismay for the events of Oct. 7 and gratitude for the support from Americans. 

“Today we come here as one big family to march for Israel, to march for the babies, the boys and girls, the women and men, who are viciously being held hostage by Hamas,” Herzog said. “To march for the right of every Jew to live proudly and safely in America, in Israel, and all around the world. Above all, we come together to march for good over evil, for human morality over bloodthirst, and for light over darkness.”

Herzog stood in front of the Western Wall or ‘Kotel’ during his address. 

“Sisters and brothers, I am speaking to you from the single most sacred site in the Jewish world—the Kotel—the Western Wall in Jerusalem,” Herzog said. “The Kotel that reminds us that Am Yisrael chai (‘the people of Israel live’), we the people of Israel, are eternal and no one will break us.”

I am here today as a Jewish student from Cleveland to rally in support of Israel, to stand against terrorism and to demand that the innocent hostages taken by Hamas be released.

— Mayfield High School Junior David Mardakhayev

A final message about the rally was shared by Jewish actress Debra Messing.

“This is madness…this is terrorism, but we will win… we always have,” she said. “We will remember and work for the release of the 240 hostages as well as for the safety of the 2.2 million Gazans also held hostage by Hamas.” 

“We will pray for the success of the IDF in a war Israel did not start and did not want, but a war Israel will win… because we must,” she added.

At publication, Qatari officials report that Israel and Hamas have agreed to an additional two-day truce pending the release of hostages on Monday.  

This story was originally published on The Beachcomber on November 27, 2023.