I don’t know if there has even been a day in my life that I have been more proud of being a Jew than today. My attendance at the March for Israel Rally in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 14 was an experience that will remain indelibly etched in my memory forever.
Alongside thousands of individuals (roughly 300,000 attended) who gathered in solidarity, we showed our support for Israel, called for the release of hostages, and combated the rampant antisemitism pervading college campuses and society at large. It was a day that not only showcased the power of unity and support but also demonstrated the unwavering determination of a community fighting for their beliefs.
I made the decision to attend the rally as a call-to-action, despite the concerns and doubts that lingered in my mind due to voices around me pointing out all the potential precarious scenarios that could arise. As a mother contemplating college universities for my daughter, the escalating intensity of antisemitism on campus had me pondering the urgency of standing-up against hate and prejudice.
Indeed, the recent surge in violence against Jews underlined the importance of taking a stance. While some might have deemed it “responsible and safe” to stay at home, given my role as sole parent caring for two school-aged children, I felt a deep sense of responsibility to illustrate to my children the significance of standing tall and proud as Jews, even in the face of fear.
The journey to the rally site itself was a testimony to the unparalleled spirit of camaraderie and solidarity. As our bus traveled down the highway, I was immediately truck by the sea of buses and cars surrounding us adorned with Israeli flags. There was a sense of belonging, and it felt as if I was part of an exclusive club all heading towards a momentous encounter. The sheer number of busses and people was awe-inspiring, yet there was an air of serenity and purpose.
Upon entering metro D.C., despite being surrounded by thousands of eager people, all vying for a spot on the train, there was no pushing or shoving; everyone understood the gravity of the occasion. Once on board, I noticed a rabbi guiding a young gentleman who was using tefillin for the first time. We all burst out singing, celebrating the milestone, as only Jews know how to do.
Stepping off the train and joining others, I took a deep breath as I was enveloped by a sense of tranquility. It was as though I had arrived on an island, amongst 300,000 like-minded friends who shared the same passion and determination. It was a safe space where we could all be ourselves — cry, laugh, sing, and dance without reservation, with the knowledge that the entire gathering was supporting the cause.
The rally was meticulously organized, pristine, and secure and I felt a true sense of safety — a feeling not felt since Oct. 6. As the crowd swayed to the beat of talented musicians and received messages of solidarity from notable politicians and personalities, it was abundantly clear that this was a rally of hope, love and faith.
The anti-Israel rallies that have gripped this nation and others were nowhere in sight. Instead, people proudly waved U.S. and Israeli flags and unabashedly voiced their support for the cause.
However, the most poignant experience was hearing from the families of the hostages talking about their loved ones still held in captivity — 48 days and counting. In between the families speaking, we burst out chanting “bring them home!” It was our rally cry, our fervent prayer for their safe return, said in such a way as if we could somehow will them to be returned home — NOW. Their pain was palpable.
As a daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, my attendance at the rally affirmed my family’s legacy of resilience and strength. Standing up for what is right, regardless of the circumstance, was never in question. On my mother’s 73rd birthday, I stood with my fellow supporters in solidarity with Israel and my family.
The experience provided an opportunity to reconnect with my roots, allowing me to carry forward my family’s legacy and honor my ancestors’ sacrifices.
As I was on the first to step on the bus stairs, I paused a moment taking note of my surroundings: men surrounding the bus praying. It was truly a beautiful sight to behold. For the second time that day, I took a deep breath and felt a sense of Kiddush Hashem (“sanctification of G-d’s name”), the act of bringing honor, respect, and glory to G-d’s name.
My departure from the rally was marked by profound reflection and newfound perspective. Every individual voice matters, and by standing together united as a people, we have the capacity to evoke change. We must find our unique ways never to remain silent when faced with injustice. As we continue to stand strong, it is crucial to remain persistent, vocal, and determined to bring honor, respect, and glory to Hashem’s name through our actions and words.
Matathias grew up in Woodmere and lives in East Rockaway.