(JTA) — Tens of thousands of Jews and pro-Israel activists are arriving in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday for a mass pro-Israel rally that will feature senior Israeli and American officials and that aims to bolster support for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, as well as the fight against antisemitism in the United States and beyond.
Tuesday’s rally aims to demonstrate broad support for Israel’s war effort and to call for the release of the hostages, in addition to condemning antisemitism. The rally’s organizers — the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations — applied for a permit for 60,000 people, though more may come. Buses and flights organized by Jewish schools, community centers, synagogues and other organizations are bringing groups to the rally from across the country.
The organizers have announced that the event will also be livestreamed.
The rally, beginning at 1 p.m. on Tuesday on the National Mall, will include speeches from Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, a Republican, as well as Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Joni Ernst. Other members of Congress and the Senate are also scheduled to speak, as is Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s antisemitism envoy.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog will also speak, as will Israeli Ambassador Mike Herzog, his brother. No members of Israel’s right-wing government, which has been deeply unpopular within Israel since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, are scheduled to speak.
Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident and past chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, will also speak. Sharansky is perhaps the only speaker on Tuesday’s lineup who also addressed the two previous mass Jewish rallies in Washinton, D.C. — in 1987 on behalf of Soviet Jewry, and in 2002 to support Israel during the Second Intifada.
No leaders of large Jewish organizations are scheduled to give major speeches. One segment will feature relatives of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, including Rachel Goldberg, the American-Israeli mother of Hersh Goldberg-Polin. Another will include college students discussing campus antisemitism.
Another portion includes non-Jewish speakers, including John Hagee, the conservative evangelical founder of Christians United for Israel; President Rochelle Ford of Dillard University, a historically Black university in New Orleans; and Anila Ali, a Pakistani-American activist and president of the American Muslim & Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council.
The lineup also includes Israeli pop singers Omer Adam and Ishay Ribo; the Maccabeats, an Orthodox men’s a cappella group; and Jewish actors Debra Messing and Tova Feldshuh. CNN commentator Van Jones will also speak.
The roster of speakers has drawn some criticism. Rabbi Jill Jacobs, CEO of the liberal rabbinic human rights group T’ruah, expressed dismay that Hagee and Johnson will be speaking from the podium. Hadar Susskind, the CEO of Americans for Peace Now, also objected to Hagee’s presence. APN and T’ruah are both attending Tuesday’s rally as part of a “Peace Bloc” of liberal Jewish groups.
More than a decade ago, Hagee made comments suggesting Adolf Hitler was fulfilling the words of the Bible, and referred to the Catholic Church as “the great whore,” remarks for which he later apologized. He has also made anti-Muslim statements. His statements led then-Sen. John McCain, a Republican, to reject his endorsement in the 2008 presidential election.
“I am horrified that he was given this platform,” Susskind wrote on X. “His history of hateful comments should disqualify him from decent company, much less from speaking on stage. He is not welcome and should not speak.”
And there have been complaints that the rally does not include more religious Jewish elements, though some haredi Orthodox leaders have encouraged their followers to attend. Some attendees held prayers services on Tuesday morning in Washington.
The rally was announced last week, roughly a month after Hamas terrorists attacked Israel, killing and wounding thousands and taking more than 200 captive. Since then, Israel has fought a war in Gaza aiming to depose Hamas, an aim the Biden administration has vocally supported. The war has sparked mass pro-Palestinian protests around the world decrying the thousands of civilian casualties in Gaza and calling for a ceasefire. The fighting has also led to a spike in antisemitism in the United States, Europe and around the world.