Some families of hostages held in Gaza since October 7 mark Independence Day with alternative ceremony

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Holding up signs that read, “No hostages, no independence,” more than 1,000 people attend an alternative Independence Day ceremony at a Roman amphitheater near Binyamina.

The event, co-organized by a relative of a man who is presumed to be held hostage in Gaza, is meant to serve as an alternative to the annual, government-organized Independence Day ceremony held in Jerusalem.

“While the government holds an ostentatious parade that is cowardly, contemptuous, disconnected and without audience, families of the hostages and concerned citizens hold a dignified and appropriate ceremony that is plugged into the public sentiment,” reads a statement by co-organizer Noam Dan, whose cousin Ofer Kalderon was abducted to Gaza on October 7 from Kibbutz Nir Oz.

The event features a ceremonial extinguishing of torches, a negative image of the traditional lighting of torches at the Jerusalem ceremony. The torches signify “abandonment, neglect, disregard, and desertion,” the organizers say.

But some relatives of hostages criticized the extinguishing as inappropriate and contrarian.

“It’s a shocking gesture,” says Yaron Or, whose son Avinatan Or is also presumed to be held hostages. “If illuminating torches celebrates the successes, then extinguishing is the opposite message. We don’t extinguish torches. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” Yaron tells The Times of Israel, in response for a request for a comment.

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