The families of some of the 224 hostages believed to be held in the Gaza Strip by Palestinian terrorists held a press conference Thursday to protest what they charged was government inaction and failure to update them on the efforts to secure the release of their loved ones, warning that their patience had run out.
The event at the Tel Aviv Museum plaza began with two marches from Egypt’s embassy and at Kaplan Square — the site of weekly protests against the current government’s highly controversial judicial overhaul plan, which along with the regular rallies has been shelved since the shock October 7 Hamas onslaught in which some 1,400 people were murdered and at least 228 were abducted to Gaza.
“Free them now!” the families chanted in English, with one relative urging global human rights groups to support them and their campaign.
“They’ve been there for 20 days. Twenty days in which we’ve had no idea how they’re doing, how they’re being treated, if they’re okay, if they’re breathing. Twenty days. Can you imagine? Because we’re living it day after day, all of us,” said Meirav Leshem-Gonen, whose 23-year-old daughter Romi was kidnapped from the site of the Supernova music festival near Re’im, where 260 were butchered.
“We’ve been very, very patient. But that’s it. Our patience is up. Our patience has run out,” she added.
Similar dissatisfaction was expressed by Eyal Eshel, whose 19-year-old daughter Roni had been a member of the IDF communications team that watched the Gaza border cameras before the barrier and her base were breached and she went missing.
“Roni is my child, she [was taken] under your watch, under your responsibility,” lamented her father, who believes Roni was kidnapped despite officials not confirming this yet. “Twenty days and the government of Israel is mute. Twenty days and nobody is telling us what happened to her, what her fate was.
“What have you been doing every day? What are doing all day? I’m demanding one thing — get up from your chairs, try to put yourselves in my place and take responsibility. Don’t turn your back on me. All of us are out of patience,” he said.
Some participants took aim at the government’s point-person on the matter of the hostages, Gal Hirsch, who has been criticized by diplomats as ineffective in hostage talks thus far and who families say has failed to contact them beyond the bare minimum.
“Are you able to bring them back? Then do it. Are you unable to? Then give the responsibility to someone else. The window of opportunity is closing,” said one participant at the rally.
Orit Meir, the mother of 21-year-old Almog Meir Jan who was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists from the Re’im music rave, addressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly. “Bibi, now is the time to make a deal and return all the hostages to Israel. I am begging you. Try and imagine that it was your son who was kidnapped into Gaza.”
Another demonstration raising awareness about the plight of the hostages took place in New York City’s Times Square where the Israeli-American Council set up an empty Shabbat table to symbolize the 224 hostages being held captive in Gaza.
The government is facing mounting pressure not just from the hostages’ families but from countries abroad whose citizens are also among those being held in Gaza and have privately been urging Jerusalem to temporarily delay a ground incursion to allow more time for diplomatic efforts to release the captives, a senior diplomatic official told The Times of Israel earlier this week.