I was in Israel last week, on what were days 96 -100 since the hostages were abducted by Hamas into Gaza. Everywhere you look, you see their names and faces — on placards lining the corridor of Ben-Gurion airport, on the screens of ATMs, on the walls of convenience stores. In Tel Aviv, a giant banner almost covering the side of a building features an illustration of the hostages, the Bibas children easily identifiable by their red hair.
To mark the 100th day of captivity, this past Sunday, businesses and restaurants across Israel closed for 100 minutes. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered over a 24-hour period in Tel Aviv’s newly named “Hostages Square.” A mock Hamas tunnel was erected so that people could experience for themselves, just momentarily, the suffocating darkness that many hostages endure day after day.
Here in New York, our community has also mobilized to keep the story of the hostages front and center. Last Friday, with our support, the Hostage Forum led a rally in front of the United Nations, where a large crowd gathered to mark 100 days.
On Sunday we hosted a powerful program with two sisters, Sharon Aloni Cunio and Danielle Aloni, who were kidnapped along with their young children — and released after 52 days and 49 days, respectively. But their ordeal is far from over, with Sharon’s husband, David, still being held in Gaza with three family members.
In Westchester on Tuesday, we co-hosted a major program at Temple Israel Center in White Plains to pray, recite the names of hostages, and hear from Israelis who were living in Sderot before the war, as well as from the uncle of Shiri Bibas. We also arranged for a public display of massive screens on the Westchester County Center calling for the hostages’ return.