Koby Lerner

March for Israel: Show of Strength or Weakness?

(Image courtesy of author)

In the heart of Washington DC, nearly 300,000 individuals from across North America came together in an impressive display of solidarity and unity. The March for Israel, remarkable in its scale and peaceful nature, undoubtedly deserves recognition for the sheer commitment and effort it represented. People from all walks of life paused their daily routines and journeyed vast distances – some chartering planes, others boarding trains and cars – for a single purpose: to stand shoulder to shoulder in support of the land and people that are etched so deeply into our hearts. 

The anticipation leading up to the march was electric. People of all ages busied themselves in preparation, creating signs, banners, and t-shirts as emblems of support. There was a palpable excitement, a sense of reclaiming the narrative. After weeks of witnessing pro-Palestine rallies flood the streets and anti-Israel rhetoric dominate social media and public discourse, this was finally our moment. It was time to articulate to the world the essence of the Jewish people, our values, and our unbreakable spirit. 

Yet, as the march unfolded on the expanse of the National Mall, with its array of moving speeches and performances by politicians, entertainers, activists, and bereaved families, something essential was clearly missing. The march fell tragically short of capturing the deep-seated outcry of the Jewish people during these harrowing times, and it failed to project the formidable strength we possess when faced with adversaries.  

Though substantial in numbers, the march lacked the raw emotional intensity necessary to truly reflect the gravity of our current situation. It failed to express the anguish over the 240 souls still captive in Gaza’s dark tunnels, nor did it reflect our torment over the horrific slaughter of 1,200 innocent Israelis or the countless young soldiers risking their lives for Israel’s defense. The atmosphere, in its kumbaya spirit, resembled more of a summer camp reunion than a potent expression of the current turmoil afflicting our brothers and sisters. 

The global outcry following George Floyd’s death in 2020, for instance, was a testament to the power of collective anguish and protest. Yet, when Paul Kessler, an elderly Jewish man, was tragically murdered at a pro-Palestine rally in Los Angeles a mere two weeks ago, the response from our community, not to mention the greater national community, was disproportionately faint. That tragedy should have generated an equally intense response; we should not be allowing Jewish bloodshed to be ignored.  

Furthermore, the march also missed an important opportunity to confront the alarming increase in antisemitism in America, on college campuses, and around the world. This was our moment to declare, unequivocally, that we are not a people to be trifled with. Unfortunately, that moment passed us by.

We must use our history as a testimony to the consequences of silence and inaction. My recent visit to Kibbutz Beeri, the site of one of the worst massacres from October 7th, was a harrowing reminder of this truth. The streets still stained with blood, the air still tainted with smoke and ash, and horrific scenes of destruction and brutality still intact reminded me of the desperate need for the Jewish people to take more assertive stances when our lives are threatened. We are the descendants of those who faced unimaginable horrors. We cannot, we must not, tread lightly when our collective existence is endangered. 

The peaceful nature of the march in Washington, which since has been contrasted with the more aggressive protests of the other side, is perceived as us taking the moral high ground. However, this perception dangerously veils the necessity for a more forceful declaration of our resolve. We should not be concerned with portraying ourselves as the ‘good guys’; this is about unabashedly proclaiming our inherent strength and our ability to stand up for ourselves and fight back – something that our ancestors were unfairly denied. The world must understand that the Jewish people of 2023 will not tolerate aggression and recognize our determination to protect our community, our heritage, and our country. This is not to say that we should stoop to destructive behaviors, but instead learn to be disruptive in our advocacy, making our voices heard in an assertive and impactful manner, while not crossing dangerous lines. This approach will ensure our stances are taken seriously without compromising our values and commitment to peaceful resolution. 

For me, the March for Israel, while a significant and emotionally resonant event, represented a missed opportunity. It could have served as a thunderous proclamation to the world, a declaration that if enemies dare to cross our path or threaten our existence, we the Jewish people will rise, unwavering and indomitable. This was our moment to demonstrate that unity is not limited to harmonious gatherings. Jewish solidarity is undeniably beautiful, but it must not be misconstrued as passivity. Rather, we must find alternate ways to channel our collective power into a force that showcases to the world our strong and unbreakable nature. 

Looking towards the future, it is imperative that we seize every opportunity to demonstrate our fortitude, not just in numbers but in the intensity of our voice and the assertiveness of our actions. Our advocacy must evolve to unmistakably communicate that the Jewish people are formidable, resilient, and unyielding. We are a people who have risen from the ashes, and we will no longer stand silently in the face of adversity.  

About the Author
Koby Lerner, a dedicated advocate for the Jewish community, resides in Cooper City, Florida, actively contributing to South Florida's Jewish scene. Passionate about social service, Koby leads impactful programs aiding Israel relief efforts, Jewish education, community engagement, and homelessness prevention. His diverse Jewish experiences, extensive travels, and understanding of historical contexts enrich his insightful perspectives on contemporary Jewish issues, reflecting his multifaceted engagement with the community.
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