Tuesday morning, November 14th, I left the house at 2:30am–yes, you read that right, to rendezvous with the various buses here in Charlotte associated with the Jewish Community as we headed up to the March for Israel rally in Washington, D.C. I arrived back home at 2:30am Wednesday morning, 24 hours later. I was on the bus for fourteen hours–but the remaining ten hours I spent in front of the Capital on the National Mall. This wonderful, peaceful, and inspiring gathering was one of the most meaningful and important experiences of my life.
I am not Jewish but my academic field is the study of ancient Jewish history, including Christian Origins. I would have not missed this event for the world. For me it was a clear moral choice to stand with my Jewish brothers and sisters in such a time as this. I was honored to reserve the last seat on one of the buses that was filled with high school kids and a few of their parents, organized by my colleague and friend, Dr. Marcy Braverman Goldstein, director of Academic Affairs at the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values. Traveling with this wonderful group made even the fourteen hour round-trip on a bus enjoyable. The students are part of a remarkable national organization called ClubZ that Dr. Goldstein had brought to Charlotte, serving Jewish high school students by providing them resources about the history of the Holy Land–remamed Palestine by the Romans, Zionism, the State of Israel, antisemitism, and what has come to be called the “Arab-Israeli conflict.”
Once we arrived on the outskirts of D.C. we joined thousands of buses from all over North America. We made our way via the jam packed Metro to the National Mall, where we joined an estimated 300,000 others. I had never been in a gathering this large–it was truly “sea to shining sea,” as one looked over the vast crowd.
This was not one of those screaming, shouting, kinds of gatherings. It was an expression of a wonderful and beautiful union of Jews and those standing with them, from all backgrounds and persuasions, molded together by the inhuman horrors of October 7, 2023. We listened to stirring speeches and music, as groups representing the incredible diversity of the Jewish people, prayed together, danced, and sang, all linking up with those around hroughout the day. The spirt of union and determination was palpable, with the focus on the the unspeakable Hamas atrocities, the rise of antisemitism, and a demand for the release of those abducted on that fatal day of horrors. The cry of the day was Am Yisrael Chai–the People of Israel Live–as well as Never Again!–referring to the Nazi holocaust, 2000 years of antisemitism, and the massacre of Jews by Hamas on October 7th.
As we headed back for our busses around 5pm, there was hardly a single piece of trash on the lawns, no masks, no graffiti left behind, defacing our buildings. The thick thongs of people riding the Metro were orderly, polite, and joyful–feeling the exhilaration of a level of union like none they had ever experienced–in the most crowded cars I had ever ridden in. Someone observed that this was the largest gathering of Jews in American history, and another quipped that it was the largest since Moses at Mt Sinai!
This story in the Times of Israel captures much of the day, see the pictures and descriptive analysis in this article: “Let our People Go.” Here are a few pictures that help visualize the incredible energy and benefits those of us able to be there experienced.