“Bring them home! Bring them home! Bring them home!” The surging crowd of over 290,000 people gathered in the National Mall of Washington, DC, chanting a fervent prayer with one voice. There were Jews from communities all over the United States and Canada, as well as non-Jewish supporters of Israel. Everyone was there to show dedication and support to Israel and to the families of the hostages. There were Chabad Jews helping other Jews put on t’filin, and Jews from all different backgrounds, both secular and observant. You couldn’t help being swept into a feeling of achdus at this unbelievable event that was the largest gathering for a Jewish event in the history of North America.

As one participant shared, “I gave up ten hours of my time to help Israel. I wish I could do more.”

How empowering to see signs from so many communities like Philadelphia, Montreal, Houston, Atlanta, Tampa (Florida), Arizona, and so many more.

Seventeen buses came from the Bais Yaakov of Baltimore. There were so many coach buses choking the highways and rest areas. The Metro, the subway in Washington, DC, was full of the rally participants. Atara Troper, community member, shared how she was with her children on the Metro and there were students from the Yeshivah of Flatbush, SKA, and Shevach, and how spontaneously the students were singing “Acheinu” in the subway. An African American non-Jew commented on how special it was to see the solidarity with people in Israel. The rally drew participants of all ages, and many yeshivos were represented. This writer was on a Metro with girls from the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) who graciously offered their seats to two older non-Jewish women. Baruch Hashem, there was a lot of kiddush Hashem at this peaceful, polite rally. One police officer commented that he heard enough “thank-yous” to last him the whole year!

This writer interviewed various participants to hear why they came and their impressions of the event.

Eliana Shenker, a social work student new to our community, shared that she felt she wanted to be more active to help Israel, and this was a concrete way to do it. “It’s a very historical moment and a very public display of achdus.” She noted how achdus was our issue, and this event brings all stripes and types of Jews together. Historically, the last time there was a similar march was during the Holocaust, when the rabbis marched in Washington. This is our chance to make up for it. “We’ve seen this happen and we’re not going to stand idly by.” She added that we’ve seen throughout Jewish history that when we are not united, we are vulnerable to attack.

Another participant shared: “I want to show support to Israel and the hostages. We have to demand that there be no cease fire until Hamas is irradicated. It’s not a happy rally.”

Barak Haimoff, a community member, shared that it’s important to show our political leaders that we are very concerned about Israel and about anti-Israel protests. We want to show our brothers and sisters in Israel that we are supporting them.

Flo Fruchter, community member, shared, “It’s an opportunity to support the State of Israel and the soldiers, and to ask for the release of the hostages. We didn’t have this chance 70 years ago.”

Atara Troper also shared how nice it was to travel with a group from the Young Israel of Queens Valley. You felt the achdus amongst our community. She noted, “how well-run the trip was and special thanks to Reuben Paris, President of YIQV, for taking care of and arranging everything. There were organized snacks, breakfast, and dinner, and plenty of water. Everyone left the buses mentally and physically ready for the rally.” She added, “At the rally, witnessing so many Jews coming together from all over the United States to support Israel was exhilarating. Seeing so many people waving and wearing Israeli flags, wearing clothing, and holding signs in support of Eretz Yisrael and the hostages, left me with a feeling of pride for our homeland and pride to be part of such an incredible and loving nation. Saying T’hilim and turning to Hashem together as part of such a large group was beautiful. The police and security were upbeat and appreciative for the thanks we all gave them. A kiddush Hashem was made all around.”

This writer had the z’chus to travel on one of the five buses from the Young Israel of Queens Valley. It was special from the minute you stepped onto the bus. Everyone was handed T’hilim so that the whole book would be recited. Someone recited T’filas HaDerech and then there was an inspiring Zoom shiur with words of chizuk from the Rav of the shul, Rabbi Shmuel Marcus. Baruch Hashem, there were so many people from Queens at the rally!

Rabbi Marcus shared that in 1946, 400 rabbis marched to the United States Capitol, and then to the White House, and this was at the time an unprecedented event. Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise, American Reform rabbi, was an advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and he didn’t want to upset FDR by asking for more help for Jews in Europe.

The “Rabbis’ March” was an inclusive type of event, and people were not used to seeing rabbis with long coats and beards. The rabbis received a cold reception at the White House. However, Rabbi Marcus pointed out, their tears did have an effect. The War Refugee Board was formed after this, and this led to Raoul Wallenberg’s rescue efforts. “We never know the impact of what we do, down the line.”

Rabbi Marcus shared that Yitzchak Avinu davened to Hashem in this week’s parshah, and the Hebrew word used means he davened again and again. The emphasis is that there needs to be repetition in t’filah. When we ask a person for something and he refuses, then it is impolite to keep nudging. With Hashem, it is different. He wants us to daven again and again and again, because t’filah shows that we are absolutely dependent on Him, and turning to Him again and again sensitizes us to this fact. The Gemara teaches us that if a person davens and he is not answered, then he should daven again and again. We must constantly reinforce Torah, chesed, and t’filah. We must practice derech eretz. It can be disappointing and discouraging when prayers seem to be unanswered. This world is an upside- down world. Colleges receive funds from supporters of evil. There are ignorant students. It is almost cause for despair.

There were so many times that Israel offered partition plans to the Arabs. They refused every time. They don’t want peace with Israel in any form. In 2000, Arafat said no. In 2003, the Palestinians said no. In 2008, even though they were given part of the Old City, they said no. “It is all one big no. They refuse everything!”

Rabbi Marcus stated that “It’s almost beyond comprehension.” No one on college campuses knows the history. Chazal teach that when things are so frustrating, and there is no one to talk to, then just daven and daven and daven. That is what Hashem wants. We have to ask Hashem for what we so desperately need. He noted that persistence in t’filah shows our dependence on Hashem for everything. Yitzchak and Rivkah were davening in opposite corners of the room to have a child. The Midrash says that Yitzchak was facing his wife. Rabbi Marcus explained that he felt her pain and sadness. He davened for his wife, instead of for himself. We learn that if someone davens for someone else to have what he needs, then he is answered first. We need to work on ourselves to feel the pain of others and to daven for others in a time of danger.

Rav Yechezkel Sarna, Rosh Yeshivah of the Chevron Yeshivah, taught that those in Israel are not suffering in the Holocaust, so our test is different. It’s a test of midos – of emotions. He taught that it’s important to feel the pain of those who are suffering.

Rabbi Marcus shared that we in the United States live in an open society. We see what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Israel. We need to ask ourselves to what extent we are feeling their burden. Hashem wants this of us. He wants us to feel the pain of other Jews. The key to g’ulah is to daven as if the other person’s pain is our pain. Chazal say that Hashem wants us to daven. We need to recognize our complete dependence on Hashem, and to daven for each other, and to have achdus, which is the greatest s’gulah.

He taught that when Par’oh chased after the Jews and approached them at the Red Sea, it caused the Jews to do t’shuvah. T’shuvah is more powerful than 100 fast days. In a time of danger, Hashem wants us to carry the burden of others, and to do t’shuvah, and to daven. “Never lose sight of bitachon in Hashem and this will make the rally successful!”

 Baruch Hashem, I believe it was successful.

This writer experienced so much hashgachah traveling to the rally from Queens. First, on the bus, I was zocheh to meet a new friend, and while traveling on the bus we heard a beautiful shiur by Rabbi Marcus. When we arrived at the rally, it was special being in such an incredible historic place and feeling the love of Jew for fellow Jew, for Israel, and feeling Hashem’s love. Thank you, Hashem. As it states (T’hilim 94:21-23) “They gang up against the life of the righteous, and blood of the innocent they condemn. Hashem has been my stronghold, my G-d, the Rock of my refuge. He turns their violence against them, and destroys them with their own wickedness; Hashem, my G-d, destroys them.”

May this rally be a z’chus to uproot evil in Israel and everywhere, to free the hostages, protect our soldiers, and protect klal Yisrael everywhere!

 By Susie Garber