Families of Israeli Hostages Rally for the Return of Loved Ones

Families of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza march to Knesset in Jerusalem demanding the release of their relatives. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu/Getty Images

In a heart-wrenching turn of events, the families of Israelis taken hostage by Hamas during the Supernova music festival in southern Israel have embarked on a five-day march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The poignant story unfolds as Romi Gonen, 23, shared her distress in a final phone call with her mother, Meirav Leshem Gonen, during the chaos caused by the Hamas attack on southern Israeli towns and kibbutzim on October 7.

Romi’s words, “I am wounded and bleeding. Mummy, I think I’m going to die,” resonate as a chilling reminder of the anguish faced by the hostages and their families. The phone call, recorded by the family, captures the frantic 40-minute conversation cut off at 10:59 am. Romi is believed to be one of the 240 hostages taken by Hamas, marking what some in Israel now refer to as “Black Saturday.”

The families, joined by thousands of supporters, culminated their five-day march outside Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, demanding the release of their loved ones. The emotional rally echoed with chants of “achshav” (now), emphasizing the urgency of the situation. Meirav Leshem Gonen, along with other relatives, expressed their frustration, stating, “We want the government to come and talk to us. It’s been 43 days.”

Blaming the government for being blindsided by the Hamas attacks, the families fear for the safety of the hostages amid the ongoing Israeli military assault on Gaza. There are concerns that some hostages may have come to harm during the invasion, as Hamas claims. The families feel neglected by the government and believe that their collective power can unite every civilian in Israel to support their cause.

Yarden Gonen, Romi’s sister, stressed that the families are “done waiting” and urged the Israeli government and the world to recognize the strength of their unity. The families’ rallying cry is clear: they will not back down until the hostages, including Romi, are safely returned home.

The marchers’ journey was marked by the presence of political figures, including Miki Zohar from Netanyahu’s Likud party and Yair Lapid, Israel’s opposition leader, who joined the march on Saturday. The families reached Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem, presenting a united front and demanding acknowledgment of their plight.

Despite initial reluctance, Netanyahu eventually agreed to meet with the families on Monday. The families remain resolute, emphasizing that the march may have concluded, but their commitment to the cause persists. The article sheds light on the emotional turmoil, desperation, and resilience of the families as they navigate the complexities of the hostage situation and advocate for the safe return of their loved ones.