I turned 18 last week. In the weeks leading up to the end of my statutory childhood, I decided to do what I could to make each of its remaining days as meaningful as possible. But I never anticipated how it all would end: being attacked outside the White House for standing up for Israel.
When I first heard that there was a pro-Hamas rally scheduled to take place outside the White House, I was dubious. How, in the capital of the free world, can people support a terrorist group that stands for the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of the Jewish people as well as the oppression of women, gays, Christians, political opponents and just about everyone who disagrees with them? I figured it was a garden variety pro-Palestine hate fest and took note of the fact that groups like Code Pink were among the co-sponsors.
All the same, I was appalled, and I didn’t feel I could let an event like this go unchallenged. So I took the Washington Metro to the White House, wearing an IDF T-shirt and an Israeli flag as a cape. As I approached the White House I was stunned and physically sickened to see a crowd of thousands gathered to cheer Hamas and call for the destruction of Israel.
Signs justifying Hamas’s terror and comparing Israel to Nazi Germany were everywhere. Shocked by the absurdity of these claims, I decided to confront a few of the hostile individuals. The first person I spoke with held a picture of a little girl who he claimed was murdered by the IDF. Yet, when I informed him that the picture had actually been taken from a horror movie, he only stared at me and defiantly said, “The horror movie called Gaza.”
“No, Final Destination 4, a B-movie that you can search on YouTube,” I responded.
Rather than confronting this truth, he stormed off.
I became even more enraged after spotting a man with a media badge filming and protesting. I know quite a bit about the biased coverage of Israel from my reading. But all the knowledge in the world didn’t prepare me for the shock of seeing a “reporter” actually participating in a pro-terror demonstration outside the White House.
I decided to get him on record denying Hamas’s use of human shields, a fact impossible to counter because Hamas even writes about it. As I filmed him, the fun began. First, I was told that “Hamas is a resistance group.”
Shortly after, one of the protesters threatened to break my iPad, hurling a fist-sized projectile at my face that fortunately missed me.
I was relieved that when I first arrived at the rally a couple of Israeli tourists were trailing after me, both to protect and to encourage. But at some point they got lost in the crowd. So I found myself alone, questioning these supporters of the genocidal terrorists of Hamas as they spewed their hateful bile.
Suddenly I felt something tightening around my neck.
A woman had come up from behind me and ripped my Israeli flag from around my neck. I tried to pursue her.
But my assailant melted into the crowd before I could take it back.
Then a crowd surrounded me and began chanting about ripping my IDF shirt off as well. As these cries rang in my ears, one of the Israelis returned. She said she saw the woman running with an Israeli flag and wanted to make sure I was okay, and promised to stay with me until I left.
The flag-thief and her fellow terror supporters then proceeded to set my flag on fire.
Distressed, my new Israeli friend and I slowly made our way to the White House along with her Israeli friends.
We were hoping to find some other Israel supporters there.
At last we came across one. It was a lone US Marine, who stood for us like a beacon of light in the darkness. He held an American flag in one hand, and an Israeli flag in the other. Despite their attempts, the Hamas supporters were unable to dislodge him.
Shortly after we arrived, Manny the Marine was descended upon by a crowd of Hamas supporters who spat on him, kicked him and screamed like a pack of hyenas. No matter how they cursed, no matter how they attacked, Manny would not budge. His bravery was beyond measure.
I was dumbstruck that this was all happening at the doorstep of the White House.
I commented to Manny about the irony of how he had served to protect these people’s right to slander and abuse him.
He looked me in the eye and said, “I’d do it again.”
What a difference between this marine, and the Israel and America that he so stalwartly defended that day outside the White House, and these terror supporters.
From the man holding the picture from a horror movie, to the bullies who threatened to destroy my iPad if I didn’t delete footage of their lies, to the violent woman who stole and burned my flag, to the horde that attacked the soldier, it was clear to me that what these people were doing that morning was the antithesis of the ideals that stand at the base of America and Israel.
They weren’t there to debate or defend their ideas.
They were there to end debate and discussion through intimidation. It is not knowledge they wished to share, but ignorance.
On the metro heading home, I was relieved to see that everyday passersby shared this assessment. People who saw my shirt didn’t condemn me and curse me as a terrorist and a war criminal. They thanked me for going to the protest. I know that these people, rather than the mobs that receive the coverage from the media, represent what America actually believes.
My experience that day made me realize the power we all have, the things that we can accomplish simply by sounding our voices. The protesters wanted to silence and pretend away reality. But because of Manny, and the Israeli tourists, and yes, even me, they failed.
After seeing my post of the protest on my Facebook page, that night friends I hadn’t spoken with in years, and even total strangers shared my post and thanked me for standing up for Israel. Simply by sounding my voice, I empowered them. Now, they said, they too will sound their own voices.
Hillel had it right: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? When I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, when?” If we let ourselves lie silent, there is no way to win the argument.
Alexander Hamilton once said that “those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”
If those Hamas supporters thought they could intimidate me into silence, they have another think coming.
Since they stole and burned my flag, friends have sent me five new ones.
I hadn’t expected to end my official childhood getting assaulted by terror supporters outside the White House.
But it happened. And so be it. They couldn’t silence me when I was child. They certainly won’t succeed, now that I am officially an adult.
The author graduated this year from Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland. He will enter his freshman year at University of Chicago in the fall.