(JTA) — Four hours after Tuesday’s historic pro-Israel march in Washington, D.C. ended, Jennie Levy had expected to be touching down back in Detroit, after a long but fulfilling day standing shoulder to shoulder with Jews from around the country in support of Israel.
Instead, her delegation of 900, organized by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, was hungry, disappointed and nowhere close to home. Many members had missed most if not all of the rally because of what the federation said was a “malicious walk-off of drivers” hired to ferry them between the airport and National Mall. Now, their return flight was delayed as a result, too.
“The buses that were hired to take over 900 participants from Dulles International Airport to the site of the march failed to appear, delaying the arrival of many in our group,” read a statement from the Detroit federation that was circulated by the Jewish Federations of North America. “We have learned that this was caused by a deliberate and malicious walk-off of drivers.”
The incident was a rare blemish on an otherwise successful day for the march and its attendees. Organizers estimate 290,000 people turned out, making the march one of the biggest Jewish gatherings in U.S. history, and people successfully made the trip from all over the country .
The snafu stood out so notably that it was mentioned during the rally itself, called in part to counter the anti-Israel demonstrations that have taken place in many places since Oct. 7, when Hamas attacked Israel and elicited a military response. William Daroff, the executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and one of the organizers of the event, said on stage that “antisemitic bus drivers refused to drive participants to the rally.” Daroff added that the federation told him the bus company had promised to take action against the drivers.
Levy, who works at a hospital and whose husband is Israeli, woke up at 6 a.m. Tuesday for a flight chartered by the Detroit federation. She traveled with a friend for the rally because she thought it was important for the Detroit Jewish community to “be there in full force,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The three planes chartered by the federation landed at Dulles International Airport at around 11 a.m., leaving plenty of time for the delegation to board buses and make the 26-mile drive to the National Mall by the rally’s start time of 1 p.m.
But around a third of the buses never showed.
Mark Miller, the senior rabbi at Temple Beth El in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, told JTA that “all that we knew at the time was something about the buses,” possibly a security issue.
Two hours went by, with the three planes stranded on the Dulles tarmac. Because the flights were privately chartered and the passengers did not pass through a TSA checkpoint before boarding, they were not permitted inside the airport.
Then the news started to trickle out from federation staff, who told the people on board that drivers from the bus company the federation had hired were staging a sickout, where workers call out sick as a form of protest — or as Levy put it, they “refused to drive Jews to the rally.” Miller said he thought it was just a rumor at first, but then the federation confirmed it with its statement.
The statement said the federation was “deeply dismayed by this disgraceful action” but noted that not all Detroit attendees were affected. “Fortunately, many were able to travel to the march and we are grateful to the drivers of those buses that arrived,” it said.
Dennis Bernard, a former head of the Detroit federation and the chair of JFNA’s security and antisemitism committee, was aboard one of the planes and read the statement aloud to the other passengers. In a video shared with JTA, Bernard, speaking into the plane’s public address system, said “unfortunately this falls right in my lap,” before presenting the statement as “official talking points.” The video cuts off before Bernard shares additional information that he had said was confidential.
David Kurzmann, the senior director of community affairs at the Detroit federation, told reporters at a late-night press conference that the private bus company, whose name he said he did not know, informed them that some of the drivers called in sick once they became aware of the assignment.
Kurzmann said he considered the incident to be “an act targeting the Jewish community” that prevented people from exercising their right to protest but, when pressed by a reporter, stopped short of calling it antisemitic.
Levy said the mood on the planes on the way to Washington had been one of excitement and pride, with passengers singing the Israeli national anthem and “Am Yisrael Chai” and chanting the Jewish travelers’ prayer. But once things were delayed, the vibe shifted as organizers were noticeably stressed and scrambling to devise a backup plan, Levy said.
After around two hours, the delegation’s organizers had arranged for makeshift shuttles, which allowed many of the 900 people to make it to the rally, though one full plane’s worth of people didn’t get to the event at all.
Miller said he arrived at the rally around 2:30 p.m., and Levy said she got there at 3 p.m. That was when the event was scheduled to end, though it ran until closer to 4 p.m.
Then because of the unexpected delay in the morning, Levy said the plane’s crew had “timed out,” or exceeded federally mandated work limits, and was not allowed to begin the route back to Detroit until 2:30 a.m. — leaving the delegation waiting for several hours outside the airport. Some in the group hadn’t eaten all day, Levy said on Tuesday evening.
Miller said the incident was not only an inconvenience for rally-goers from his area but possibly “an indication of a much larger problem, which could lead to worse consequences,” including violence.
“We can’t pretend it’s not real, this antisemitism,” Miller said. He added, “On a day like today, where we had a large and enthusiastic group who was proud to be there … for this to be the reason we couldn’t get there just speaks to the reality of what is happening all around us, that antisemitism is real.”
Miller said that while the main focus of the day should still be still the rally and its enormous turnout, “we would be remiss not to have this [incident with the buses] as part of the story of today, too.”
For Levy, the incident offered a stark reminder of why she had decided to travel to Washington in the first place.
“The Jewish community in the United States already feels very helpless and sad about everything going on,” Levy told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I’m scared too, to know that antisemitism is so close to me.”
The post Alleged bus driver boycott snarls 900 Detroit Jews’ trek to DC Israel rally appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Protester Sets Self on Fire Outside Israeli Consulate in Atlanta
i24 News – A protester was in critical condition on Friday after setting themself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. authorities said. A security guard who tried to intervene was also wounded.
A Palestinian flag found at the scene was part of the protest, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said at a news conference. He added that investigators did not believe there was any connection to terrorism and none of the consular staff was ever in danger.
JUST IN: A pro-Palestine protester is in critical condition after they set themselves on fire in “political protest” outside of the Israeli Consulate office in Atlanta.
The protester was reportedly draped in a Palestine flag.
The protester has severe burns and unfortunately, a… pic.twitter.com/B8nUQAj2nU
— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) December 1, 2023
“We do not see any threat here,” he said. “We believe it was an act of extreme political protest that occurred.” Everyone inside the consulate building was said to be safe.
Anat Sultan-Dadon, Consul General of Israel to the southeastern U.S., said: “We are saddened to learn of the self-immolation at the entrance to the office building. It is tragic to see the hate and incitement toward Israel expressed in such a horrific way.”
“The sanctity of life is our highest value. Our prayers are with the security officer who was injured while trying to prevent this tragic act. We are grateful to the city of Atlanta’s law enforcement and first responders for all they do to ensure safety.”
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Released Israeli Hostages Call for Captives to Be Freed
Israeli hostages released in the past week by Hamas in Gaza called on Saturday for the immediate release of fellow captives left behind, a day after a temporary truce that had allowed scores to come home broke down.
Tens of thousands gathered at a rally in Tel Aviv outside Israel‘s defense headquarters, where they cheered Yelena Trupanov, 50, standing on a stage just two days after being freed.
“I came to thank you because without you I wouldn’t be here. Now we must bring back my (son) Sasha, and everyone. Now.”
Similar pleas from other released hostages were shown on video.
A seven-day truce, during which Hamas had released more than 100 hostages, collapsed on Friday after Hamas breached the ceasefire.
Israel said on Saturday it had recalled a Mossad intelligence agency team from Qatar, host of indirect negotiations with Hamas, accusing the Palestinian faction of reneging on a deal that would have freed all children and women held hostage.
More than 240 people – Israelis and foreign nationals – were abducted to Gaza on Oct 7. by Hamas terrorists who burst through the border with Israel and killed 1,200 people.
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IDF Foils Stabbing Attack Near Nablus in West Bank, Eliminates Terrorist
i24 News – The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported thwarting a stabbing attack on Saturday afternoon against reserve Battalion 7037 at the X junction near Nablus in the West Bank.
According to the IDF spokesperson, the event unfolded when the forces at the roadblock became suspicious of an individual approaching the barricade.
During the questioning process, the suspect suddenly drew a knife and advanced towards the IDF personnel.
ניסיון פיגוע דקירה אירע לפני זמן קצר לעבר כוח צה”ל במילואים מגדוד 7037 שפעל בחסם בצומת האיקס סמוך לעיר שכם שבמרחב חטיבת שומרון.
הכוח חשד במחבל שהגיע לחסם והחל לתחקר אותו, המחבל שלף סכין והחל להתקדם לעבר הכוח.
הלוחמים חתרו למגע והגיבו בירי לעבר המחבל שחוסל. אין נפגעים לכוחותינו. pic.twitter.com/mEaJs58hpE
— דובר צה״ל דניאל הגרי – Daniel Hagari (@IDFSpokesperson) December 2, 2023
The soldiers, faced with the threat, engaged in contact procedures and ultimately responded by opening fire on the assailant. The spokesperson confirmed that the attacker was neutralized due to the IDF’s action.
It was also noted that there were no casualties among the IDF forces involved in the incident. According to the spokesperson, the situation at the X junction has stabilized, and IDF continues to maintain vigilance in the area to prevent further attacks.
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