Family members of the hostages being held by terrorists in Gaza set out on a protest march on Tuesday afternoon, which is set to arrive in Jerusalem on Saturday and culminate in a protest outside of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence.
Marching under the slogan “We will bring them back,” the families and representatives of the estimated 240 hostages set out from Tel Aviv’s renamed Hostages Square early on Tuesday afternoon and aimed to reach their first stop in Be’er Yaakov by nightfall.
Ahead of the group’s departure, Shelley Shem Tov, whose 21-year-old son Omer was kidnapped to Gaza on October 7, addressed the crowd.
“I don’t know if you can imagine what it is like for me that, as his mother, I am unable to do anything for my child,” she said.
“We’re losing people,” she continued through tears, mentioning the Marciano family, who were told on Tuesday that their daughter Noa, a soldier, had died in captivity after Hamas released a video on Monday night of her speaking to the cameras clipped together with footage of her dead body.
“Thirty-nine days and nights, without a day, without a night, without anything. Everything is dark,” said Shem Tov.
“I demand that Benjamin Netanyahu and the cabinet give us answers and take action. We have no strength left. Bring our children, our families, back home!”
צעדת משפחות החטופים | שלי שם טוב שבנה עומר נחטף לעזה: "אני לא יודעת אם אתם יכולים לדמיין מה זה שאני כאמא לא יכולה לעשות עבור הילד שלי כלום. אנחנו מאבדים אנשים, אתמול משפחת מרציאנו איבדה ילדה – איפה אתם? אני דורשת מבנימין נתניהו ומהקבינט לתת לנו תשובות ומעשים, אין לנו כוח יותר" pic.twitter.com/kqRD7vTSB0
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Also addressing the attentive crowd was Yuval Haran, a survivor of the massacre at Kibbutz Be’eri, who has seven family members being held in Gaza, three of them children.
“I’ve lived on the kibbutz for all my life and I always believed it was a safe place to live, quiet and pastoral,” he said. “And 39 days ago, that dream was shattered. Thirty-nine days ago, our worst nightmares came true.”
“For 39 days, my family and our families have been in Gaza. For the kidnapped in Gaza, there is no time, and we do not have time either,” he continued. “The idea for the march came about for us to reach the decision-makers, the place where the prime minister sits, where the war cabinet sits. We’ll reach them and hear from them.
“How is it that our people are not home? How is it that my family, and all the hostages, are still in Gaza? How is it logical that it has been 39 days, when each day that passes puts their lives in danger?” Haran asked the crowd. “I’m calling on all the people of Israel, Knesset members, the war cabinet, the mayors, the youth groups, people from all walks of life, to march with us and hear our call.”
Echoing Haran’s call, the Abducted and Missing Families Forum put out a statement ahead of the march, asking for people to walk with them as they proceed to Jerusalem, saying: “The government has already abandoned us, don’t leave us alone.”
The march comes amid reports that Israel and Hamas are close to finalizing a deal that would see the terror group release dozens of women and children, in exchange for female and underage Palestinian terrorists incarcerated in Israel.
Some 240 hostages have been held by Hamas and other Gaza terror groups since the terrorists’ devastating onslaught on October 7, in which they killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians butchered in their homes and at a music festival. Israel then declared war with the aim of toppling the terror group’s regime in Gaza, which it has ruled since taking over in a bloody coup in 2007.
Of the hostages taken by Hamas, four were released as a result of Qatari and US-led negotiations, and one other was rescued by IDF troops during a raid inside the enclave.
The route of the march follows a similar route to that of a large protest against the government’s judicial overhaul bills in July of this year, which began in Tel Aviv and ended outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, where participants set up tents and camped out for several days.
Several prominent organizers of the anti-judicial overhaul march have lent their voices to the cause of the hostage families. Activist Shikma Bressler was in attendance, as well as representatives from the tech sector protest movement.