The Wash

Bipartisan group of lawmakers hold vigil for Israel at Capitol

Members of the House show rare agreement in support of Israel.

Five days after one of the deadliest conflicts between Israel and Palestine broke out, dozens of US representatives from both sides of the aisle convened on the steps of the Capitol building for prayer.

Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., gathered colleagues Thursday evening to publicly show their support for Israel and hold a moment of silence for the Israelis that died during the Hamas attack Saturday. 

“When Israel and the United States need one another, it’s moments like this where we step up, and it is actions that matter so much more than words,” said an emotional Schultz.

Passerbys and attendees both stop to watch lawmakers descend the steps. (Riley Ceder/The Wash)

She said that the moment of unity meant everything to her as a Jew, as a Zionist, and as a human being.

Hamas launched a ground and air attack against Israel Saturday that has killed 1,300 Israelis. They also took 150 hostages. Israel declared war shortly after and bombarded Gaza with airstrikes, killing more than 1,400 Palestinians.

Israel declared war shortly after and bombarded Gaza with airstrikes, killing more than 1,400 Palestinians.

The attack on Gaza has displaced 300,000 Palestinians from their homes. The U.N. is warning of an ensuing humanitarian crisis for the now homeless civilians of Palestine since borders are closed and they are unable to leave the territory.

Democrats and Republicans descended the steps at 6:45 PM. They held electronic candles, their faces illuminated.

A group of staffers stood several feet away. They watched and took pictures. Visitors to the Capitol looked on from behind a temporary fence farther away, as they weren’t allowed closer for security reasons.

Sam Dorn gathered to witness a show of support that he defined as important. He said he wanted to be a part of the moment.

“We’ve seen so many historic moments both for good and for bad in front of this building in the past couple years and to stand here and say America is firmly and resolutely behind Israel,” said Dorn, trailing off.

He said he was praying that Hamas would understand the severity and consequences of its attack.

“I hope they gain that understanding,” said Dorn.

Pervaze Sheikh and his wife stumbled upon the prayer, unaware beforehand of what was taking place.

“I think it’s appropriate to have a vigil. I think it’s also appropriate to recognize that many civilians on both sides are being killed and hopefully, there’s a quick end to the situation,” said Sheikh.

Pedestrians watch the vigil from behind the bike rail. (Riley Ceder/The Wash)

Gottheimer began the vigil and addressed the crowd briefly before handing it over to  Schulz. She thanked lawmakers for gathering on short notice for the event.

Several other lawmakers spoke, including Republicans who said both parties were united in their support.

Gottheimer reiterated the same point. 

“There is nothing that divides us on this issue,” said Gottheimer.

A prayer was conducted afterward, followed by a moment of silence.

Before dispersing, Schultz offered an expression in Hebrew that she said meant that Israel would live forever.

The death toll for Israel is the largest since the Yom Kippur War 50 years ago when 2,600 Israelis died. The death toll for Palestine is the highest since the 2014 Gaza War when 2,251 died.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv Thursday, where he pledged ongoing US support. 

Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas in the ensuing war.

Riley Ceder

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