Brett Gelman, known for his role in the Netflix show “Stranger Things,” was one of the first speakers to address an estimated 290,000 attendees of the “March for Israel” rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14, in what organizers call the largest U.S. pro-Israel gathering in history.
The Jewish actor and comedian has been outspoken in support of Israel on social media, which has led many of his friends to turn their backs on him this month, he told the crowd. “I feel betrayed in a way I never thought possible,” he said. “Most hours of the day, the loneliness is unbearable.”
Those “so-called friends” however “were never really our friends. They were never really there for us,” he said. “They never really saw us for how we deserved to be seen—as beautiful, as special, as excellent.”
But Jews can see those “friends” for what they truly are. “We see them now, oh so clearly. We see that these oh-so-fake former friends are nothing but cowards,” Gelman said to much applause.
He added that seeing the crowd, which reportedly was amplified online (where 250,000 people tuned in via livestream), filled him with awe and hope. “I look at your faces, and I have one thought,” he said. “These people, these vibrant, brilliant people—these are the people who are really going to change it all.”
Cowards are telling Jews that they are violent, disgusting and inhuman, “when all we have done is simply say that we have the right to live,” the actor added. “Cowards that think they can make you run, make you hide. Cowards that think they can scare you into forever silence and make you believe you are nothing when the truth is you are anything but nothing. You are magnificent. You are superb. You are excellent.”
Gelman called for attendees “to own that excellence,” urging them to “not shrink yourselves. Do not seek their sympathy. They’ll never give it to you anyway. Expand. Stand where you are, strong, compassionate, proud, extraordinary, defiant. Say ‘No. Not a chance. Absolutely not,’ when these cowards try to make you think that you are anything but the true heroes of the new world.”
Anti-Israel protesters aren’t opposed to the Jewish state for political reasons, but because “Israel represents, among many other things, an unapologetic statement from the Jewish people that we will no longer run. We will no longer hide. We will no longer stay silent. We will no longer be ashamed of our excellence,” he said.
“Someday soon, their rallies will end. Their violence will stop. They will hide. And they will run. And their unbridled war cries will turn back to timid whispers,” he said. “But you will still be you. Forever loud, forever brave, forever excellent.”
Organizers said nearly 300,000 people were estimated to be at the march with another 250,000 tuned in to a livestream.
“Due to the difficulty in accurately assessing crowd estimates for large events, the National Park Service does not make crowd estimates for permitted events,” Mike Litterst, chief of communications and spokesman for the National Mall and Memorial Parks, told JNS. “It is left to the discretion of event organizers to make a determination of their event attendance.”
‘Make sure you stay disruptive’
Michael Rapaport, a Jewish comedian and actor known for the films “True Romance,” “Cop Land” and “Deep Blue Sea,” also spoke at the march. He wore two Star of David necklaces as he addressed “all you beautiful Jewish people, all you beautiful people from Israel.”
Israel was attacked 38 days beforehand, he said. “We know what happened. The hostages must come home. Free every single one of them. There cannot be a ceasefire until the hostages are home.”
The actor added: “I have never felt this prideful to be Jewish in my life.”
“Jewish people around the world, we have seen it all. We have heard it all. Israel is not going anywhere. Jewish people are not going anywhere,” said Rapoport. “Stay strong. Stay safe. Stay sane. And make sure you stay disruptive.”