Now more than ever! Hundreds at the March of the Nations in Israel

Since the 70th anniversary of Israel in 2018, several thousand people have been coming to Israel for the March of the Nations every year from all over the world to show friendship and solidarity with the Jewish state. Due to the devastating massacre on October 7 and the ongoing war, it was not clear whether the event would be able to take place in 2024. However, the Tübingen-based association March of Life and 300 participants from 23 nations said: “Now more than ever!” In the end, one or two events had to be downsized for security reasons; however none were cancelled.

In the weeks leading up to the March of the Nations, the March of Life movement organized marches in 100 cities in 24 nations under the motto “Am Israel Chai”. “We were able to mobilize tens of thousands,” said Jobst Bittner, founder and president of March of Life. “And we reached millions through the media.” Many of the organizers from the nations now gathered on May 26 to kick off a conference in the historic Gerard Behar building complex in Jerusalem – site of the Adolf Eichmann trial in 1961.

Eichmann hid behind a mask of harmlessness and normality during his trial, explained Bittner. “He represented millions of Germans who dealt with their guilt in the same way. We are here as descendants of these perpetrators to break the silence.”

Hanan Dann, a survivor of the massacre in Kfar Aza, spoke at the opening event. The kibbutz had been a paradise, he said, apart from the rockets to which the residents had grown accustomed. “We went to sleep in this paradise on October 6, and woke up in hell.” Hanan recounted a feeling of utter helplessness when he heard the cries for help from his neighbor, who was desperately trying to protect his two-year-old child and pregnant wife. When Hanan’s family was finally rescued after 20 hours, they had to cover the eyes of their two young children to prevent them from seeing the images of death and destruction in their kibbutz. Looking at Hanan you see a man is no longer able to laugh. The encounter with the March of Life movement was a glimmer of hope for him. Hearing about it was a life-changing experience, he says. “I’ve met wonderful people and can be tentatively optimistic again,” he said.

The conference concluded on Monday evening with a gala event, which was attended by 200 additional Israeli guests. 40 actors and singers from southern Germany, including 10 children, had spent the previous months rehearsing a moving musical. The musical “Exodus 1947” expresses the difficult journey of European Holocaust survivors by ship to the British Mandatory Palestine – to Eretz Israel. It shows the traumatic consequences of devastating antisemitism, but also brings the message of hope for a better future.

Two former passengers of the Exodus, Arye Itamar and Shlomo Hameiri, were present at the screening. Their personal stories were acted out by the actors. Shlomo, who was an orphan on the Exodus as a 13-year-old boy, cried tears of emotion when he saw his own Bar Mitzvah in the musical – played by a descendant of a Wehrmacht officer. The moving program will be permanently available online.

On Tuesday morning, the participants divided into different groups in buses and traveled from Jerusalem to the cities of Ashkelon, Be’er Sheva, Netanya, Tiberias and Zikhron Yaakov. There, their numbers grew by a total of around 600 Israelis who had previously been invited to the Marches or joined spontaneously. Israelis cheered the widely visible solidarity march from street cafes. Drivers waved from passing cars.

In the cities, meetings were held with Holocaust survivors, former hostages and relatives of hostages still held in the Gaza Strip. At each event, the descendants of nazi perpetrators sang Hebrew songs and told the stories of their ancestors. “It’s not easy for me to hear that,” confessed a Holocaust survivor in Ashkelon, “but thank you for doing this!” Two Israeli teenagers pushed their way to the front to give an interview to the press: “It’s crazy that they’re coming even though there’s a war going on,” they said within earshot of the artillery fire.

A paramedic who had to rescue bodies and injured people from the combat zone on October 7 also told his story in Ashkelon. “We will continue to fight for Israel,” he said at the end. “Because we have no other country to go to.” A man in Be’er Sheva, whose youngest brother was killed in the battle in Khan Younis, said the same thing: “Will you come back next year? We will be here. We have nowhere else to go.”

Thousands of Israelis heard the loud call on the streets: “Israel, you are not alone! You have friends in the nations; you are loved by God!” Thousands more will hear it through media reports. In a time of seeming abandonment and hopelessness, the March of the Nations has brought encouragement, hope and truth to Israel: Am Israel Chai – The people of Israel are alive!

Here are some newspaper articles and news from Israel: 


“Recap” March of the Nations 2024:

Report from Israeli television “i24 News”:

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