On Wednesday evening and into the night, hundreds of demonstrators in eight cities across the U.S. shut down bridges and highways to pressure the Biden administration and members of Congress into demanding a permanent ceasefire in Israel’s genocidal siege of Gaza.
Jewish organizers and their allies gathered in Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Chicago. The coordinated protest effort was organized by leaders from Jewish Voice for Peace, Jewish Fast For Gaza, IfNotNow and other groups to take place on the eighth day of Hanukkah, a deeply symbolic decision.
The groups documented protesters’ actions through several social media posts.
“Tonight hundreds of Jews + allies shut down the biggest intersection in downtown Boston for all of rush hour,” said a post on X from IfNotNow. “Until the U.S. government follows the will of the people and calls for a ceasefire, we have to keep being impossible to ignore. It’s life and death.”
“The Twin Cities have joined the nation-wide call from U.S. Jews for a permanent ceasefire and full Palestinian freedom!” Jewish Voice for Peace said on its social media, publishing images of the protest on the Franklin Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis.
Activists in Portland blocked traffic on the Burnside Bridge, using a giant menorah “to rekindle their commitment to a liberated Palestine,” Jewish Voice for Peace wrote in another post.
“On the last day of Hanukkah, we are rising up to say: CEASEFIRE NOW, Palestinians should be free,” Jewish Voice for Peace-Atlanta said, posting images of their protest on the Jackson Street Bridge.
The acts of civil disobedience led to multiple arrests. More than 30 were arrested at the Spring Garden Street Bridge in Philadelphia, for example, where around 200 activists had gathered.
“This is how we celebrate Hanukkah this year. This year means disrupting business as usual,” Rabbi Alissa Wise, the lead organizer of Rabbis for Ceasefire, said at that event.
According to a press release from Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, more than 300 demonstrators attended the protest at the Washington Street Bridge in that city, blocking traffic at the downtown location. Thirteen people were arrested for taking part in the protest meant to draw attention to Israel’s relentless attacks on Gaza, which have killed nearly 20,000 Palestinians so far.
The demonstration in Chicago, organized by a coalition including Jewish Fast for Gaza, JVP Chicago and IfNotNow Chicago, was aimed at “rededicating” the last night of Hanukkah to a ceasefire. Participants chanted and sang protest songs throughout the night, showcasing their opposition to Biden and Congress’s support for the genocide as the Israeli military kills thousands of Palestinians each week using weapons provided by the U.S.
“Through the spiritual language of song, we loudly and clearly say that Jewish values do not support senseless killing,” said Eli Newell from IfNotNow. “We are here today to sing and to say, ‘not in our name.'”
Rabbi Brant Rosen, co-founder of Jewish Fast For Gaza, explained in a statement why Jewish organizers in the U.S. chose the eighth night of Hanukkah to speak out against the atrocities that have continued day and night in Gaza since October 7. Said Rosen:
According to the Hanukkah story, the Maccabees rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem after it had been defiled. By gathering to light the menorah this Hanukkah we are protesting the defiling of sacred Jewish tradition and Jewish memory by Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza. In so doing, we are rededicating ourselves to our solidarity with the Palestinian people — and all oppressed people struggling to be free.
Before their protest at the bridge, the Chicago protesters held a vigil at Daley Plaza, rededicating a 31-foot menorah there “to the struggle against Israel’s genocide, apartheid and occupation of Palestine,” the coalition’s press release stated.
Demonstrators also marched to the Boeing Building to demonstrate against that company’s sending of military weapons to Israel. Participants projected the words “Permanent Ceasefire Now” onto the side of the Boeing building.
“We are specifically calling out Boeing for profiting off weapons that are — at this very moment — being used by the Israeli military to kill and maim Palestinians in Gaza,” Rosen told Truthout. “According to Amnesty International, Boeing weapons have destroyed entire families. As Americans, their blood is on our hands. As American Jews, our Hanukkah protest is a collective call to action and conscience: ‘Not in our name!'”
Aaron Niederman, an organizer with IfNotNow-Chicago, spoke to Truthout about his experience during the demonstration in the Windy City.
“Today was a day filled with mixed emotions. It’s the eighth night of Hanukkah and typically a time that is spent with family celebrating, giving gifts and eating fried foods. Instead, I joined a larger community of Jews demonstrating for a ceasefire,” Niederman said.
The program’s tone was a mix of somber mourning for the Palestinian and Israeli lives lost, anger for the continued devastation in Gaza funded by the US government, and some celebration as we joined together in song with children and families present. We then took to the streets, marching to Boeing’s offices. We chanted “Let Gaza live” and “Ceasefire now” as we proceeded along the sidewalk. I felt nervous, anticipating the direct action to follow, but comforted by familiar faces around me and knowledge of how much organizing there was to put this all together.
“After being involved in the planning of the action and seeing it come to fruition, I felt proud of the execution and happy to rededicate the holiday to such a worthy cause — advocacy for a lasting ceasefire, the end of U.S. support for Israeli occupation and apartheid, and equality, justice, and a thriving future for all Palestinians and Israelis,” he added.