Hostage families set out on four-day march from Supernova massacre site to Jerusalem

Relatives of those held captive in Gaza speak about their loved ones at the site of the music festival massacre before departing for Sderot with calls to bring hostages home

Released hostage Sharon Alony Cunio speaks as crowds gather before the start of a four-day march to Jerusalem calling for the release of the hostages held by Hamas, on February 28, 2024, at the site of the Supernova music festival in southern Israel. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Released hostage Sharon Alony Cunio speaks as crowds gather before the start of a four-day march to Jerusalem calling for the release of the hostages held by Hamas, on February 28, 2024, at the site of the Supernova music festival in southern Israel. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The families of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas and other terror groups set out on a four-day march from Kibbutz Re’im to Jerusalem on Wednesday morning, under the banner of “United to free the hostages.”

Before setting off on the trek, organized by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, marchers gathered in Kibbutz Re’im, in the cleared field ringed by eucalyptus trees where some 360 people were slaughtered by Hamas terrorists at the Supernova music festival on the morning of October 7.

Forum spokesperson Haim Rubinstein offered condolences for the two soldiers whose deaths in Gaza were announced early Wednesday morning. Touching on the significance of the march’s starting point, he reminded the attendees what happened when “young people who wanted to party and to love found themselves in a nightmare that no one could imagine.”

Returning to the place where his life was turned upside down, Supernova survivor Niv Cohen told the crowd that he can’t begin his rehabilitation until the friends he traveled to the music festival with are back alongside him. Two of his friends — Evyatar David and Guy Gilboa-Dalal — were taken hostage. Another two — Ron Tzarfati and Idan Haramati — were killed that day.

“I’m still here, standing,” said Cohen. “But my soul was left behind, somewhere among these trees where I hid for so many hours.”

“I joined the march because I know that the people of Israel understand the power of unity at a difficult time,” Cohen said. “I am appealing to all the decision makers — I am sure that you will pursue all political means to bring back my friends and all of the hostages.”

Niv Cohen speaks at the start of a march from Kibbutz Reim to Jerusalem, February 28, 2024 (Courtesy Hostages and Missing Families Forum)

Cohen added that he had been a combat soldier in the army and was very appreciative of all who have been fighting for the last four and a half months. Now it was time for the hostages to come home, he said.

Sharon Alony Cunio, who was released from captivity in Gaza with her twin 3-year-old daughters during a weeklong truce in late November and whose husband David Cunio is still held hostage, spoke about a similar march that had been held before her release.

“I couldn’t march last time,” she said, “I’m marching this time for my husband and all the hostages, in this important struggle.”

The procession of marchers, which will arrive in Jerusalem on Saturday, set off on the first leg of their journey on Route 232, which was transformed from a vital artery of southern Israel’s thriving communities to a road of death on October 7.

Wednesday’s schedule will see them walk from Re’im on the Gaza border to the city of Sderot, where they will hold a solidarity ceremony at the police station at 4:30 p.m.

An aerial view shows relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held by terrorists in Gaza since October 7, marching to Jerusalem calling for their release, on February 28, 2024 in Reim (Jack GUEZ/AFP)

The Sderot police station was overrun on October 7 by Hamas terrorists, who barricaded themselves inside the station and killed 35 officers and civilians. The site became the focus of fierce gun battles with Israeli forces for a number of hours before the order was given to demolish the building and kill the terrorists inside.

Many of the officers killed there were the first responders in the border towns at the start of the October 7 onslaught.

After the ceremony in Sderot, the group will walk to Kiryat Gat, where they will spend the night. On Thursday morning, the march will proceed to Beit Guvrin, before continuing to Beit Shemesh, where a ceremony will be held in the evening.

On Friday morning, the group will hold a “stretcher march” in solidarity with the soldiers held among the captives in Gaza. A ceremony will then be held at the Sha’ar Hagai National Heritage Site in honor of those troops.

After spending the night at Kibbutz Tzora, the participants will begin the final stretch of the march on Saturday morning, heading into Jerusalem in time for a rally at the city’s Paris Square on Saturday evening.

Ronen and Orna Neutra hold portraits of their son Omer Neutra, 22, as relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas terrorists, gather before the start of a four-day march to Jerusalem calling for their release, on February 28, 2024, at the site of the Supernova music festival in southern Israel. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The march is the only way to emphasize the importance of bringing the hostages home, Dekel Lifschitz told the attendees in Re’im. His grandfather Oded Lifschitz is still held hostage in Gaza and his grandmother Yocheved Lifschitz was released in October.

“We’re a big family in Israel, and we’re waiting to see 134 people of this family,” said Lifschitz. “This is for all of us who live here and want the most obvious thing, for our country to have our back. Grandpa, be strong, your nation is coming for you.”

It is believed that 130 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza after 105 civilians were released from during a weeklong truce in late November. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of at least 31 of the captives.

Four hostages were released prior to that, three have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 11 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military. One more person, Bilha Yinon, has been listed as missing since October 7, and her fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Touching on their disbelief that the hostages still haven’t come back, 145 days after October 7, Ronen and Orna Neutra told the crowds at Re’im about their son, Omer Neutra. Born and raised in Long Island, New York, Neutra was serving as a tank commander near the Gaza border on the morning of October 7 when he was captured by invading Hamas terrorists.

“We have no more words, no more strength, and I want to disappear until there’s a breakthrough, until they call us and tell us ‘your diamond, Omer Neutra, is in our hands,'” his mother Orna told the crowd.

“I understand there is nowhere to escape this nightmare and we can’t compare this to your nightmare, which I can’t even imagine,” she added. “I’ll pick myself up again and again and again, I’ll travel to the ends of the word, I’ll speak in your name, my beautiful, silenced boy.”

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