An estimated 3,000 people—many waving Israeli and American flags—gathered in Miami Beach on Tuesday evening to support Israel and to condemn Hamas’s terrorist attacks on Oct. 7, which killed at least 1,200 Israelis.
The Greater Miami Jewish Federation hosted the rally with 36 South Florida organizations at the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach, which is part of the Federation.
“No nation and no people in the face of an enemy that seeks your ultimate and complete destruction can be asked to be patient, can be asked to be measured, can be asked to be proportionate,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of several politicians to address the crowd.
Rubio, who talked for about five minutes, told the crowd that the current conflict and the response to it cannot be business as usual. The senator allowed that it’s for the people of Israel to decide, but in his view, “this enemy must be destroyed, must be eradicated, must be eliminated, must be degraded and cannot be allowed to continue to exist.”
“The enemy is Hamas and their patron in Tehran,” Rubio said.
Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez attended the rally on behalf of the state’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is a 2024 presidential candidate. Nuñez told the crowd that Hamas terrorists are motivated by hatred and total rejection of Israel’s right to exist.
“We will never stand for that in the state of Florida because this is not just an attack on the Jewish people in Israel,” she said. “This is an attack on the Jewish people around the world, our Jewish community here in South Florida, throughout the state and throughout this country.”
“I’m here to tell you that Gov. DeSantis and I unequivocally stand with the State of Israel, our one true friend, our most valued and trusted partner in the Middle East,” she said. “We’re here for the Jewish people not only during times of war and tragedy.”
Nuñez told the crows that she and DeSantis visited the Shul of Bal Harbour in nearby Surfside that morning. There, the governor announced plans to increase state sanctions on Iran and block Iranian businesses in Florida.
“I’m proud to say that our administration stands with the Jewish people, leading the way in combating antisemitism, fighting against the BDS movement, making sure that we maintain our Jewish day schools safe and secure with historic funding, making sure that we strengthen our Holocaust curriculum with the Department of Education, and maintaining the strong economic and cultural ties that we have and we’re proud to have in the state of Florida,” she said.
Those rallying sang Hebrew songs and chanted “The nation of Israel lives” in Hebrew and bore signs, including those stating “We stand with Israel” and “Stop Hamas now!” Many also prayed during the event.
“In the scheme of things, there’s not a whole lot that we in North America can do,” Jacob Solomon, the president and chief executive officer of the Federation, told JNS prior to the event.
“We can give money, and I hope people will. We can call our elected officials. I hope people will. But mostly, we have to come together,” he said. “We need to express solidarity. We need to let our brothers and sisters and everyone in Israel know that we’re there with them and that they’re not alone.”
Solomon told JNS that he didn’t think that rally participants would learn anything new about the conflict by being there, but he thought that they would learn that Americans, including U.S. Jews, support Israel overwhelmingly.
“Some critics of Israel may get a lot of press and a lot of attention, but that’s because they’re outliers,” he said. “Israel is blessed to have strong, stable, solid, unequivocal partners in the United States. American Jews are part of that equation.”
The Miami Jewish community is “deeply connected to Israel and deeply invested in Israel’s survival and success,” he added.
‘We’re all with you tonight and always’
Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, consul general of Israel in Miami, told the crowd that the war is not a political conflict, a territorial dispute or a matter of cultural differences. “This is a war between light and darkness, between good and ultimate evil,” he said.
The Hamas attacks are a painful recognition that there are still people who seek to erase Jews, said Jessica Katz, chair for the Holocaust Memorial, told the crowd.
“For that reason, we felt that the Holocaust Memorial was the most appropriate venue for this rally,” she said.
Fighting back tears, Katz told the crowd about her cousins in Israel sleeping on the floor, holding their children tight while rockets fired overhead from Gaza. “I love you, and we’re all with you tonight and always,” she said.
After about a dozen people, including cantors and rabbis, opened the rally by singing the American and Israeli national anthems, Ariel Bentata, chair of the Federation, praised U.S. President Joe Biden’s remarks to the nation earlier in the day. The president had called Hamas’s attack “sheer evil.”
“We will not let Hamas win the war,” said Bentata.
No matter how divided Congress seems, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) told the crowd that “my colleagues understand the need for unity, compassion and unwavering support for our Israeli allies.”
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told the crowd it must draw strength from coming together in love and community. “We are uniting in our resolve, in our commitment, in our prayer, and we’re here together across all walks of life, all religions and all nationalities,” she said. “We’re all united to say, this cannot continue.”
“For the families that have lost so much, we need to weep with them. For the people who were taken hostage, we need to pray for their safe return, and to the soldiers in the IDF, we must pray for their safety,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.
Standing with Jews
Lorraine Lusky, of Plantation, Fla., told JNS that Hamas must be punished.
“I think what has been done to Israelis, Americans and people from around the world who were there—either at the festival or near where Hamas attacked—and what Hamas has done to the kids by burning them and decapitating them is inhumane and a war crime,” she said.
Her husband, Marvin Lusky, who also attended the rally, told JNS: “I’m here to stand with all the Jews in the world.”
Carlos Frost, of Aventura, Fla., was one of several in the crowd with an Israeli flag draped over his back. He told JNS he attended to support the state of Israel and voice opposition to Hamas.
He also thought it important to see thousands of others supporting Israel, he said.