Tears of emotion as 40 000 in London call for unconditional release of Israeli hostages

Pro-Israel rally in London, June 2, 2024 (PHOTO: allisraelnews)

Originally published in allisraelnews

In the biggest UK show of solidarity since the October 7 Hamas massacres, around 40 000 people marched through London on Sunday, under the banner “United We Bring Them Home”.

An array of Jewish, Christian and secular organisations supported the event, organised by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum UK. Speakers included family members of hostages, the honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel, Lord Polak CBE, and Prof. Daniel Shek, former Israeli ambassador to France.

Prof Shek said he was “used” to seeing Hostages Square in Tel Aviv always busy, “but the crowd today, what I am seeing before me, the experience today brings tears to my eyes, you are amazing”.

“We cry out for those who have lost their voice, we cry out and shout for them,” the professor added, as participants got ready to release their bright yellow balloons, representing the 120 hostages still in Hamas captivity.

“The sun came out in full force as we gathered in the park,” said Jo Rees, a Christian and one of the volunteer stewards at the event. She explained that many of the attendees were organised according to their synagogues.

The march took place from Holborn to Downing Street, the residence of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

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Those who marched wore stickers with the number 240, representing the number of days that hostages have been held in captivity; a practice begun by Rachel Goldberg, mother of 23-year-old hostage, Hersh Goldberg-Polin.

“It was like herding cats as so many more people attended than expected, but ALL were welcome,” Rees said. “The buzz was palpable, flags galore, delighted hugs when people recognised each other in the crowd…

“Speakers were wheeled through the streets playing positive music, along with loud-hailers chanting ‘Bring them home NOW’, and, ‘No hostages, no ceasefire!’”

Rees said, for her, “the most emotional thing was coming face to face with hostage families.”

The crowd heard from the parents of Oz Daniel, 19, who was killed and abducted by Hamas terrorists on October 7; the relatives of Ron Benjamin, 52, who was murdered and abducted; and the relatives of hostage Omer Neutra, 22.

Relatives of Israeli hostage Omer Neutra speaking at a pro-Israel rally in London, June 2 (PHOTO: allisraelnews)

Oz’s mother said they were not “political people” but the issue of the “unconditional release of the hostages is not a political issue, but a humanitarian issue, one that should concern every human being around the world.”

Referring to the Eurovision 2024 song, Hurricane, performed by Eden Golan in Malmö Sweden last month, when the British public awarded Israel their full vote of 12 points, despite the UK jury not granting any points for the song, Rees said: “Hurricane/October Rain was sung by us all, which never fails to reduce me to tears, because that ultimately is what it’s all about.”

Eurovision censored Israel’s original entry, October Rain, claiming it was too political for its emotional portrayal of Israel’s trauma since the October 7 Hamas terror attack, kidnappings and ongoing war.

On Monday morning, Israeli news channels reported that the remains of Dolev Yehud, 35, were discovered in Israel. He was thought to have been taken hostage. This brings the number of hostages remaining in Gaza, both alive and deceased, to 120.

45 000 join New York Israel Day march

Meanwhile, in New York, an estimated 45 000 participants took part  in the city’s annual Israel Day march on Fifth Parade on Sunday.

Spectators holding Israeli flags ran five rows deep along one side of Fifth Avenue. The other side, closed to the public, was lined with fences bearing photos of the Otober 7 hostages.

Usually a jubilant affair, the annual parade now in its 59th year — dubbed “Celebrate Israel” in the past — was markedly more somber this year in the wake of October 7.

Mark Treyger, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said earlier this week that the event would focus on solidarity, strength and resilience.

“This is not a mood of confetti and music,” Treyger said. “This is more of a mood of unwavering, ironclad solidarity with hostages to bring them home, and also our unwavering love and pride in our Jewish identity.”

There was never a thought of canceling the parade this year, Treyger said, despite what he termed an astronomical rise in antisemitism across the United States.

“This is a moment that we have to meet,” he said.

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