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March for Israel

November 16, 2023

Dear Friends,  I was privileged to be at the Solidarity March for Israel in Washington, D.C., and have returned filled with awe. Our people, our nation, and our hope are strong.  

More than a quarter-million supporters of Israel gathered on the National Mall to rally for Israel in its war on Hamas. The speakers included young voices, college students, parents and family of hostages abducted from Israel into Gaza, bipartisan U.S. government representatives, leaders of Jewish organizations, and my personal favorite, Natan Sharansky, our generation’s moral voice of resistance against totalitarian evil.   The air was electrified with music, clear and short energetic speeches, video clips, and a collective feeling of shared woundedness, voice, and hope. Tens of thousands of posters with each of the 240 hostages now languishing in Gaza were passed out, each with a picture and a name. The crowd periodically raised these posters as if lifting a personal prayer shared as a collective, as if in a minyan. There were moments of reverent silence, collective cheers, laughter, and weeping.   The existential loneliness the Jewish people have felt since October 7 was transformed for a few hours as we encountered the strength and resolve of our tribe and our many allies. I could also feel firsthand that a deep power and strength has awakened in our nation. History is turning a corner. As in a car that has been traveling in a straight line, one adjusts to the motion and feels as if standing still—until a corner is turned at high speed. The centrifugal force of this moment is changing everything, even if we don’t yet know what’s next. Up to October 6, the State of Israel felt on the precipice of civil war, with discord and 40 weeks of committed resistance to the present Israeli government. But by the afternoon of October 7, as I’ve heard it beautifully characterized, the “State of Israel” ceased to exist, but the “People of Israel” awakened to take its place.   Among the many busloads of Jews of all stripes, no attention was paid to the many individual affiliations being waved. Many flags were present: American, Israeli, blended AmerIsraeli, rainbow, Conservative, Reform, etc., but all attention went forward to the stage, and “forward” metaphorically, as well. I knew it was a special moment in our history when I heard behind me, “Let’s not talk politics now, OK?” A dream come true!!  We were united around the three principal messages of the day. We marched 1) To support Israel in its war against Hamas, 2) To bring the hostages home, and 3) Against anti-Semitism. It’s the third one that has us all worried. Somehow, the oldest bigotry in the world is experiencing a renewal, “From the river to the sea…” is a genocidal prayer against Jews and is today energized in the Muslim world, in Europe, the university campus, and especially in the ubiquitous world of algorithm-powered social media. The FBI reports a 400 percent increase in attacks on Jews since October 7 alone. This is a time when truth and clarity are obscured by simplistic thinking and misguided ideological commitments, and we dare not cower or crumple before them. Living a richly identified Jewish life is more important today than ever.   On October 8, I predicted that the world would be reverent during the first week from the attack because the media would be filled with images of dead Jews—but that it would quickly turn its sympathies away because they would no doubt be treated to many weeks of images of dead Palestinians. It is important to remember that the responsibility for Israel’s actions in Gaza lies with Hamas alone. The death of Palestinian human shields and the murder of Palestinians by Hamas as they try to flee to southern Gaza underscore the unique perversion of humanity that is Hamas. There can be no ceasefire with an organization that retains the capability to commit the kind of atrocity we witnessed, especially when they openly proclaim they will do it again.   Of course, we also desire that the Israeli military continue to take as many precautions against the incidental killing of innocent Palestinians as possible. Israel has punished Hamas in the past for murderous and relentless rocket attacks, leaving them intact. The result was the atrocities of October 7. As many signs proclaimed at the march, “Never Again Is Now.” Israel must use its power to destroy Hamas. Not only will this help protect Israeli citizens, but the ripple effect will also help protect us. And may the world understand this: The Jews have returned home, we are an indigenous people re-indigenizing to the land, and we’re not going anywhere — so let’s talk.  There may be difficult divisions of opinion and much to sort out in the months and years ahead, but at least for the moment, our people, our resolve, and our purpose is clear and unified. May it guide us to doing what is right, what will work, and may we all — including our Palestinian cousins — welcome fulfilled hopes for a flourishing peace speedily and in our days.  Am Yisrael Chai!  --Rabbi Katzan 


Fri, April 12 2024 4 Nisan 5784