Family members of those missing and held captive in Gaza walked alongside hundreds of Israelis on the third day of their march from Tel Aviv to the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, which they plan to reach on Saturday afternoon.
Thursday’s leg of the march began at Beit Hashmonai, where the group spent the night after a rally on Wednesday evening. As they set off, they were greeted by students from the local high school, holding signs of support and yellow balloons, which have been used as a symbol of solidarity with captives held in Gaza since Gilad Shalit was taken hostage in 2006.
The families continued to walk until they reached Modiin, some three hours away by foot, in order to pay a shiva call to the Marciano family, which is in mourning following the loss of their daughter Noa, a soldier who died in Hamas captivity.
Marciano, 19, of the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps 414th unit, was serving on the Nahal Oz IDF base when it was overrun on October 7 by terrorists during their murderous onslaught on southern Israel, in which some 1,200 people were killed and 240 taken hostage.
On Monday evening, Hamas published a propaganda video of Marciano, showing her speaking to the camera four days after being taken hostage, identifying herself and reciting the names of her parents and her hometown. The video then cuts to her dead body.
Speaking to the families of the hostages in Modiin, Noa’s mother, Adi Marciano, thanked them for coming and said that she had originally been supposed to march alongside them, before the news of her daughter’s death reached her.
“It’s hard to talk about Noa in the past tense,” she said. “Noa is a girl of light and love, with kind eyes that tell a story of giving, of a smile that is never-ending. The fight for Noa and her return is not over. There is no grave. They told me to sit shiva, and we didn’t even have the funeral that she deserved.”
Describing Noa as a wonderful daughter and a beloved big sister to her three younger siblings, Adi said, through tears, that she was a quiet leader who influenced those around her.
“It’s important for me to tell everyone, to tell you, the families of the hostages, that we are here with you in the struggle of our lives, to bring the hostages home, and when the shiva is over, I will return to Tel Aviv. We are with you,” she added.
She also thanked all those outside of Israel who supported the family and wished them strength.
Calling on Israel’s leaders, she said, “We were abandoned once on that Shabbat [of October 7] and we won’t allow you to abandon us again. Meet with all the families here and in their homes and give us answers.
“Tell us that there is someone to speak with in Gaza. There’s always someone to speak to. It’s your responsibility to bring back Noa and all the others.”
Noa’s father, Avi Marciano, spoke next, describing how in spite of the tragedy of his daughter’s death, it was important to his family to be alongside the other families demanding the return of their loved ones.
“The last days have been the most awful that we’ve ever had. I couldn’t imagine myself experiencing this,” he said.
“Despite this, we found space to come with you, to demand from [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu], [ministers Benny] Gantz and [Yoav] Gallant, and the rest of the war cabinet: First, come and speak to us… If you are making a deal, speak to us first.”
“The pleasantries are over. We are taking off our gloves and we will fight you,” he continued. “You are neglecting us. You aren’t coming to us. Shame on you!”
After the Marcianos finished speaking, the attendees joined them in singing “Hatikva,” Israel’s national anthem.
Representatives of the hostage families said earlier on Thursday that they had asked members of the government’s war cabinet to meet them on the road but received no response.
“We are walking 37 kilometers and the war cabinet hasn’t even picked up the phone to set a time to meet us,” said Merav Leshem Ronen, mother of Romi Gonen, held captive by Hamas.
”We asked them to meet us,” Leshem Ronen said. “If we can go on foot to them, they can get in cars and come to speak to us. We know they’re busy with the negotiations. Come and talk to us!”
Following their stop in Modiin, the families were set to continue on their way, ending the day at the Latrun memorial site for fallen soldiers at 7 p.m.
Emanuel Fabian and Amy Spiro contributed to this report.