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‘The world can see that we are together’: March for Israel attendees say they delivered a powerful message

WASHINGTON (JTA) —  Hannah Kaplan, a senior at Tiffin University in northern Ohio, can identify exactly one other Jew in the school’s student body of approximately 3,000. There are also a few Jewish professors, but no Hillel.

She says she’s felt lonely since Oct. 7, when Hamas’ attack on Israel killed 1,200, sparked a brutal war in Gaza to depose the terror group and led to a reported spike in antisemitism across the United States. Kaplan, who has relied on her lacrosse team for comfort, says there aren’t many pro-Palestinian protests on her campus — but she’s also feeling the absence of Jews.

So she got a seat on a bus leaving from Ohio State University and took the seven-hour ride to Washington, D.C., for what ended up being perhaps the largest Jewish gathering in American history on Tuesday — the pro-Israel rally on the National Mall.

“It’s important for me to be around people who I really associate with, and can identify with a community,” Kaplan said. “I’m so pumped and so ecstatic that so many Jewish students and so many Jewish people were able to come out in support today. It makes me feel like we really have a strong community. It makes me feel hopeful.”

The pull Kaplan felt — to be around many, many other Jews at an uncertain time for both Israel and American Jewry — was shared by attendees across the hundreds of thousands who filled the grassy expanse in the nation’s capital for two hours on Tuesday afternoon. Dozens of people who spoke with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency mentioned their support for Israel when they described what they hoped to hear at the rally. But mostly, they said, they were excited to be in a crowd of their own.

“When I heard about this rally, I felt it was so important to come and bring my daughter so that we can be here and stand with everyone,” said Marnie Atias, who flew with her 15-year-old from Milwaukee. Another daughter moved to Israel shortly before the Oct. 7 attack and works at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. Arias added, “The world can see that we are together.”

Marnie Atias and her 15-year-old daughter flew from Milwaukee for the March for Israel, Nov. 14, 2023. (Ben Sales)

The crowd was a mix of young and old, with a large proportion of Orthodox attendees, in part a reflection of the decision by Jewish day schools and universities to cancel classes and bus students, and in some cases their families, to Washington. Clusters of men gathered outside the event before it started for afternoon prayers.

Politically, attendees seemed to reflect the broad pro-Israel tent that the organizers had hoped for, with right-wing demonstrators standing in the same crowd as a “Peace Bloc” organized by progressive Jewish groups. Signs mostly declared broad support for Israel, opposition to antisemitism, a call to free the hostages or condemnation of Hamas. Many held the hostage posters that have become a common sight in cities across the world, with more strewn in spots across the Mall.

A few signs made a “hummus/Hamas” pun, favoring the Middle Eastern chickpea paste while opposing the Middle Eastern terror group. Many people wore or waved flags that were half-American and half-Israeli. At least one person went a step further, wearing a tripartite flag that was one-third Israel, one-third United States and one-third Ukraine.

There were also some Jewish demonstration mainstays. A group from the activist anti-Zionist Hasidic group Neturei Karta protested outside the event’s security barricade. Emissaries of the Chabad Hasidic movement roved around the crowd, seeking men who could put on tefillin, the prayer article worn daily by many observant Jews. A man sold Israeli flags ($10 each) from a cart, along with pins with messages such as “Go to Hell Harvard” — a reference to recent accusations that the university has not done enough to fight antisemitism — and “F— Iran” over a picture of former President Donald Trump.

There were also a significant number of Christians at the rally (and much to the chagrin of the liberal groups present, conservative evangelical Pastor John Hagee spoke from the stage). Kaylee Santalucia and her parents left Buffalo, New York, at 2:30 am, representing their church, on the Buffalo Jewish Federation’s bus to Washington. She said she felt God would play a role in saving Israel.

“I am feeling uplifted, hopeful, that we can come together and stand for Israel and just be supportive,” Santalucia said. She said she hopes to see “an end to the slaughter that Hamas is doing.”

But the vast majority were Jews. One man, from Toronto, made a sweatshirt that read, in all caps, “THANK YOU PRESIDENT BIDEN FOR YOUR MORAL CLARITY,” below a picture of the president. He stood on a chair, arms outstretched, one hand waving an Israeli flag and the other an American flag as he advanced a message that even some right-wing Jews have espoused about the Democratic president in the wake of Oct. 7.

Zach Mammon of Toronto made a shirt thanking U.S. President Joe Biden for his support for Israel and wore it to the Washington march, Nov. 14, 2023. (Ben Sales)

“His stance is seen around the world,” said the man, Zach Mammon. “He knows that, and we know that around the world.”

A couple who flew from Atlanta was decked out in all manner of Zionist apparel: Eric Fox wore a blue-and-white scarf on top of a T-shirt bearing the likeness of Theodor Herzl, the ideological father of Zionism. His wife Julie Fox wore a blue shirt with a white Star of David and an American-Israeli flag as a cape.

They said they were motivated in part to counter the images of mass rallies held by Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Zionist Jewish group that brought thousands to a demonstration at the U.S. Capitol weeks ago.

“Just to show what the Jewish point of view really is instead of what’s been shown on TV as far as Jewish Voice for Peace,” Julie Fox said. “That doesn’t represent most of us.”

She added, “We want our hostages back and we want Hamas gone and I don’t really think there is a way to have a two-state solution, unfortunately.”

Orna Tussia, left, and Devorah Selber, Israelis living in Philadelphia, hold posters showing the hostages held by Hamas during the March for Israel in Washington, D.C., Nov. 14, 2023. (Ben Sales)

Not far away, Carol Berkower wore a shirt from the liberal Israel lobby J Street that identified her as pro-Israel as well as pro-Palestinian. The group advocates vocally for the establishment of a Palestinian state. She said she owned the shirt before Oct. 7 but read it again before putting it on and decided she still agreed with it.

But she said she hadn’t come to the rally from her home in Baltimore to convince anyone. Rather, what brought her was concern for her cousin who lives in Kfar Aza, a kibbutz ravaged by Hamas. Berkower’s daughter is also a student at the University of Rochester, and Berkower wanted to be part of a large crowd showing solidarity with Jewish college students.

“I think we’re all together,” she said of the rallygoers. “Everyone I know in Israel is traumatized right now so I’ve been doing everything I absolutely could to stand for it.”

Another mother of a college student, Sarah Rubel from Westville, New Jersey, has a son at Tulane University, which was recently the site of an altercation between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters. She said she isn’t scared — she’s taking her cues from him, and he feels fine — but does feel sad, and felt a need to stand in solidarity with other Jews.

“I want all of Israel to see that we all support them,” she said.

Some protesters did come advocating for a specific set of goals. Orna Tussia and Devorah Selber, Israelis who live in Philadelphia, carried huge posters with the pictures of the hostages held by Hamas. Selber’s cousin is among them. They said they came to raise awareness for the hostages and to push for a large-scale prisoner exchange that would bring the hostages back in exchange for all of the Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

“Israel and all of the world should see that it happened, this tragedy occurred, and we have hostages, there are still families there, we want them back as fast as possible,” Tussia said, “Bring back the captives, and then we’ll deal with the rest. First of all, bring back the captives.”

David Lender, at center, traveled with classmates from the University of Delaware to the March for Israel, Nov. 14, 2023. (Jackie Hajdenberg)

For David Lender, a sophomore at the University of Delaware who comes from an Israeli family, the rally was an opportunity to support his people. He arrived in Washington with a bus of about 20 other students from his school.

“Israel is my everything — it’s my home, it’s my family, it’s my people,” he said. “What I want people to understand the most — and this is a point that I’ve heard echoed throughout the rally, even from people just walking around — is that Hamas and the Palestinian people are two very different entities and I don’t want people to conflate one with the other.”

Eytan Saenger, a first-year student at Binghamton University, originally had a test scheduled the day of the march in Washington.

“But then I was like, ‘When else do I have the opportunity to stand with hundreds of thousands of people and stand here against the antisemitism that’s going on both across the country and on college campuses?’” he told JTA. “Fortunately, my campus has a lot of Jews — but even where sometimes I’m the only Jew in a class or something like that, I will know that I’m part of a greater people that can come together for each other in times of need, and hopefully also in times of strength.”

The post ‘The world can see that we are together’: March for Israel attendees say they delivered a powerful message appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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UN Committee Says Not Enough Evidence to Declare a Famine in Gaza

Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid make their way to the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, at the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Israel, May 30, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The United Nations Famine Review Committee (FRC), a panel of experts in international food security and nutrition, has cast doubt on the notion that the northern Gaza Strip is suffering through a famine.

In a report released earlier this month, the committee responded to a claim by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) — a US-created provider of warning and analysis on food insecurity — that a famine was likely underway in northern Gaza. FEWS NET said that northern Gaza began experiencing famine in April and projected that the embattled enclave would endure famine until at least July 31.

The FRC rejected the assertion that northern Gaza is experiencing famine, citing the “uncertainty and lack of convergence of the supporting evidence employed in the analysis.” The panel carries out evaluations of humanitarian conditions on behalf of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), an international famine monitoring initiative. 

The FRC added that there is not sufficient evidence to confirm the existence of a famine within northern Gaza and called for more humanitarian access into the warzone, providing experts an opportunity to give an accurate assessment of the conditions. 

“The very fact that we are unable to endorse (or not) FEWS NET’s analysis is driven by the lack of essential up-to-date data on human well-being in northern Gaza, and Gaza at large,” the report stated. “Thus, the FRC strongly requests all parties to enable humanitarian access in general, and specifically to provide a window of opportunity to conduct field surveys in northern Gaza to have more solid evidence of the food consumption, nutrition, and mortality situation.”

However, the panel warned that Gaza is still enduring “extreme human suffering” and called for the “complete, safe, unhindered, and sustained” transport of aid into the enclave.

The report represents a course-reversal for the FRC, which claimed that Gaza likely surpassed the “famine thresholds for acute malnutrition” in March. The FRC now contends that civilians in Gaza are experiencing improved humanitarian conditions as a result of increased aid flowing into the war-torn enclave.   

“Since the FRC review conducted in March 2024, there seems to have been a significant increase in the number of food trucks entering northern Gaza,” the report read.

“The FEWS NET analysis acknowledges that humanitarian assistance in the area has increased significantly, finding that caloric availability from humanitarian assistance increased from 9 percent in February to 34 percent  to 36 percent in March and 59 percent to 63 percent in April. The opening of alternative routes to the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings, the authorization of commercial truck entry, as well as airdrops, allowed for an increase of food availability,” the report continued.

Several aid agencies, media outlets, and politicians, as well as pro-Palestinian activists, have repeatedly accused Israel of inflicting famine on Palestinians since beginning its military operations in Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of over 1,200 people throughout southern Israel. Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, accused Israel of using starvation as a “weapon of war.”

Despite these allegations, data produced by the United Nations showed that Israel allowed more than 100 food trucks to enter Gaza per day in March, an increase from the daily average of 70 trucks before the war. Moreover, many trucks transporting aid into Gaza have been hijacked and seized by Hamas terrorists, increasing the difficulty of distributing food to civilians.

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Hundreds rallied outside Toronto school board offices to protest a racism report that doesn’t mention antisemitism

Hundreds of people filled the lawn in front of the Toronto District School Board (TSDB) to oppose a proposed anti-discrimination policy being voted on by trustees that would include recognizing anti-Palestinian racism—while failing to acknowledge rising antisemitism in schools. The report, entitled Combating Hate and Racism: Student Learning Strategy, was received without any amendments by […]

The post Hundreds rallied outside Toronto school board offices to protest a racism report that doesn’t mention antisemitism appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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French President Denounces ‘Scourge of Antisemitism’ After 12-Year-Old Jewish Girl Raped

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference in Paris, France, June 12, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday denounced the “scourge of antisemitism” and called on schools to hold discussions on racism and hatred of Jews after three boys were charged with raping a 12-year-old Jewish girl in a Paris suburb.

The young girl told police that she was approached by three boys who raped and beat her in the northwestern Paris suburb of Courbevoie on Saturday in an incident that French authorities have described as a hate crime. According to French media, the assailants called the victim a “dirty Jew” and uttered other antisemitic remarks during the brutal gang-rape.

A police source told AFP that one of the boys asked the young girl questions about “her Jewish religion” and Israel, citing the child’s statement to investigators.

The boys — two aged 13 and one 12 — were arrested on Monday and indicted on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Macron’s office said the president asked French Education Minister Nicole Belloubet “to organize a discussion in all schools on the fight against antisemitism and racism, to prevent hate speech with serious consequences from infiltrating schools.”

The rape of the unnamed 12-year-old girl has caused outrage throughout France and among the Jewish community.

Elie Korchia, president of France’s Central Israelite Consistory, told BFM TV that the girl was raped “because she is Jewish,” adding, “We have never seen antisemitism that extends so far in all areas of life.”

Courbevoie Mayor Jacques Kossowski echoed that sentiment in a statement released on X/Twitter, saying, “The rape was carried out with antisemitic intent.”

Eric Ciotti, leader of Les Républicains, also condemned the “rise of antisemitism” in France, which he argued was “fueled by the alliance of the far left.” He added that “we must act as a bulwark” against antisemitism.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing National Rally party, decried the rape on social media. She noted “the explosion of antisemitic acts” in France since Oct. 7.

The recent gang-rape came amid a record surge of antisemitism in France in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. Antisemitic outrages rose by over 1,000 percent in the final three months of 2023 compared with the previous year, with over 1,200 incidents reported — greater than the total number of incidents in France for the previous three years combined.

In April, a Jewish woman was beaten and raped in a suburb of Paris as “vengeance for Palestine.”

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