Noam Avigdori, 12, loves her friends, Tiktok, dogs, sushi and dancing. Naveh Shoham, 8, is a soccer player and Harry Potter fan. Eitan Yahalomi, 12, loves science and animals. Emily Hand dances, especially to Beyoncé’s songs.
They’re four of the 38 children taken hostage to Gaza, and since the very first days of the war, all have been the focus of Free Our Kids IL, an ad hoc organization of women from Israel and abroad organized after October 7 to find ways to spread the word about the children being held hostage and exert pressure on international organizations.
Each child is now portrayed in Walls of Hope, a series of wall murals on two streets in the Florentin neighborhood of Tel Aviv, created by a group of 38 artists and curated by Israeli street artist Yamb0x.eth.
“It was his dream to do something like this that would bring together other artists,” said Einat Baram, a social media consultant heading the social media campaigns at Free Our Kids IL.
Every activity put together by Free Our Kids IL since October 7 is immediate, without a whole lot of planning, said Baram.
“We were ten women in a WhatsApp group and we grew to 4,000,” said Baram, one of the five managers of the completely voluntary organization.
Their first video was made with the bits and pieces of information that were available in the first few days after October 7, when Hamas terrorists launched a multi-pronged attack on Israel’s Gaza border communities, killing 1,200 people and abducting some 240 — including children and even babies.
The Free Our Kids IL group created a reel of each child’s picture, name and age and had 2.2 million views within 24 hours, which grew to four million and was then shown at the United Nations.
“From there, we decided that’s our job until they come home,” said Baram. “Rather than just posters, we wanted to give them faces and show who they are, like the wall paintings.”
The women, from cities throughout Israel, are in touch with the families of the hostages as they embark on each project.
Each night, they meet on Zoom from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., organizing themselves for the next set of tasks.
For the wall murals, the organizers put out a call for artists, and five days later, the participants were assigned their wall sections and the child they were illustrating, with information on who they are, their hobbies and interests.
The walls they painted are the exterior of the Tel Aviv Flour Mills, established some 70 years ago between Rabbeinu Hananel and Alfasi streets in Tel Aviv’s Florentin neighborhood.
The company offered its walls for the project and paid for NIS 25,000 (around $6,740) in paint supplies.
By Thursday night, the murals were completed and the families were invited to see the artists’ interpretations of each child.
“They got really emotional,” said Baram. “It’s not meant to be sad, it’s the opposite. These kids will, God willing, come home, and will come to their painting and be photographed next to it.”
“It won’t be about remembering them, it will show how much we thought about you and waited for you to come home,” she said.