‘The Abducted Hearts’ exhibit embodies the enormity of 242 hostages in Gaza

In the courtyard of Ness Ziona’s cultural center, a month of the Israel-Hamas war is marked with stark black life-sized silhouettes of the people who were kidnapped on October 7

Deputy Editor Amanda Borschel-Dan is the host of The Times of Israel's Daily Briefing and What Matters Now podcasts and heads up The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology coverage.

  • 'The Abducted Hearts' exhibit in Ness Ziona's Cultural Center, November 11, 2023. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)
    'The Abducted Hearts' exhibit in Ness Ziona's Cultural Center, November 11, 2023. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)
  • 'The Adducted Hearts' exhibit in Ness Ziona's Cultural Center, November 11, 2023. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)
    'The Adducted Hearts' exhibit in Ness Ziona's Cultural Center, November 11, 2023. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)
  • 'The Adducted Hearts' exhibit in Ness Ziona's Cultural Center, November 11, 2023. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)
    'The Adducted Hearts' exhibit in Ness Ziona's Cultural Center, November 11, 2023. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)
  • 'The Adducted Hearts' exhibit in Ness Ziona's Cultural Center, November 11, 2023. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)
    'The Adducted Hearts' exhibit in Ness Ziona's Cultural Center, November 11, 2023. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

To mark a month since the October 7 brutal Hamas massacre accompanied by the capture of 242 hostages, the central Israel city of Ness Ziona is staging an unusually powerful outdoor exhibit in its Culture Center’s square intended to bring home to viewers the sheer physical number of hostages.

Called “The Abducted Hearts,” Ness Ziona and the hostage families’ organization Bring Them Home Now have installed 242 cast iron statues, one to represent each individual hostage, each with a heart-shaped hole in its center.

The idea was brought to the municipality by a council member, Maya Paz Schcolnik, and the pieces were created by the city’s Culture and Leisure Company, said the city’s spokeswoman.

The all-black statues are cut to represent the different ages and types of people captured on October 7 — from a caregiver pushing an elderly man in a wheelchair to a baby holding a teddy bear. There are adults and youths, and movingly, a woman sitting on the ground with her knees to her chest, screaming.

A line of life-sized two-dimensional silhouettes greets visitors as they enter the Culture Center’s main square. Inside the pavilion, there are groupings of statues that represent the people taken, including two dozen Thai workers, a group of female soldiers, and children standing alone.

A massive wall with the now familiar “kidnapped” posters gives a backdrop to the statues. The posters include the portraits and names of Hadar Goldin and Shaul Oron, two Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza War whose bodies have been held by Hamas since then.

‘The Abducted Hearts’ exhibit in Ness Ziona’s Cultural Center, November 11, 2023. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)
‘The Abducted Hearts’ exhibit in Ness Ziona’s Cultural Center, November 11, 2023. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

On the other side of the wall of the 242 kidnapped and missing posters is a space where locals have painted and drawn their own tributes. Several have painted colorful flowers, others have penned blessings or quoted biblical verses. There is a jar of markers for any who are moved to add to the visual offerings.

The organizers ask all visitors to take pictures of the exhibit and share them widely. In addition to helping the public grasp the enormity of the number of hostages, they wish to drive home the diversity of those kidnapped.

“It is the first time in history in which so many people, in such a complex mix of different populations and ages, have been kidnapped. Each sector, age and group is represented,” write the organizers.

The hole in the center of each captive “shows their vulnerability,” write the organizers, as well as “the unbreakable connection between the hostages and us. The kidnap victims are in our hearts.”

The Ness Ziona spokeswoman told The Times of Israel that the exhibit will remain in the square for an unknown period of time, from where it will move to an as-yet-undetermined location.

‘The Abducted Hearts’ exhibit in Ness Ziona’s Cultural Center, November 11, 2023. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

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