Tens of thousands of American Jews rallied in Washington Monday to express support for Israel in its war against terrorism. The "We Stand With Israel" rally brought Jewish people from many U.S. states to the front of the U.S. capitol where a succession of speakers condemned Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel.
They came by air, car, bus, and train, young and old, traveling hundreds of miles to the nation's capital.
"[We came] to show that we want to fight terrorism. They [Palestinians] are barbarians," said Saadia Fireman, 14 from Cleveland, Ohio. "It is called terrorism because they blow themselves up. It's not their religion. We want to show we can fight with America."
His friend, Bennet Seftel, also from Ohio, added, "They're doing the right thing and I hope they continue to try and make peace and try and tell Palestinians that they are doing the wrong thing by doing terrorist actions."
The "We Stand with Israel" rally was hastily organized, hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington in conjunction with other Jewish organizations across the United States.
Because of the short notice, and transportation problems, participants said many people were left behind and the turnout was lower than it could have been.
"There was no room on the buses, they were just left behind," said Bernard Troy from Middlesex, New Jersey. "And had there been an opportunity to go out and organize this properly with more opportunity for people to get on the buses, I am sure you would have had at least double this crowd."
However, tens of thousands did make it, and the complaints did not overshadow the enthusiasm of those who marched to Capitol Hill. Ilan Frydman led a group from Cleveland's Ben Akiva Youth Zionist Movement for Israel.
"We're here to support Israel on the terrorist war that America and Israel are fighting together," he said. "We're for peace in the world, to add more love in the world and happiness for everyone."
In speeches, religious and political figures condemned Palestinian suicide attacks, as well as recent anti-semitic acts in Europe.
The majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Congressman Dick Armey of Texes, said Israel and the United States stand together in a common fight against terrorism.
"A deliberate attack on innocent civilians is terrorism. It is terrorism when it happens in New York City," he said. "It is terrorism when it happens at the Pentagon across the river. It is terrorism when it happens in the skies over Pennsylvania. And it is terrorism when it happens in the heart of Jerusalem."
Among the speakers was Rabbi Seth Mandel. He spoke of how last year, his son and a friend, both in the eighth grade, were stoned to death by Palestinians as they walked near their home in Israel.
"The Talmud says, if you destroy one life you have destroyed an entire world," he said. "I know because my world was destroyed when they killed my son. I know because my family's world was destroyed when they killed my son. And I know because my community was destroyed when they killed my son. This is true not only for me and my family this is true for every one of the families of the 460 people who have been killed in the last year and a half."
Mark Sokolov survived the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, only to find himself outside a shop in Israel with his wife and two daughters when a Palestinian suicide bomber struck. "There can be no double standard in the war against terror. If the United States is allowed to fight terror across the world then surely Israel must be allowed to fight terror across the street," he said.
The already tight security on Capitol Hill was even tighter for Monday's nearly four-hour rally, which went off without incident. Many of those participating said they hoped for an even larger turnout in New York when a similar rally is scheduled to take place there next month.