Pro-Israel Chicagoans brave sub-zero weather at rally marking 100 days since Oct. 7

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Illustrative: a pro-Israel rally in Chicago on January 14, 2024. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
Illustrative: a pro-Israel rally in Chicago on January 14, 2024. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

CHICAGO, Illinois — Some 200 pro-Israel Chicagoans brave the sub-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures to attend a rally marking 100 days since some 240 hostages were kidnapped into Gaza during Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught.

Bundled up and huddled together outside the office building that houses the Israeli consulate, participants hear from the top Israeli diplomat in the city; Jewish, Christian, and Hindu faith leaders; and a cousin of hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin.

Dozens of people at the rally clutch small Israeli and American flags, along with pictures of some of the 136 hostages still in Gaza. In between speeches, they chant, “Bring them home!” and “Am Yisrael Chai” (The nation of Israel lives).

Some of the participants have stuck a piece of masking tape to their jackets with the number 100 written on it, copying the ritual of Goldberg-Polin’s mother, Rachel, who updates the figure each day her son remains in captivity.

“For 100 days now, our hearts have been broken over and over again. We’re still absorbing, digesting and analyzing the horrors of that first day,” Consul General Yinam Cohen says.

“As we stand here, on this frigid Chicago winter day, I am devastated and outraged thinking of the women, men, children and the elderly held in dire conditions in underground tunnels in Gaza with no essential medicine and hardly any food, suffering violence and also sexual abuse,” says Cohen, highlighting the plight of Goldberg-Polin, whose parents are Chicago natives.

Israel’s Consul General to the Midwest Yinam Cohen addresses a pro-Israel rally in Chicago on January 14, 2024. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

“When people on the streets of Chicago chant, ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’… We have to maintain our moral clarity,” he asserts. “We will defeat the terror, our hostages will return home, and we will continue to strive for peace.”

Speaking after Cohen is Tianna Strong from the International Christian Fellowship, who leads the group in prayer for the hostages.

Tianna Strong addresses a pro-Israel rally in Chicago on January 14, 2024. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

“To my Jewish brothers and sisters here and in Israel, we Christians offer a prayer of strength and encouragement. Know that you are not alone. Millions of Christians are standing with you in prayer,” Strong says, earning countless “thank yous” from participants.

Capping off the line-up is community member Michael Goldstein, Goldberg-Polin’s cousin.

Hersh Goldberg-Polin cousin Michael Goldstein addresses a pro-Israel rally in Chicago on January 14, 2024. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

“By now, you all know his story, told so eloquently by his parents, John and Rachel,” he tells the crowd.

“For 100 days, I have felt only a fraction of their pain, but I have also latched on to their hope. Early on, while John was being interviewed, he said Hersh is a guy who lights up a room. Since then, I’ve carried that in my heart,” says Goldstein while holding up a sign with his cousin’s picture.

The event organized by the StandWithUS pro-Israel advocacy group concludes after 30 minutes ,and participants rush into the lobby of the office building where they are able to recognize one another for the first time after briefly removing their hats, masks, and scarfs before dispersing.

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