A rally attended by thousands of Israeli citizens took place at Habima Square in central Tel Aviv to protest against the Israeli government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The rally on Saturday night was right outside the Israeli military’s headquarters, and dozens of people protested for the rights of all victims and to stop the constant bombardment.
Throughout the whole rally, people were chanting, singing songs, calling for elections to happen now, and demanding the government to bring the hostages home. During the protest, a woman named Sigalit Hilel, whose son was killed in the 7 October attack by Hamas, told the crowd, “In what country does a mother look for her son in horror videos and pray that he wasn’t kidnapped by a murderous terrorist organization?” Combat officer Lior Sela also expressed his feelings on the matter at the same rally by stating that as soon as he is released from the army, he is going to sue those responsible for this huge failure.
The rally was also attended by freed Israeli hostages who gave hope and determination to those protesting in Tel Aviv. It was the first time the families of those who were held hostage had come together with other activists. For instance, a 50-year-old Russian-Israeli hostage called Yelena Trupanob was freed from captivity in Gaza a month ago, and she had a message for the thousands of demonstrators who kept gathering weekly in Tel Aviv on Saturday nights to continue to pressure the Israeli government. The protesters’ top priority was to free the remaining hostages. “I came to say thank you because, without all of you, I would not be here,” said Ms. Trupanob gratefully. Yelena Trupanob was one of the 105 hostages, including all types of citizens, from Israelis and Thais to other foreign citizens, to be released and returned to Israel. In her first public appearance following her release, she was joined on stage in front of the Israeli military headquarters by her mother, Irena Tati, who is 73 years old. Ms. Trupanob, her son Sasha, and her mother, Irena Tati, were kidnapped from their home on October 7th. Her son Sasha is still in captivity, and her husband, Vitaly Trupanob, was murdered in a Hamas-led attack. “Now, we have to continue, to return my Sasha and everyone,” Ms. Trupanob said in the rally and repeated the same message in Russian. After the repetition of the message she continued to chant “Right now!” with the rest of the crowd.
Yelena Trupanob inspired and encouraged a lot of other protesters with her speech, one of them being Michal Lebenthal, who is the same age as Ms. Trupanob. Michal Lebenthal said that she was moved by her speech because “as a mother, she wants her son to come back, and I feel the same.” 24-year-old Amit Shem Tov was also filled with hope after seeing Ms. Trupanob since his 21-year-old brother Omer is still being held in Gaza. Amit Shem Tov stated, “The end of the ceasefire is the worst thing that could have happened because it seriously delays the release of my brother.” Seeing other families getting released made him feel a little bit of jealousy. “I hope next Saturday, we’ll be here with him,” he said. Mr. Shem Tov also added that until his brother returns, he would continue to put as much pressure as possible on the government to secure the release of the remaining hostages.
About 240 hostages were taken in these surprise Hamas-led attacks, and according to Israeli officials, more than 100 hostages still remain imprisoned. The reason why most of the hostages were released was part of a seven-day ceasefire, which ended Friday morning local time. Before the one-week ceasefire, thousands of people rallied outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office to call on the government to release more free hostages held in Gaza. A five-day march from Tel Aviv that began with just 100 friends and family of the captives ended up having a much bigger effect in the end. Sadly, with the military operations continuing in Gaza, the friends and family of the hostages say that they feel as if they are back to square one.
Israel has vowed to keep up the fight until Hamas is destroyed, removed power from Gaza, and the remaining hostages are freed. In the meantime, those publicly calling for the war to end in Gaza remain in a small minority, with most of the attention being on the Hamas attack on October 7th. Shuster-Elissai perfectly described the situation and how it is not a beneficial situation for anybody. She said, “It’s difficult being Israeli. It’s difficult to be Jewish. It’s difficult to be a leftist. It’s difficult to be a logical person with humanity and conscience at the moment.”
Here's the link to a short clip of the protest:
Euronews, Thousands Rally In Tel Aviv, Accessed 25 Oct. 2023
The Guardian, Israel-Gaza War, Accessed 27 Oct. 2023
The New York Times, Released Hostages Give Tel Aviv Protesters Hope, Accessed 27 Oct. 2023