from Jobst Bittner, Founder and President of the March of Life Movement

Dear Friends,

 I warmly greet all participants in the Marches of Life and wish you a successful event!

After Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel on October 7, antisemitism is rearing its ugly head once again around the world. Hatred of Jews has openly returned. No one would have thought it possible that 80 years after the Holocaust, crowds on the streets of the world would once again chant “Death to the Jews” and propagate the annihilation of Jewish life! At universities all over the world, Jews are attacked, insulted, and marginalized. On social media, hate speech against Jews knows no restraints.

It comes as no surprise for me that since the massacre of October 7, and since Israel has taken military action against Hamas in Gaza, openly displayed antisemitism has increased around the world! We can find antisemitism in every country and in every city–all over the world! Hatred of Israel has been around for a long time.

Think of Jewish history right back to Moses in Egypt and the liberation of Israel from slavery. Biblical tradition says: God has chosen Israel. From the ancient Egyptian pharaohs to recent events, antisemitic attitudes have led to enmity, pogroms, hatred, and violence against the Jewish people.

When King David was besieged by his enemies, he prayed in a psalm: “Lord, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death, that I may declare your praises in the gates of Daughter Zion, and there rejoice in your salvation!” (Ps 9:13-14)

 The prophet Zechariah saw right down to the present day and wrote: “On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.” (Zech 12:3)

 And the prophet Isaiah cried out: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”(Is 60:1-3)

 That is why we stand here with tens of thousands of participants of the March of Life movement in around 100 cities in 20 nations and proclaim in the face of antisemitism and hatred of Jews in our nation:

“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory.” (Is 62:1-2a)

We know that antisemitism today can hide behind right-wing nationalist, left-wing liberal, nationalist, humanist, Islamist and also Christian hatred of Israel. Those who shout “From the River to the See, Palestine will be free” today show solidarity with the radical terror that wants to destroy Israel.

Today, we remember the hostages in the tunnels of Hamas, who until this day have to experience the horror of the Holocaust first-hand, and together we demand: “Release them!”

We remember also the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, who are abused as human shields by the terror of Hamas and who are abandoned to their fate.

We remember the millions of people in Iran who suffer under the unjust mullah regime. Their human rights are trampled underfoot, and hundreds end up on the gallows of the Iranian regime every year.

We remember the Jewish population of our country, which is increasingly suffering from antisemitic threats!

Together we declare that we raise our voices against all forms of antisemitism and hatred of Jews in our country!

Together we declare that Jewish life in our country is a precious treasure and a source of blessing.

Together we declare that at this time–regardless of Israeli policy–we stand more than ever in solidarity in friendship with Israel.

Together we call for an end to any form of support for Islamist terror in our country.

Dear friends, those who raise their voices begin with themselves! If we do not hear the wake-up call at this time, the next wave of antisemitism and hatred of Jews will be even greater! Today, like our ancestors, it is possible that once again we become followers and incur guilt through our silence. It is not enough to say “never again” if we want to prevent antisemitism from increasingly turning into violence.

That is why, in our Marches of Life, we do not go with the flow of this time but tell the truth about our families. This is where we hear the memories of Holocaust survivors and their descendants. And here, too, former antisemites and people full of hatred against Jews tell their stories and that of their families and ask for forgiveness.

I don’t know when it will happen–but happen it will: the specter of antisemitism will fade away and the ugly threat of hatred of Jews will lose face! For the Jewish people are called and chosen to live.

That’s why at the Marches of Life 2024, together with all our friends on the streets and public places of this world, we are shouting: “Am Israel Chai!” The people of Israel live!

So I wish all participants and you personally a successful and blessed March of Life 2024!

Jobst Bittner