Jewish groups demand ceasefire in nationwide demonstrations on final night of Hanukkah


Protestors shut down highways and bridges on Thursday — the final night of Hanukkah — to demand a ceasefire in Gaza.

The peaceful demonstrations led by Jewish Voice for Peace and Rabbis for Ceasefire spanned eight U.S. cities, including on bridges in Philadelphia, Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, Washington, Chicago, Minneapolis and Atlanta.

“The miracle of Hanukkah is that even on the eighth day, the light was not extinguished. And I think for many of us, the last candle is burning down, that last wick is almost at the bottom, but we refuse to give up hope,” Cara Tratner, a demonstrator in Philadelphia, said.

Police arrested and detained Tratner and 31 others after they blocked Interstate 76 for half an hour and sang songs calling for peace. Above them, more than 200 activists chanted “Let Gaza Live” from the Spring Garden Street Bridge. Tratner said police did not issue any warnings before the arrests and that the interaction left her and other demonstrators bruised and scarred.

“It is truly horrifying that it’s gotten to a point where we have to start blocking highways and inconvenience our fellow Philadelphians in order to communicate to our government that we’re not going to stop,” Tratner said. “We will keep showing up in all the ways we can to demand our government to stop funding and enabling this genocide.”

Actions in other cities were also met with police violence. In Chicago, police arrested 13 protesters occupying a downtown bridge outside Boeing Headquarters. Police clashed with demonstrators in Los Angeles, arresting 42 of them and citing them with unlawful assembly.

Rabbi Miriam Grossman, who is part of the coalition Rabbis for Ceasefire, commended protestors for putting their bodies on the line.

“On the last night of Hanukkah, the fully lit menorah inspired hundreds of Jews to use their bodies and voices to disrupt business as usual to save lives in Gaza,” she wrote in a statement. “We at Rabbis for Ceasefire are so proud of each and everyone of them. These brave Jews are doing honor to the long tradition of Jewish organizing for freedom, rooted in the sacred obligation at the heart of Judaism to save lives and honor the dignity of every human being.”

Jewish Voice for Peace has staged several actions throughout the U.S., voicing opposition to the now months-long Israeli bombardment that has killed nearly 20,000 Palestinians. On social media, the group vowed there will be no business as usual while the U.S. is funding and arming the genocide of Palestinians.

Despite calls for a ceasefire from groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and even his fellow lawmakers, President Biden has continued to urge Congress to pass an aid package that includes $14 billion for Israel.

“Even though our government is giving us every reason to believe that they are not going to actually work for peace, we have to believe it’s possible,” Tratner said. “Our ancestors survived violence in order for us to be here, now we have to keep fighting in order for others to survive.”

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