‘Unending day’: Hostage families, anti-government groups to hold weekly Tel Aviv rallies

Border Police recruits stationed outside Netanyahu’s private Caesarea residence after large-scale protests as part of a ‘week of disruption’

Illustrative: Protesters at a rally calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, June 15, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Illustrative: Protesters at a rally calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, June 15, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Thousands are expected to attend weekly rallies in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to demand new elections and call for the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, with organizers highlighting the unending suffering of the captives and their families.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum will hold its regular weekend gathering at Hostages Square, outside the Tel Aviv Art Museum, to demand the release of captives held by Hamas in Gaza since October 7, when the Palestinian terror group stormed southern Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people and kidnap over 250.

“This Saturday night, following the year’s longest day, the Families Forum will host a support rally for the hostages’ families,” the group said in a statement, referring to the summer solstice that occurred on Thursday. “The event symbolizes the unending day these families have endured since October 7th.”

In a statement, the Forum said speakers will include Shani Goren, who was released during a weeklong ceasefire in November after 55 days in Hamas captivity. Goren, who was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7, is a friend of still-captive Arbel Yehud, also from Nir Oz, who turned 29 on Friday.

Ayelet Levy Shachar and Yoni Levy, parents of kidnapped surveillance soldier Naama Levy, will also speak at Hostages Square. The younger Levy, a triathlete and peace activist, will turn 20 on Sunday.

Prof. Asa Kasher, a philosopher who composed the Israel Defense Force’s Code of Ethics, is also expected to speak at the Families Forum’s rally.

At the same time, a weekly anti-government rally will be held nearby on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street.

Former Shin Bet chief and longtime critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Yuval Diskin is expected to speak at the protest, along with award-winning author and peace activist David Grossman, Hebrew media reported.

Saturday’s rallies come at the end of the “week of disruption” announced by anti-government groups on Sunday. The week’s rallies saw thousands protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem and Netanyahu’s private residence not far from there.

Security around Netanyahu’s other private home in Caesarea was also beefed up following a Thursday anti-government protest which police said was unruly. In an unusual move, dozens of Border Police recruits were yanked from basic training to stand guard around the seaside home.

Protesters were incensed by legislation the government is working on to entrench the mass exemption from the military draft for ultra-Orthodox men and to further the Chief Rabbinate’s control over local rabbinical appointments. Anti-government groups see the legislation as a power grab by Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.

Israelis protest against the government and call for early elections, near the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 18, 2024. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The Thursday anti-government rally was attended by thousands. The rally was held to demand the government “immediately set a date for elections in light of the neglect of the south and the north and its shameful failure to return the hostages,” according to protest organizers.

Tens of thousands of Israelis remain displaced from border communities in the north and south of the country since October 7, as a possible all-out war looms with Israel’s northern adversary Hezbollah.

During the Caesarea rally, police said protesters lobbed objects at police officers, potentially putting their lives at risk. Hebrew media reported on Friday that the security detail around Netanyahu’s Caesarea home was subsequently reinforced by several dozen Border Police officers in basic training.

The Israel Medical Association, by contrast, said on Friday that medical staff around Israel would stage rallies on Sunday to decry police brutality against doctors who were providing medical assistance at anti-government protests over the past two weeks.

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