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Hostage Families Begin March Towards Jerusalem

Orange balloons fill the skies above Tel Aviv’s Hostages Square on Thursday as hundreds gathered to mark the grim milestone of the first birthday of Kfir Bibas, who is a hostage in Hamas captivity. Wednesday, January 17, 2024. (Photo: Debbie Weiss)

Family members of those still held captive in Gaza began a four-day march on Wednesday to Jerusalem, with the goal of building pressure for a deal to secure their release.

“Join us! I’m marching for my husband and for all the abductees,” chanted Sharon Aloni Konio, a former hostage herself who joined the march that begins at Kibbutz Re’im, one of the many Israeli towns attacked by Hamas on October 7. During that fateful day, Sharon, her husband, and more than 240 others were kidnapped from their homes, a music festival, or military bases and taken captive in the Gaza Strip. An additional more than 1,200 were killed.

The march leaves from the Gaza border town and is led by roughly 70 families of those being held, alongside supporters of the cause. Their goal is to arrive in Jerusalem, where they will petition the government to pursue another deal to bring about their release.

Sharon was one of the more than 100 hostages released in November during a deal brokered between Israel, Hamas, the US, and Qatar. She told the group, “There are no words to express our gratitude. I also want to join in and say that my heart goes out to the bereaved families. They are truly heroes. Everyone who fought there is an indescribable hero. I ask everyone who can: Join us and show us your support in our important struggle.”

Another member of the march, the grandson of one of the elderly hostages being held, Oded Lifshitz, told the supporters: “145 days of hope that has not yet been realized and still has not faded. The gift and its resurrection. We are still waiting to see 134 people from our family, who will return to hug their children, return to their border or be able to reach their eternal rest. We are marching for Israel’s revival. We need to bring them all back.”

It is estimated that 134 hostages remain in captivity, including seven women, 15 men over the age of 50, and 13 hostages who are sick or injured, among a number of soldiers. The IDF estimates that around 50 of the 134 hostages have been killed in captivity or were taken by Hamas dead from Israel.

The parents of a soldier who joined the IDF from the US, Omar Neutra, said, “The support is broad and inclusive and comes from all shades of the people of Israel, each in their own way, because that’s how we are the most beautiful. I say thank you for all this beauty, all the light and the mobilization for us, the families of the abductees. Their return is a top value for all of us. Our strength is in our unity. Out of this unity we embark on a journey from the place where the terrible disaster began to Jerusalem, our eternal capital.”

Efforts to score a deal have been ongoing since the last deal in November. Israeli representatives met with American, Qatari, and Egyptian representatives in Paris last week, where an outline for a new deal was agreed upon. US President Joe Biden expressed optimism for its conclusion, though Israeli officials quickly pushed back, saying a deal was not imminent.

Hamas has stood firm in its demands that the IDF retreat completely from the Gaza Strip, as well as pushing for the release of thousands of terrorists held in Israeli prisons.

It is yet to be seen if a breakthrough will occur in the interim. According to reports from Israeli outlets, mediators are trying to secure a deal prior to the beginning of Ramadan on March 10, which marks month-long daily fasts by Muslims around the world, and has historically been a time of increased tension in Israel.

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University of Toronto seeks injunction to end protest encampment over ‘harmful, discriminatory’ speech outlined in court filing

The University of Toronto is now seeking a court injunction to put and end to the encampment in King’s College Circle after the 8 a.m. deadline passed Monday morning—while unionized workers joined students, faculty and other protesters at a rainy morning rally. Shortly after the ultimatum hour, the university announced in a statement from UofT […]

The post University of Toronto seeks injunction to end protest encampment over ‘harmful, discriminatory’ speech outlined in court filing appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Monday morning saw the Toronto community and politicians showing support for the Chabad girls’ school struck by weekend gunfire

Mayor Olivia Chow was among those who addressed the crowd.

The post Monday morning saw the Toronto community and politicians showing support for the Chabad girls’ school struck by weekend gunfire appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘A Call for Genocide’: South African Jews Blast Country’s President for Chanting ‘From the River to the Sea’

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Chatsworth, South Africa, May 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Rogan Ward

South African Jewish leaders castigated their country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, for what they described as him calling for a “genocide” against Jews in Israel over the weekend.

Ramaphosa was speaking at an election rally in Johannesburg on Saturday when he deviated from his prepared speech to lead the crowd in in a chant of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine shall be free” — a popular slogan among anti-Israel activists that has been widely interpreted as a call for the destruction of the Jewish state, which is located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

The address took place at FNB Stadium, where South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) held its final rally before South African elections on Wednesday. According to Politicsweb, a news website focused on South Africa, a call for the release of the “hostages held in Gaza” who Hamas terrorists kidnapped from southern Israel on Oct. 7 appeared in Ramaphosa’s prepared remarks but not in his final speech.

The South African Jewish community lambasted Ramaphosa for his remarks in a statement shared with The Algemeiner, expressing “its revulsion at the introduction of a call to exterminate Jews from their homeland” by the president.

“The president of the ruling ANC party and the head of state of a democratic country has called for the elimination of the only Jewish state in the culmination of the ANC president’s election speech made to thousands of ANC members and on national television,” said Wendy Kahn, national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). “He uses the populist slogan ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be Free,’ which is widely regarded as a call to genocide of the Jewish people. The call to remove all Jews from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea equates to removing all Jews from Israel.”

Kahn compared the slogan with Hamas’ goal to “see Israel as ‘Judenfrei,’ or Jew free,” before noting that such an endpoint contradicts the South African government’s stated policy of supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The chanting of this slogan by a head of state of a government that recurrently tries to express their commitment to a ‘two-state Solution’ as their policy on Israel and Palestine is hypocritical to the full,” the SAJBD said. “How does a sitting president reject his own government and own party’s international relations policy? This reconfirms our understanding that President Ramaphosa and his government are not looking for a peaceful solution to the tragic conflict, but rather to cause discord among fellow South Africans against its Jewish community.”

Kahn added, “The president’s contempt for South African Jewry is evident in this unscripted outburst at the rally which amounts to nothing more than Jew hatred. The SAJBD is reviewing its options for holding the president accountable for these hateful words.”

South Africa’s ANC government has been one of the harshest critics of Israel since Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists launched the ongoing war in Gaza with their invasion of and massacre across southern Israeli communities.

South Africa temporarily withdrew its diplomats from Israel and shuttered its embassy in Tel Aviv shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom, saying that the Pretoria government was “extremely concerned at the continued killing of children and innocent civilians” in Gaza.

In December, South Africa hosted two Hamas officials who attended a government-sponsored conference in solidarity with the Palestinians. One of the officials had been sanctioned by the US government for his role with the terrorist organization.

Earlier this month, members of South Africa’s Jewish community protested Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor’s recent call for students and university leaders to intensify the anti-Israel demonstrations that have engulfed college campuses across the US.

In January, the South African government failed in its bid to argue before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that Israel’s defensive war in Gaza constituted a “genocide.” However, the top UN court last week ordered Israel to halt its military operations against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. The emergency ruling was part of South Africa’s ongoing case at the ICJ.

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