Jolie Bain Pillsbury

Bring Them Home, Now!

Photo of Jolie Bain Pillsbury, M Street DC, February 16, 2024. Photo by Fran Gutterman.

The good news is, you can walk down M street in DC, carrying a large “Bring Them Home” poster and a small Israeli flag, and not cause a ripple. Which is also the bad news.  It is hard to be a small, peaceful, law-abiding minority and also be seen and heard.

We were carrying our posters and flags, last Friday, on our way home from a gathering held in front of the Qatar embassy.  Convened by the JCRC of Greater Washington, perhaps two hundred people had been there. An orderly, polite, careful-not-to-block-the-bike-lane crowd. We were protected by several police cars and monitored by the Secret Service. Two Embassy security personnel stood overwatch. We waved our flags and held up poster pictures of the kidnapped. There were signs: Bring Them Home, Now!

As the convener addressed us, we could hear a loud voice from across the street screaming “F**K the Jews”. We turned towards the noise. Under the watchful eyes of an armed and body-armored policeman, someone was quietly engaging and attempting to deescalate the conflict. To no avail. Unabated the screaming went on ever louder.  The volume turned up on our portable speaker system, we were asked to ignore this lone counter-protestor. We did. In this context, we felt safe turning our backs on hatred.

The Qatar flag, red, white and heavy, hung limp. The large, light weight Israeli flags flew straight out, blue and white against a bright sky. Our cantor had a guitar. We sang Hatikva, slow and solemn, our voices thinned by the wind. Marc Ginsberg, first Jewish Ambassador appointed to an Arab nation, and former ambassador to Morocco, was our keynote speaker. His nephew, Eli Ginsberg, a recently retired IDF officer, gathered his fellow soldiers on October 7th and rushed towards the site of the Nova festival killing ground. He died in battle on October 8th near Kibbutz Re’im.

It has been 133 days since October 7th. 134 hostages are still held by Hamas. Ambassador Ginsberg urged Qatar to stop being both the arsonist and the firemen in this conflict. He asked Qatar to use all their considerable influence and resources to bring them home. We chant, “Bring Them Home, Now! Bring Them Home, Now!”

No one looks out the windows of the Embassy, no one goes in or out the front entrance. There are no TV cameras, there is no press, there are no bull horns. JCRC is committed to continuing this gathering until all the kidnapped are home.  They hold on to the hope that these gatherings might make a difference.

We are all here in solidarity and for the slim chance that our presence might matter. Someone standing next to me says: “I don’t know if this will help, but I have to be here.” Another nods: “Yes. When they ask me, in the future, where was I during this terrible time, when antisemites were screaming hate in the streets, I want to be able to say, I was here.  Not hiding, doing what I could.”

I still wear around my neck the image and name of Carmel Gat, one of the kidnapped taken that day.  I have met with her brother. I know her story. It breaks my heart. We pray that she survives. At the gathering and all the way home, I carried a picture poster of someone I did not know:  Orin Goldin, 34, husband of Oshrit, father of two-year-old twin boys Aviv and Ayali. His family learned in November that he died on October 7th, killed by terrorists at Kibbutz Nir Yits’hak. The Kibbutz was his home where he raised his family and ran an auto repair shop. His body is being held hostage by Hamas.

We said a prayer for the IDF. The IDF is clearing Gaza of Hamas, tunnel by tunnel, hospital by hospital.

May they free Gaza of Hamas so all they can all come home.

As we left the gathering, I noticed for the first time that all the electrical boxes on the street were covered with dripping red paint. Graffiti with the message “Free Gaza” positioned over a red heart. Yes, free Gaza from Hamas, and bring them home, now!

I didn’t leave the poster behind to be defaced. I took it home with me. Orin Goldin is with me now, his image safe in my window, overlooking my street.  His image is a reminder, that each of us may hope in a small way to help bring them home, now!

About the Author
Jolie Bain Pillsbury, Ph D. Retired, residing in Arlington, Virginia. Public and private sector career focused on producing measurable results through the development of cross-sector collaborative leadership skills. Author of “The Theory of Aligned Contributions” and “Results Based Facilitation: Books 1 & 2.