Hundreds of arms shot into the air Wednesday night at the packed “We Stand With Israel Solidarity Rally” at Wilmington’s Siegel Jewish Community Center.
Caryl Marcus-Stape, chairman of the board of the Jewish Federation of Delaware, had just asked, “How many of you have parents, children, grandparents, loved ones, families or friends in Israel?”
Then, “How many of you know someone serving in the Israeli army right now,” she asked.
Most of the hands stayed in the air.
That interactive moment started a ceremony that alternated between prayer, song and speeches as Delaware Jews, friends and allies from many faiths offered solace and support for the dead, injured and suffering after the Hamas attacks in Israel.
A crowd of about 500 people gathered for the event, filling parking lot after parking lot, all guarded with police units with flashing lights and under a hovering black helicopter.
The size of the crowd — many wearing carrying miniature versions of the Israeli flag and wearing blue in a salute to it — and slowed arrivals and forced the event to start later than the planned 6 p.m.
When it did, Marcus-Sape admitted she was shaking from emotion and fighting not to cry.
She was not the only one. At many moments during the evening, tears could be shining in the eyes of those in the crowd.
Delaware Gov. John Carney seemed to best sum up many people’s feelings.
“I have not felt this way since the attacks we experienced at 9/11,” Carney said. “Just haven’t felt this bad at my core, in my heart, and, as others have said, this is Israel’s 9/11 and the horror seems to keep building with every new image.”
Seeing children from the Albert Einstein Academy sing both the U.S. and the Israeli national anthems at the rally made him feel better than he had in the last week, he said.
We cannot have peace when we have terror, Carney said.
Terrorism can never be justified, he said.
“But tonight my heart aches with sorrow and goes out to all the families, families and people that we know who suffered such a terrible loss and are living in fear,” Carney said. “The victims of this depravity are our friends, friends of this community. Some are Americans. This is not some distant tragedy. This is searing. It’s painful. And it’s personal.”
“We must remember these are not just numbers, or statistics,” Marcus-Sape said. “These are real people, their families with real dreams and real hopes for the future.
“We must also remember that this tragedy extends beyond borders and religions. It is a loss for humanity. as a whole and we must condemn all acts of violence and work towards a world where every individual can live in peace, security, regardless of their fate.”
She said everyone should strive to educate themselves about the complexities of the solution, “recognizing that there are no easy solutions.”
Marcus-Sape also urged people to donate generously to programs to help and to hold Shabbats — the Jewish day of rest ceremony — and invite family and friends to join them.
Seth J. Katzen, CEO of the Jewish Federal of Delaware, told the crown they could replace their feelings of powerlessness with action.
“One of Israel’s most famous leaders, Golda Meir, once said, ‘I never did anything alone. Whatever was accomplished in this country was accomplished collectively,'” he reminded the crowd.
“That sense of the collective is more important now than ever before. Feeling lost? Then look around you now. Look into the faces and the eyes of those who have shown up tonight to stand alongside you. Having you all here today, showing your support for the only Jewish state in the world should fill you with a sense of pride not only of self, but of our community and in Israel.”
Rabbi Michael Beals of Congregation Beth Shalom in Wilmington read a letter from President Joe Biden that had been texted to him “just five minutes ago.” The president was the first of many politicians to vow to support Israel.
“In this moment, we must be clear, there is no justification for terrorism,” Beals read. “There is no excuse. The United States of America stands with Israel.”
Biden noted the U.S. had sent ammunition and missile interceptors to Israel and moved fighter aircraft closer.
“We stand ready to move additional assets if necessary,” the letter said. “Our hearts are broken, but our resolve is clear. Here at home, my administration is working to condemn and combat antisemitism at every turn, including by continuing to implement the first ever national strategy to counter anti semitism. We must be clear that there is no place for hate in America.”
The letter was followed by the national anthems and a “Prayer for Israel” that the crowd was asked to pray first in Hebrew and then in English with Elder Tyrone Johnson Sr. leading the translation.
Faith leaders from Christian, Muslim and Hindu churches spoke and offered prayers in their own languages and faiths.
Sen. Tom Carper, who talked about the U.S. Senate’s efforts to help Israel, noted that there is one thing you can find in every major religion: The Golden Rule, or treating others as you would want to be treated yourself.
“It is in all of our religions,” he said. “I like to tell young people when I talk to them about leadership that vif something is in every major religion in the world, maybe we should pay attention to it.”
Finding peace will not be easy because of the complex issues, but it must be done, he said.
Rabbi Nick Renner read the poem “The Diameter of the Bomb” by Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai.
It describes how big a bomb was that killed four and wounded 11, and yet how much larger the circle of suffering and pain it caused, including the hospitals, graveyard, grieving lover across the sea and ends:
“And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making a circle with no end and no God.”
As Renner read, the sound of children laughing and calling to each other in a nearby playground floated across the crowd.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
Share this Post