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Planes, trains and bus caravans: Ahead of mass pro-Israel rally, tens of thousands of Jews are descending on Washington

(JTA) — On Monday morning, Margie Maidman boarded a caravan of 10 buses from Boston to Washington, D.C., headed to a massive demonstration in support of Israel and against antisemitism.

The journey is eight hours each way, and most of the people on her bus, like her, are in their 60s and 70s. It isn’t the first time she’s gone to the National Mall to attend a mass rally. In 1987, she was one of more than 200,000 people to descend on Washington for another cause trumpeted by a wide range of Jewish activists: advocacy for Jews in the Soviet Union.

“The last time I did something like this was in the late 1980s,” Maidman, whose transport is organized by her local Jewish federation, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Aside from maybe women’s rights in Boston or something, I have not really been part of something on this scale.”

Tuesday’s march, organized by a big tent of pro-Israel and Jewish groups — including the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations — is expected to draw crowds in the tens of thousands. It’s attracting attendees who have long been active in local Jewish groups as well as those who aren’t familiar with Jewish organizational life but feel called to trumpet the rally’s message.

Buses and flights are being organized by local Jewish federations, schools, synagogues and Jewish community centers. Other Jewish and Israeli expatriate groups are bringing delegations of their own. Still others are driving, flying or riding to D.C. on their own. Organizers asked for a permit for 60,000 people to gather, though Jewish leaders hope for more than that to come. A pro-Israel rally in 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada — a Palestinian uprising that included a spree of terrorist attacks and clashes with Israeli police — brought more than 100,000 people to the capital.

“I have to do this, because I have to be there for the Jewish people,” Danielle Werchowsky, a resident of Arlington, Virginia, told JTA. “I feel very strongly about that, that we have to show solidarity because we’re getting so many of the messages from the pro-Palestinian big marches. And I don’t want the world to think that those voices are the only ones that count.”

Werchowsky, the mother of a college student, is one of thousands of American Jews who has become increasingly active in pro-Israel advocacy and efforts to fight antisemitism since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. She is a member of multiple online activist groups, including Mothers Against College Antisemitism, the Facebook group that began following the attack that now has nearly 50,000 members. And she started her own local group, Arlington Parents Against Antisemitism.

As civilian casualties have mounted in Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, mass demonstrations across the world have condemned Israel and called for a ceasefire. In response, attendees told JTA they felt an imperative to show up and make a large showing of their own — changing their work schedules, overcoming their fears of being in large crowds and in some cases deciding to bring their children with them to Washington.

“I’m kind of uncomfortable being in large crowds of Jews. I am,” Werchowsky said. “I’m going against my comfort zone by going, honestly, but I’m doing it. If I don’t do it now, why should I expect — you know that old saying: if not me, who?”

Tomer Shani, an Israeli lawyer who has lived in New York for more than four years, is bringing his sons Jonathan and Ethan to the march. They will be traveling on a bus chartered by UnXeptable, an Israeli expatriate group that previously protested the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul but which pivoted after Oct. 7 to organizing relief efforts for Israel.

“We’ve been fighting for the most important thing, which was our democracy, and now we’re fighting for our very existence,” Shani said.

“I think desperate times call for desperate [measures] and traveling to D.C. seems to be not that desperate,” he added. “It’s the little we can do from here to support our people back in Israel and actually the whole western civilization, as far as I’m concerned, in my humble opinion.”

Maidman said that a highlight of the eight-hour bus ride was seeing familiar faces from the Boston area. Like other attendees, she’s not only hoping to make a political statement. During what can feel like an isolating moment, she’s also excited to rally among tens of thousands of other American Jews.

“I even cheer up a little with the idea of just being with so many Jews who care so much about Israel,” Maidman said. “I think the purpose of this march is not simply to make a statement to support Israel, but to support Jews in this country and to let people know: we are here and we matter.”

The post Planes, trains and bus caravans: Ahead of mass pro-Israel rally, tens of thousands of Jews are descending on Washington appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Protester Sets Self on Fire Outside Israeli Consulate in Atlanta

Illustrative. Anti-Israel protesters demonstrate outside AIPAC President Michael Tuchin’s vacation home in Los Angeles, Nov. 23, 2023. Photo: Screenshot

i24 NewsA 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…

— 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

Relatives and supporters of hostages kidnapped on the deadly October 7 attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, rally for their release, after a temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas ended when the terrorist group broke it, in Tel Aviv, Israel, December 2, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

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

Illustrative. Palestinian attacker near Nablus hurls stones towards Israeli troops during clashes at a riot in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, May 5, 2017. Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.

i24 NewsThe 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.

— 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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