Georgetown University students joined thousands of demonstrators at the National Mall for the “March for Israel” to show their support for Israel as it continues its war against Hamas.
The Nov. 14 rally comes following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Hamas killed over 1200 people in the largest killing of Jewish people since the Holocaust. At the rally, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) called calls for an Israel ceasefire “outrageous.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) were also in attendance.
There were several dozen Orthodox Jews outside the main area of the rally chanting “1, 2, 3, 4, Zionism no more,” and “down, down the state of Israel,” but no other counter demonstrations.
The demonstration also comes amid a rise in antisemitism in the United States and abroad in recent years. According to the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitic incidents hit a peak in 2022 with almost 3,700 reports of assault, vandalism and harassment of people who either are Jewish or were perceived to be Jewish. Antisemitism has increased by 316% in the United States since the same time last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Georgetown’s Center for Jewish (GUish) Life, a group of students, graduates and faith leaders advertised the event on social media to encourage students to participate in the march. Members of GUish Life helped to coordinate transportation and poster making.
Rabbi Daniel Schaefer, Georgetown’s Director for Jewish Life, also attended the march and said it was a moving experience to see so much support for Israel and call for the release of the hostages.
“My heart breaks for them and wants to see them reunited with their families. So many people rushed to justify the attacks on October 7th, but there is no justification for the killing and kidnapping of innocent civilians,” Schaefer wrote to The Hoya.
Michael Korvyakov (MSB ’27) attended the march and said he was grateful to see members of Congress in attendance showing support for Israel.
“Seeing a lot of support from people who are important was great,” Korvyakov told The Hoya. “What was surprising was that you had people on both sides of the aisle in support for Israel and in support for aid for Israel.”
Marina Chernin (SFS ’27), a Jewish student who attended the rally, said she felt inspired by the size and feeling of the crowd.
“It was warm,” Chernin told The Hoya. “It was hopeful. There was no hate, there were no calls to violence. There were just people in community and in solidarity with one another hoping for peace and for a return of the hostages and for a future.”
Adi Stern (SFS ’27) also attended the march and said she was moved by a mother speaking about her son Hamas took hostage.
“When you hear numbers in the news, like 240 hostages, even though you try to empathize, it’s not your reality,” Stern told The Hoya. “I think as humans, we naturally don’t care about things that don’t affect us. So when you hear a firsthand account, you empathize more and it feels closer to your reality.”
The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), one of the primary organizers of the event, said the goal of the rally was not only to show support for Israel, the United States’ most important Middle Eastern ally, but also to demand the release of the 240 hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attacks.
Israel has responded to the Oct. 7 attacks with a series of airstrikes on Gaza and further advancement into Gaza and the West Bank. The airstrikes have hit refugee camps, residential neighborhoods, schools, hospitals and religious buildings. The Gaza Health Ministry reported that over 11,100 people have been killed since Oct. 7.
Eric D. Fingerhut, president and CEO of the JFNA, said that the march aimed to emphasize the U.S. alliance with Israel and support of the Jewish community.
“As patriotic Americans, we will gather on the National Mall to ensure that the entire world knows that America supports the people of Israel in its time of need, that America demands the release of the remaining hostages, and that America categorically rejects antisemitism and hate in every form,” Fingerhut wrote in a statement shared with The Hoya.
Chernin said that an abundance of misunderstanding about the conflict and the recent rise in antisemitism strengthened her desire to show her support for Israel.
“Being pro-Israel is not anti-Palestine,” Chernin said. “In fact, it’s pro-Palestine, and a stable Gaza and stable West Bank are stable Israel. And so I think a lot of the times it’s mischaracterized as wanting something bad for Palestinian people.”
Schaefer added that students can show their support for the Jewish community by speaking out against anti-Jewish speech.
“In my opinion, Anti-Zionism isn’t always antisemitism, but it often exists alongside negative feelings towards groups of Jews or Judaism, either within individuals, groups, or organizations,” Schaefer wrote to The Hoya. “And it absolutely creates a ‘safe space’ for antisemitic ideas and individuals to flourish.”
Chernin said it is important that college students and young generations get involved in activism events like the march if they want to see real change.
“We’re the next generation, right?” Chernin said. “So we are advocating for the world that we want to inherit. And so thinking really deeply about the future we want and pushing the adults and the policymakers and everyone to respect and recognize that, I think it’s not just looking out for ourselves, but for a whole generation and for the generations that will come after us.”