March For Israel in Washington, DC Aryeh Photos, courtesy of FIDF small

By Malkie Gordon Hirsch

Around an hour into our pilgrimage to Washington, DC with a few hundred thousand others making the trek, I realized I left my phone at home.

I had nodded off, as one does when woken up after four hours of restless sleep, and with a start, unzipped my fanny pack to check that I had packed everything I’d need for the day, which was essentially a battery pack and my phone.

Obviously, one needs more than just that when spending a full day away from home, but for reasons you’ll see in the next paragraph, I’m not trusted to be the list maker, planner, or packer—for good reason.

As I rifled through my bag and realized that the more important item of those two things was missing, I kept trying to separate the lining of the inside of my bag to create the imaginary pocket that surely had my phone in it, but to no avail. In my semi-sleeping stupor, I had left it on the bed.

Now, usually I’m the type that doesn’t mind something like this, but I also usually don’t spend roughly 12 hours traveling across many states to join throngs of people to rally for the support of our country, our homeland, our people, and the soldiers working overtime to protect the land that is rightfully ours.

From my vantage point in the SUV that our siblings arranged to transport us, I watched everyone go about their car business—texting, WhatsApping, and refreshing pages at an alarming pace.

My sister was next to me, broadcasting the Meaningful Minute, my brother was editing posts to prepare for the day, my son was rewatching clips from various sports events, and I sat there pretending I was transported back to the year 1985, when we’d read books or do crossword puzzles when having to spend a significant amount of time in a car. Except I didn’t have any of those because I thought I’d have my phone.

I made an attempt at trying to get someone who left later than us to bring my phone with them, in the hopes that we could meet, and I could resume my favorite pastime of documenting my life online or scrolling social media platforms mindlessly. But yesterday showed me that everyone had the same thing in mind—they were going to wake up while it was still dark outside, travel five hours to stand in solidarity with our Jewish brethren, and show the people who don’t get to see this on the daily that we all stand together as one nation.

We hurt when they do, we support them by sending collections of gear, writing letters, and raising money to help their cause of keeping our land safe, in the hands of the ones it belongs to. We cry as we listen to the parents and cousins of hostages describe what hell on earth feels like when loved ones are kidnapped from their homes and they receive no news on how they are. We sing all together, and we recite Tehillim in the hopes that our chayalim and those being held captive are safe. We thank the guards there who protect us during the largest Jewish rally that ever was, being sure to leave there with a kiddush Hashem and make sure they see that we are a people of peace. And we just want to be treated with kindness and the way anyone else would want to be.

We stood and listened to members of Congress speak of the change that has to occur in Israel and here in America, about how no one has the right to attack us because we’re Jewish and not expect retaliation. As many of the signs yesterday read, “Never Again Is Now.”

Israel is our indigenous land we’ve fought for, lived in for thousands of years, and protected with the lives of many lost doing so. We’re not going anywhere, because Israel is our home.

Anti-Semitism has set apart those who are outright in their hate and even those who prefer doing it under the guise of bus companies not showing up to pick up scheduled flights of those who came in for the rally. Or flights that are mysteriously cancelled for no clear reason.

As Jews and really any anyone human, it’s never a good feeling knowing that we’re hated for being born this way. But instead of hiding, we’re going to proudly advertise it.

And that’s exactly what Tuesday was. It was a gathering of every imaginable type of Jew gathered for a few hours to show that we’re in this together and we consider ourselves incredibly blessed to be Jewish. The observant and non-observant, the Israeli, the American, the chasidish, the yeshivish, the sefardim, and so on. You won’t see people more willing to drop everything on a Tuesday and travel for hours to a rally to show solidarity and support. I couldn’t be prouder than to count myself among this incredible group of people.

The absence of my phone enabled me to take it all in. To listen to the speakers instead of wondering what all the phone buzzing in my pocket was. To sing, to pray, to really look around at what was going on around me and include all the details to report back to my kids, to inspire them and make them realize how special it is to be counted among a nation like no other. Where we don’t necessarily need to know one another to want to be there and support each other.

Mi k’amcha Yisrael? There are no others like Yisrael.

This morning, as I was catching up on yesterday’s lack of correspondence, I opened a family WhatsApp with pictures from a recent barbecue that Jeremy’s son-in-law had volunteered cooking for in Kfar Aza. He took snapshots of the kibbutz that while just a couple of months ago was abuzz from the energy of life within their walls, was forced to become a veritable ghost town. He took pictures of giant pieces of shrapnel on the ground, burnt houses, and land and pictures lying on the ground of loved ones that once hung on a resident’s wall inside their home. The way it was lying there on the ground as if it was the last thing to think about all that was lost that day. Lives, possessions, homes, and even hope.

But the fact that they’re still there, that these men are now protecting that area and having dinners for chayalim with musical accompaniment, keeping up morale for our soldiers and making them aware that we’re there for them, leads me to believe that life will continue there and every other place that was subject to the massacre on October 7th. This is what Jews do, after all. We rebuild because we have to, despite any and all obstacles thrown in our direction.

Despite the anti-Semitism, the cancelled buses preventing peaceful people joining rallies, off-colored graffiti, threats, and some lawmakers who seem to be supportive but then do the opposite of support, we rise above, wake up in the morning, thank G-d for the blessings and the challenges, and work to restoring what has always been and will continue to be ours.

Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, and a social media influencer.

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