Yesterday’s march was a much-needed expression of Jewish pride

The British Jewish community showed they weren’t afraid in a defiant show of solidarity 


The woman on the tube was certainly not worried about drawing attention to herself. Sticking out of her long colourful braids was a miniature Israeli flag, and, in her hand, she held a huge homemade blue and white banner, with the words: “I am allowed to be Jewish and proud”, surrounded by red hearts. Her daughter stood next to her, an Israeli flag draped unapologetically over her shoulders and a blue and white bobble hat on her head. I felt relieved to be down the other end of the carriage in case someone decided that their get-up was an invitation for a row. Fortunately, the most they received were a few perplexed stares from strangers, as well as knowing smiles from those who weren’t necessarily their friends but were heading in the same direction.

Outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand, excitement at bumping into familiar faces was coupled with a little apprehension. After seven weeks of rallies and vigils, we had got used to the drill. You stood in one place, listened to a few powerful speeches, chanted loudly and then went home, happy that your voice had been heard – but also relieved that you hadn’t really disrupted anyone’s Sunday afternoon in central London.

Today felt different. In half an hour, we would literally be taking to the streets. But as half an hour began to turn into an hour, impatience set in and the chanting began: “Never again is now!” and “Bring them home!”, which have become the anthems of our community since October 7, emanated from the crowd. Someone started up a variation on the notorious “From the river to the sea”, but swiftly gave up when it failed to catch on.

Alongside Israeli flags were Iranian flags, rainbow flags, placards from the organisers, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, with the slogan: “Zero tolerance for antisemites” and posters from the #BringThemHomeNow campaign with the haunting faces of hostages, who have become all too familiar to us.

There were also some brilliant home-made signs, ranging from the deadly serious (“We are living in a world where Jewish women who were raped are valued less than the terrorist who raped them”) to the dead-pan (Antisemites, curb your enthusiasm” in reference to the most dead-pan of Jews, Larry David) and the dead funny (“I’m kosher, mum and proud of it – Brian, A.D. 33” and “Looking for a shidduch” with a phone number scribbled underneath).

And then we were off, a sea of blue and white snaking our way slowly down the Strand, past the river, and onto Whitehall. Slow is good when you are hungry, and having scheduled it around lunchtime, it came as no surprise that a few people were spotted sneaking off before rejoining the crowd, one hand waving an Israeli flag and the other holding a Starbucks sandwich. When there’s a will…

Halfway down Whitehall, I lost my 17-year-old son to a TikToker, who was asking teenagers if they felt compassion for both Israelis and Palestinian civilians (Fortunately my son told the interviewer’s 70,000 followers that he did.)

The further we walked, the more the momentum picked up as Jews of all stripes and ages – from those in pushchairs to those in wheelchairs – joined in singing a football-anthem rendition of “Oseh Shalom” and chanted: “Act against hate before it’s too late!”, the ditty which probably best captured the spirit of the day.

Not known for putting our communal head above the parapet, here we were, loud and proud with our Israeli flags on show, marching through the centre of London, past department stores decked out with Christmas baubles and tourist shops brimming with Union Jack-decorated tchotchkes. If there was ever a moment to feel Jewish and British, this was it.

Arriving at Parliament Square bang on 3pm, there were shouts of “Mincha!” before the Chazan Jonny Turgel was tasked with warming up the crowd. His phenomenal voice could surely soften the hearts of the most hardened antisemites - even if, fortunately, none were there that afternoon.

Then followed speeches from the Chief Rabbi and several Tory and Labour MPs. There was a lot of talk about unity and standing “shoulder to shoulder”, which felt rather apt as we all jostled with one another on Parliament Square and all the way up Whitehall for a good view of the speakers.

Alongside Jews, Christians, Iranians and Hindus were the Who’s Who of Jewish celebrities who have made a stand against antisemitism – David Baddiel, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Rachel Riley, Maureen Lipman, Rob Rinder and Vanessa Feltz, who showed that not only do they talk the talk, but they were also prepared to walk the walk.

We heard from Riley, who reminded us of the antisemitic hatred she had been receiving long before October 7 and Oberman, who said she was here to stand alongside “the silent majority”.

Actor Eddie Marsan then took to the stage, who, although not Jewish, having played a minyan’s worth of Jewish characters during his career, is certainly an honorary member of the tribe. Speaking in his Cockney accent, little altered by drama school training, he told his fans: “I’m here to stand in solidarity with my Jewish friends, the people I grew up with, the people I went to school with, the people I work with, and I tell you all: ‘You are not alone.’” It felt good to have Marsan in our corner.

As we seem to have a knack of turning every rally into a simchah, after legendary Israeli singer Rita led us in the singing of the Hatikvah, there was a spontaneous burst of Israeli dancing before we all trundled off to catch the tube – though not before most of us had stopped at Tesco to pick up a bit of ‘kiddush’.

Heading back to north-west London, I looked out for the lady with the Israeli flag poking out of her multicoloured hair. While I don’t yet feel confident enough to get on the underground with a blue and white flag on my head, let alone a magen David visible above my neckline, after spending the afternoon among 105,000 fellow Jews and allies, I now feel emboldened enough to stand with those who do.

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