By Louise Goldstein
My husband Bruce Thomadsen and I joined the March for Israel in Washington DC on November 14 to show our support for Israel, to demand the release of the hostages Hamas is holding in Gaza, and against the alarming but unsurprising resurgence of antisemitism worldwide. At the airport, we ran into Greg Steinberger from UW Hillel and several students going to the March on a different airline. “See you there,” we called out. But we never did because, due to a series of flight delays, the Madison contingent was never able to leave for DC.
Photo: Louise Goldstein and Bruce Thomadsen at the March for Israel (top). Some of the Madison delegation at the airport, including UW Hillel and Jewish Federation of Madison representatives (bottom).
We shared the National Mall with Jews from all over the United States, of every political inclination and level of religious observance. While there were many different T-shirts with slogans in Hebrew and English, the wearing of the Israeli flag was most conspicuous. We sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah,” and there were at least two shofar blowers in our immediate vicinity. The thousands of young people knew all the words as they sang along with singers Omer Adam, Ishay Ribo, and the Maccabeats. The atmosphere was upbeat and passionate, but being there without our Madison “chevra,” we missed a more personal sense of solidarity.
March themes were repeated throughout the afternoon: Israel’s right to defend itself; the immediate, unconditional release of the hostages; the US’ staunch support of Israel; legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies bleeding into outright antisemitism; unequivocal condemnation of antisemitism; peace and justice for all; we are one family and, of course, “Am Yisrael Chai.”
We were pleased to see and hear more than the usual “Ashkenormative” speakers, among them Anila Ali, a Pakistani American Muslim and Women’s Rights Activist, Iranian Jews Arielle Mokhtarzadeh and Mijal Bitton, and Noa Fay, a Jewish, Black and Native American student at Columbia University. Fay was inspiring as she denounced professors at Columbia who have advocated for the destruction of Israel: “I will continue to shout. We are the Jews of the Diaspora. This is how we fight. We fight loudly, and we fight peacefully. We are far from helpless. We are far from hopeless.”
Natan Sharansky joined from Jerusalem, declaring that during the darkest moments of his nine-year captivity, knowing that even one person cared provided the support he needed to carry on. Tova Feldshuh channeled Golda Meir, Israel President Isaac Herzog spoke from the Kotel, and Deborah Lipstadt, US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism, did not mince words condemning the increase in unfettered, enthusiastic antisemitic vitriol.
In a show of bi-partisanship, Senator Charles Schumer, House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, Speaker Michael Johnson, and Senator Joni Ernst appeared together. Hakeem Jeffries spoke as a man of peace, saying, “We must stand with Israel in its effort to decisively defeat Hamas…We must make sure that every single hostage is returned home safely. And then we must stand together to secure a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.”
The crowd fell silent as family members of hostages began to speak. These were Orna Neutra, mother of Omer Neutra, Alana Zeitchik, whose six cousins are hostages, and Rachel Goldberg, mother of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who we know lost part of his arm in a grenade attack while seeking shelter. Goldberg described the “slow motion torment” the hostages’ families endure while waiting for information. She wondered, do the hostages’ lives not matter? What is the world’s excuse for not demanding their immediate return? She ended with, “Bring them home, now!”
Indeed, release the hostages now, deplore and fight antisemitism, support Israel, and work for real peace among all who dwell in the land.
Editorial Note: Over 290,000 people attended, and 250,000 watched online, making this event the largest Jewish gathering in US history. See Recap & Livestream Recording >