As Israel’s vigil for its hostages in Gaza moves into a fourth month, a sense that time is passing while world attention shifts elsewhere has deepened the anguish felt by their families as hopes have faded for a deal to secure their release.
The weekly demonstrations attract crowds in the thousands but developments like the presumed assassination in Lebanon last week of Saleh Al-Arouri, the deputy leader of Hamas, and political rows about the future of Gaza after the war have left families feeling increasingly left behind.
“There’s an aspect of, kind of, hopelessness,” said Rebecca Brindza, a former senior executive at a Tel Aviv start-up, who left her paid employment to help the hostage families organize in one of the multitude of self-help groups that emerged from the trauma of events on Oct. 7.
“A lot of us feel like the world kind of stopped on October 7th,” she said. “And I think right now, what we’re seeing is that the world in many ways is moving on.”
Of around 240 people taken captive on Oct. 7, almost half were released by Hamas during a brief truce in November. Stories like those of nine year-old Emily Hand, 17 year-old Mia Leimberg, who survived two months’ captivity with her dog, or 85 year-old Yocheved Lifshitz, who described berating Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in Gaza when she met him in a tunnel, drew media attention around the world.
For the families of those still in Gaza, there is only uncertainty. “Every minute there is critical. Every minute that they wait or linger with the hostage release can cost them their lives,” said Sharon Alony-Cunio, 34, from Kibbutz Nir Oz, whose husband David remained in Gaza when she and their twin three-year-old girls were released during the truce.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a special parliamentary session in December that bringing all the hostages home was a “sacred mission” for Israel and he has met hostage families on several occasions.
At the same time, he insists that the best way to force Hamas to free the hostages is military pressure. “We will not give Hamas any immunity whatsoever,” he said on Saturday.
As Israel settles in for a war that officials say could last for most of the coming year, the signs suggest the government’s priority is defeating Hamas and killing or capturing senior leaders like Sinwar or military commander Mohammed Deif.
“It’s an impossible equation,” said Aviv Bushinski, a political analyst who worked with Netanyahu as a consultant in a previous government. “Defeating Hamas and bringing the hostages home became something everybody said but we all know that this equation cannot coincide because naturally some or most of them are human shields for Sinwar.”
‘FAMILIES TORN APART’
As Israel’s military campaign in Gaza continues, world attention has increasingly shifted to the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza and away from the hostages and the 1,200 Israelis and foreigners killed by Hamas on the first day of the war.
The mood appears far from the outpouring of emotion seen in November when much of Israel gathered in front of televisions to watch the first of the hostages return home, brought to safety in Red Cross land-cruisers.
For some from the leftish kibbutzim communities around Gaza, where many had hoped to build bridges with the Palestinians, there is also the sense that they had underestimated the threat from Hamas, Brindza said. “Hamas does not want Israel to exist,” she said. “They don’t want any of these people here.”
But while most of Israel supports the military operation, many hostage families appear ambivalent, not necessarily opposed to the war on Hamas, which has made clear it would repeat the Oct. 7 attack if possible, but aware of the danger the longer fighting continues.
It is unclear exactly how many of the 136 thought to remain in Gaza are still alive but at least 23 have been declared dead by Israeli authorities. The death of three escaped hostages, mistakenly shot by Israeli troops last month as they tried to identify themselves, provided a bitter lesson in the risks they face.
“I understand the importance of returning the security to the area, especially as someone who lives in a community by the fence, but not at the expense of our citizens,” said Sharon Alony-Cunio. “The citizens must come before all else.”
For those who have returned, they must live with the memory of the ordeal, for the most part unable to return to their homes near Gaza while the invasion of the enclave, launched in October continues and the hostages left behind face an uncertain wait.
“The families being reunited is wonderful and it is moving, but it’s not just a saying that our hearts are still (with the hostages) in Gaza – so many families have been torn apart,” Alony-Cunio said.
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British Columbia’s Jewish community is outraged after MLA Selina Robinson is removed from cabinet over remarks about Israel
Leaders of the British Columbia Jewish community have reacted with dismay to the decision by David Eby, the province’s premier, to remove Selina Robinson from her position as minister of post-secondary education and future skills on Feb. 5 due to remarks she made the previous week during an online discussion. While speaking on a panel […]
Gaza Border Residents Demand A Return Home, Four Months Into War
Israelis from the Gaza Envelope are calling on the government to approve their return home, roughly four months since the war’s outbreak on October 7.
The head of the Scot Negev Regional Council, Tamir Idan, said outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, “We demand a clear statement from the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister that it is safe to return to the area. Until then we are not moving from here.”
The heads of the other regional councils in the Gaza area joined Idan outside the Prime Minister’s office, where they slept last night in protest.
The regional leaders say that members of the Gaza border towns should be allowed to return to the areas if they wish, rather than being forced to live in hotels. An internal plan is set to be presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in the near future.
The heads claim it is safe to return home, and are demanding that the government sign off on such a statement so residents can do so. Their protest comes as the government extended the funds allocated for their stay at hotels until July.
Following the October 7 massacre by Hamas terrorists, when they stormed southern Israel, murdering over 1,200 and taking hostage more than 240, tens of thousands of Israelis from the area were uprooted from their homes and placed in hotels in the Jerusalem area, Eilat, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea region. Since then, they have been living there full time, with makeshift schools set up for children and activities to keep everyone occupied. The move has also led local businesses to be completely shuttered.
Some Israelis have already moved back to their towns, which is technically allowed but under their own risk — rockets still fly near daily from Gaza and the IDF is operating within the Gaza Strip, which is minutes away from certain border towns.
The plan presented by the regional heads, they say, would mean that the towns are technically safe to return to, and therefore the risk falls under the government and the military.
This is as tens of thousands of Israelis from northern towns also remain out of their homes, with no current timeline for return due to the constant threat of Hezbollah missiles and the potential the war extends to the north.
The post Gaza Border Residents Demand A Return Home, Four Months Into War first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Australian Politician Says ‘Jewish Lobby’ Uses ‘Tentacles’ to ‘Influence Power’
Video of a left-wing Australian politician discussing how “the Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby” are using their “tentacles” to “influence power” went viral on Tuesday, sparking backlash from the Australian Jewish community.
Jenny Leong, an Australia Greens member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, spoke on a panel for the Palestine Justice Movement in December to promote boycotting Israel.
“The Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby are infiltrating into every single aspect of what is ethnic community groups,” Leong said during the panel. “They rock up and they’re part of the campaign,” and “they offer solidarity.”
She continued: “They [the Jewish and Zionist lobby] rock up to every community meeting and event to offer that connection because their tentacles reach into the areas that try and influence power and I think that we need to call that out and expose that.”
Leong has plumbed new and dangerous depths by using one of the oldest and darkest antisemitic tropes… pic.twitter.com/P9LokLFQwU
— NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (@NSWJBD) February 6, 2024
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, which is the representative of Jews who live in New South Wales, called the remarks “despicable,” adding that “Leong has plumbed new and dangerous depths by using one of the oldest and darkest antisemitic tropes to accuse Jews of covertly manipulating civic life. She has outrageously suggested that there is a sinister or evil purpose associated with Jews undertaking the most normal of activities – interacting with other Australians.”
Josh Burns, a Labor member of the Australian House of Representatives, said her comments were “a direct attack on Jewish people in Australia” and that “she should unreservedly apologize.” He also called on the Australian Greens to “take responsibility and demonstrate that Jewish people in Australia are safe and respected by their Party.”
The right-leaning Australian Jewish Association wrote on X that “Every credible political party must put the Greens last. Every non-racist fair minded person must put the Greens last.”
In response to the criticism, Leong apologized for specifically using the word “tentacles,” but not for her message. She said: “Speaking on a panel during a two-hour-long event last year, I acknowledge that I used a word at one point that was an inappropriate descriptor for the influence of groups backing Netanyahu’s genocidal attacks in Gaza and the ongoing occupation – I apologise that this has caused offence.”
She continued: “It is incredibly telling that after a conversation where myself and other speakers made countless mentions of the genocidal attacks and occupation occurring in Gaza right now, that two months later more focus isn’t being put on the deaths of over 26,000 people, many of them children.”
Her comments and apology come amid increasing concern over antisemitism on the far-left, which has celebrated violent resistance against Israel since October 7, when Hamas invaded the country, killed 1,200 people, and kidnapped more than 240 more.
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