Mother describes her late son as 'impossible not to love'

In show of solidarity, thousands join funeral march for hostage Hanan Yablonka

Family appealed to public to take part in procession to call for hostage release deal; Yablonka was slain on October 7, body taken captive and retrieved by IDF last week

Tal Schneider is a Political Correspondent at The Times of Israel

Family and friends and thousands of other Israelis attend the funeral service of Hanan Yablonka at Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv, on May 26, 2024, two days after the IDF recovered his body from Gaza. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Family and friends and thousands of other Israelis attend the funeral service of Hanan Yablonka at Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv, on May 26, 2024, two days after the IDF recovered his body from Gaza. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Thousands of people on Sunday joined a funeral procession to the cemetery in Tel Aviv where Hanan Yablonka, 42, was laid to rest after his body was recovered by the IDF on Friday, more than seven months after he was killed.

Yablonka was murdered by Hamas on October 7, while fleeing the Supernova music festival, and his body was abducted to Gaza.

Yablonka’s family asked the public to turn the funeral procession into a march, in a solemn call for the government to reach a deal to secure the release of the more than 120 remaining hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

In interviews with Hebrew media outlets, Yablonka’s parents, Reuven and Vered, and his sisters Orit and Avivit, stressed that they wanted to hold a nonpolitical march that called for putting the lives of the hostages above all other goals of the war in Gaza.

Participants brought Israeli flags to the march and wore shirts with slogans calling for the Israeli government to do more for the release of the hostages.

Quiet applause was heard as the car transporting Yablonka’s body to its final resting place passed through the crowd, with participants showing respect for the family and their decision to dedicate his final journey to those who are still alive and can still be rescued.

The Yablonka family led the one-mile walk through the streets of north Tel Aviv and Ramat Hasharon, starting at the family home and ending at the Kiryat Shaul cemetery.

Among those participating in the march were family members of hostages still held in Gaza.

Thousands march in the funeral procession for Hanan Yablonka in Tel Aviv, on May 26, 2024, after the IDF recovered his body from Gaza two days prior. (Chaim Goldberg/ Flash90)

Eli Shtivi, father of hostage Idan Shtivi, told the Ynet news site that those killed, like Yablonka, “defended the State of Israel.”

“If it wasn’t for that party and those people that were murdered, the terrorists would have gotten to Kiryat Gat, and possibly Tel Aviv, there wouldn’t have been anything preventing them. They would have had complete freedom of movement for 10 hours. They were just busy murdering those angels,” he said.

Eyal, who lives in the area that the procession passed through, told The Times of Israel that while he did not know Yablonka, he felt the urge to support the family and the cause of bringing the hostages home as soon as possible.

“Showing up here and supporting the families is the least we could do,” he said.

Yablonka was divorced and left behind two children, ages 12 and 9.

Hanan Yablonka was taken hostage by Hamas terrorists from the Supernova desert rave on October 7, 2023 (Courtesy)

The funeral itself was opened by singer Lior Narkis, whom Yablonka loved, with the song “Mikol Ha’ahavot” by Idan Raichel.

Eulogizing her son, Vered Yablonka thanked the thousands who joined the march, and described Hanan as someone who was “impossible not to love.”

“And I ask, how can I bid you farewell? In our worst dreams, we couldn’t imagine something like this. What I would give to hug you, to kiss you, breathe you,” she said and vowed that her grandchildren would be happy despite the loss of their father.

The body of Yablonka was recovered on Friday along with those of Orión Hernández Radoux, 30, and Michel Nisenbaum, 59. Yablonka ran away from the Supernova desert rave, managed to drive eight miles to the Mefalsim junction where he was shot by Hamas terrorists. He was missing for 90 days until authorities announced that, absent any other information, he was presumed taken to Gaza.

Yablonka was with four friends in his vehicle. Later, one friend was found dead in his car, another in the field, and two others in the hiding place they had found nearby.

It is believed that 121 of the 252 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza, with 37 of them declared dead by Israeli officials. 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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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