"I pray for peace"

Never Again is Now rally

It is vital to remember that even in the darkest of times we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we know that there is hope for the Jewish people.

Crowds at the "Stop the Hate, Mate" rally on May 19, organised by Christian groups. The crowd was a diverse mix of religions and backgrounds. It was organised specifically against hate and antisemitism and not a "pro-Israel" rally.Photo: Peter Haskin
Crowds at the "Stop the Hate, Mate" rally on May 19, organised by Christian groups. The crowd was a diverse mix of religions and backgrounds. It was organised specifically against hate and antisemitism and not a "pro-Israel" rally.Photo: Peter Haskin

On Sunday the 19th of May, my mum, a friend and I went to the Never Again is Now rally in front of the steps of parliament. When we left Parliament station we heard drums and at first thought that it might be the rally. It turned out to have been a responding pro-Palestinian demonstration of around 150 people between us and the rally we were going to. Realising that we would have to go through them to get to the rally, I felt a sudden fear which was only amplified by hearing them chanting “Intifada”  over and over again. As we approached the demonstration we attempted to keep a low profile. Despite this as we walked through the corridor of cones set up by the police I was yelled at by a young woman who asked me if I was a nazi telling me that if I was a nazi I should go through gesturing to the Never Again is Now rally she then shouted at me as I walked away that I was committing a holocaust against Palestinians. I thought to myself how could I be called a nazi by the person calling to globalise the intifada, practically calling for the death of all Jews.

Fortunately my feelings of fear were soon overcome by a feeling of joy and an incredible relief to be amongst those who call for peace rather than those who call for death and destruction. When I arrived at the rally I immediately saw people I knew and I felt safe and comfortable amongst the crowd. Soon after we arrived, we began singing songs such as Absolutely Everybody by Vanessa Amorosi, and This is Me from The Greatest Showman, completely drowning out the horrible drums and anti-semitic slogans being yelled by the opposing demonstrators.

At this point, I realized that the difference in music between the two rallies was a physical manifestation of the difference in spirit between us and the pro-Palestinian protesters. As the rally begins it starts to pour down and almost everyone pulls out yellow and green umbrellas that read Stop the Hate mate. It was a sight to behold, but almost immediately after the official proceedings began the rains stopped. It was mentioned by the MC, Reverend Mark Leach, that we were blessed by god to stop the rain, the word “we” to me meant that we as Jews and non Jews alike are one and the same, a united force against hatred and despair. This feeling was further amplified after meeting two women who told us “We are Christians and we just had to come to say that we support you guys. There is so much hate out there but that is not everyone, and particularly Christians, we support the Jewish people.”

As the preceding began the first to speak was Peter Dutton:

“The fight will not be yours alone. The coalition I lead will continue to call out and condemn antisemitism wherever and whenever we see it on our soil. We will continue to speak up with moral clarity and act with moral courage to clear the fog of moral equivalence and moral ambiguity. We do this not only because antisemitism is a threat to one segment of our community we do this because antisemitism is a threat to the Australian achievement; to our democratic way of life and indeed to civilization itself. After the horrors committed by the nazis humanity made a solemn commitment with a single refrain. The forces of civilization said never again full stop. It’s our solemn duty to ensure that refrain does not become a never again which ends in a question mark, it’s our solemn duty to ensure that refrain never becomes an again, never again is now.”

Unfortunately Dutton was unable to attend the rally but left us all with a moving and reassuring speech despite his not being present. There were many indigenous Australian speakers at the rally including a descendant of William Cooper. My main takeaway from the indigenous speakers was their allegiance to the Jewish community and their understanding of our struggle. Personally, I was touched by the incredible speeches made by the indigenous speakers, speaking on behalf of their communities. Many Notable politicians attended the rally including: David Southwick, Sarah Henderson, and James Patterson. All of their speeches were somewhat the same though here are some memorable quotes:

“I say today is the day we draw the line in the sand and we say enough is enough, stop the hate mate, never again.” – David Southwick

“For the last six months they have had this city to themselves but on the one weekend that the Jewish community and their friends show up they are here to try to intimidate us but this city belongs to all of us. We are not afraid we will not be bullied.” – James Patterson

“All Australians have a right to be safe in our own country. That includes Jewish Australians – in your businesses, your synagogues, in the community, in the streets, and online when you walk to school or study at university. Just as we celebrate and respect Australians of all faiths, race or heritage we honour Jewish Australians. The Star of David shines brightly in this country.” – Sarah Henderson

I found myself nodding along and cheering for right-wing politicians that I would not usually support but in the moment it just felt right. In my opinion, one of the most touching parts of the rally was the sheer number of non-jewish people and speakers there were. In fact, the event was organised by a Christian group called Never Again is Now.

After the politicians, there were many speakers representing different communities such as Greeks, Indians, Christians and even Iranians as illustrated by the final speaker, an Iranian man who spoke about the struggles of Iranians since the Islamic revolution and called for the return of the Shah believing that he would bring peace to the region and stop the oppressive regime in Iran. He finished his speech with this quote.

“Let’s never forget that together we are powerful. Undoubtedly light will prevail over darkness. Long live Israel. Long live Iran.” –

His speech was incredibly powerful and made me realise that this war is not a case of Jews versus Muslims, it’s not a case of Israelis versus Palestinians, it is not a case of East versus West, it is a case of Love versus Hate, Freedom versus Oppression, Life versus Death.

“One of the most pernicious destructive lies that has fueled the hatred of the Jewish people is that you can separate a love for Israel from the Jewish identity.”

Mark Leach ended the rally by citing the separating of Judaism and Zionism to be the fuel for all antisemitism and that to separate one from the other is impossible. However in my opinion though Mark had good intentions I believe this statement to be problematic. For example take one look at our fellow Jewish school Shalom Aleichem and realise that this fact is clearly untrue. The Bundist movement is a group of Jewish people formed in the late 1800s that believe Jews can thrive and prosper in the diaspora without a Jewish state. With saying that there is an important distinction to make between Anti Zionist and not Zionist, the Bund are not Zionists but unlike Pro Palestinians they are not Anti Zionist.

To help with writing this reflection on the events of the rally I read up on some news articles about the event and found that every single channel had reported a disappointing and entirely false and manipulated story of what occurred. They all stated something like approximately 7,000 people between the two rally’s, when in reality it was probably 6,800 in our rally and 200 in the other. Many pages presented it as a clash between opposing “demonstrations” when in reality it was simply a clash between Victoria Police and the Pro Palestinians. Having been at the event it was extremely disappointing to me to find that the news had reported the events with a warped and fear mongering perspective. Personally from these news stories I learned never to trust the headline, as it was probably warped and manipulated to make a catchy story and promote a popular perspective.

We finished the rally by singing Am Israel Chai and the Hatikvah, two extremely emotional songs that ended with me and many around me in tears. But despite how emotional these two songs are at this time, it is important to remember what they mean: Israel Lives and Hopes for a better future. It is vital to remember that even in the darkest of times we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we know that there is hope for the Jewish people. Whilst this rally was not a Zionist rally there was a strong emphasis on clearing the stigma surrounding Zionism, and as a proud Zionist myself I pray for peace between all cultures and religions and I say.

לשנה הבאה בירושלים

Next year in Jerusalem.

Eden Cantoni-Bud is a student at The King David School

read more: