Dispatch from D.C – What it Was Like to Attend the March for Israel Rally

The rally was one of the largest gatherings of Jews in history. Jewish people from all over the United States hopped on planes and buses and traveled great distances to be a part of it.  The result was that close to 300,000 people attended the rally, with a few hundred thousand more joining in the livestream, making it one of the largest gatherings of Jewish people in history.

Being in Washington on that day was thrilling. In the early morning, a large group of people davened Shacharis and danced and sang outside the White House. The Orthodox Union set up an additional four Shacharis minyanim in a room at the Willard Hotel. Walking down the streets there were Jewish people everywhere you looked. People draped in Israeli flags, people wearing “I Stand with Israel” t-shirts, people holding signs pledging support for Israel and asking for the release of the hostages. There was a feeling of pride, strength, resolve, and unity in the air. Everyone was there to say, “We are a part of Klal Yisroel, and we stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel.”

The Arizona contingent from our community was led by Rabbi Ariel Shoshan, who is the Rav of Ahavas Torah Congregation in Scottsdale, and a TDSP parent. It included Mrs. Robin Meyerson, who is the head of Project Inspire and also a TDSP parent, Mrs. Gaby Friedman, TDSP alumni Avraham and Shlomo Friedman, Mr. Mervyn Levine who is the President of Ahavas Torah and others.

Prior to the rally, Rabbi Shoshan arranged for the group, as well as representatives from Agudath Israel, to meet with Arizona Senator Mark Kelly and Arizona Congressman David Schweikert.

As the group walked through the Senate and Congressional office buildings, we were excited to notice that several Senators and congressmen had “Stand with Israel” signs on their doors. There was also a big sign of all the hostages in the lobby of the building, right next to a display of flags.  Senator Kevin Cramer from North Dakota even had an Israeli flag hanging outside his office!

This support for Israel from our political leaders is not something we can take for granted- which is one of the reasons why Rabbi Shoshan arranged for our visit with Senator Kelly and Congressman Schweikert.

“In the natural realm and in the formal US government, they have the power to influence every kind of decision. I feel that it is important to be thankful and appreciative and to know that our support and our concerns are on their minds,” he said.

In our visits to the Senator and Congressman, we wanted to thank them in person for their support of Israel, and ask them to do whatever they could to help Israel, get the hostages released, and fight antisemitism.

Senator Kelly told us that he traveled to Israel after October 7th and spoke to leaders there. He said that the visit was one of the hardest days of his life. He said unequivocally that Israel has a right to defend itself.

Congressman Schweikert gave our group a very warm welcome, inviting us for coffee, letting his dog join the meeting, and even offering internships to Avraham and Shlomo.  He told us that he was fighting to get aid to Israel as quickly as possible, and he did not want the money to be held up in political battles. He also expressed concern for the rising amount of hateful content on platforms like TikTok and pledged his steadfast support for Israel, the Jewish community, and fighting antisemitism.

After the meetings, we headed down to the rally.

There were many amazing speeches at the rally, but what stood out were the speeches by the families of the hostages. Rachel Goldberg Polin, who was one of Rabbi Shoshan’s high school classmates, is the mother of Hersh Goldberg Polin, who was taken on October 7th. She addressed the crowd and spoke on behalf of all the families of the hostages.

 “We have lived the last 39 days in slow-motion torment. For 38 nights none of us have slept the real sleep, of the “before”.  We all have third-degree burns on our souls. But the real souls suffering are those of the hostages. And they want to ask everyone in the world, ‘Why is the world accepting that 240 human beings from almost 30 countries have been stolen?’... Bring them home now!”

 At the rally, we stood in a sea of people. There were so many people that if you were standing in the middle, all you could see were the people immediately surrounding you. You could not see the stage, and you could not see the crowd.

 Instead, we looked at monitors but even those were far away. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was electric. Together, as one, we held our signs above our heads, and waved them.  We sang Acheinu with the Maccabeats and said Tehillim with Ishay Ribo. We cheered and clapped when the politicians expressed support for Israel to defend itself. We chanted “Bring Them Home,” referring to the 240 hostages held by Hamas, and “Am Yisrael Chai.”

We only daven and hope that the hostages will be returned, Israel will emerge victorious and unscathed, and Hashem will watch and protect all the Jewish people in Israel and around the world.  As former Soviet refusenik and Israeli statesman, Natan Scharansky said at the rally, the Jewish people are “one fighting family. A family that is so strong, which has so much love.” Am Yisrael Chai!

TDSP thanks Rabbi Shoshan for organizing the visit, and thanks Senator Kelly and Congressman Schweikert and their staff for meeting with us.