PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Tens of thousands of people descended upon the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to show their support for Israel, as well as call for the release of the more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas militants since their deadly incursion on Oct. 7.
Among them were several busloads of people from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including Rabbi Michael Fel of Temple Emanu-El in Providence.
“To look around and see how many people mobilized all over the United States, all over the world I imagine, to come here and be here together – not out of anger or not to cause more violence, but to come together to simply ask for the hostages to be returned, to pray for peace, and to hope and dream together of a safer world – I think is a thing of beauty,” Fel told 12 News.
The demonstrators also condemned the rise in antisemitism in the United States. Preliminary data released Monday by the Anti-Defamation League showed there was a 316% increase in antisemitic incidents in the month following the Oct. 7 attack, with a rough average of 28 per day.
“What used to be said quietly in corners and in hallways is now being said publicly, really loudly,” Fel said. “We’re now seeing people on the streets being harassed simply for being Jewish.”
Fel said he’s had to increase security at the synagogue.
“The safety and security of every single congregant and all the people who are in our buildings is paramount, and so we’ve had to hire additional security just for us to be able to worship and study and learn together,” he said.
“We want to live in peace with our neighbors, and we want to see a world that is beautiful and productive,” Fel added. “No one here wants a war.”
In the meantime, the Rhode Island Anti-War Committee held a separate rally outside the R.I. State House on Tuesday to show support for Palestinians and continue the call for a cease-fire.
Not everyone supports that call, however.
“The Israeli government is already giving pauses to allow for humanitarian aid and to allow movement of people within Gaza,” Fel explained. “Many of us believe that a cease-fire right now would simply empower Hamas to continue firing rockets, to continue holding on to the hostages.”
While in Washington, Fel and other local Jewish leaders met with Rhode Island’s congressional delegation to thank them for their support.
Below are photos submitted to 12 News by Rabbi Fel.