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Just before Passover, thousands rally to demand freedom from captivity for Israeli hostages

Rallies in 55 locations demand hostage deal and new elections

A protester holds a sign that reads "Freedom now!" during a demonstration calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip and against the current Israeli government outside Defense Headquarters in Tel Aviv, April 20, 2024. (Photo: Itai Ron/Flash90)

Thousands of Israelis demonstrated across the nation on Saturday evening to demand new elections and the release of the remaining hostages in the hands of Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Israeli media reported.

In a public statement, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a primary organizer of the protests, linked their demand with the theme of the imminent Passover holiday.

“The timeless Passover refrain, ‘In every generation, a person is obligated to see themselves as though they went out from Egypt’ has taken on new meaning – ‘In every generation, a person is obligated to see themselves as though they are in Gaza,'” the organizers wrote.

“A moment before Passover, the festival celebrating freedom, a sobering reality persists: 133 hostages, men, women, children and the elderly remain trapped deep within Hamas’s tunnels in Gaza, deprived of liberty and drained of hope.”

Thousands of Israelis gathered at 55 locations across the country, with the largest rallies being held in Jerusalem and two separate Tel Aviv locations.

The latest negotiations with Hamas have collapsed, leading to a convergence of anti-government protests and demonstrations by hostage families. This movement accuses the government, particularly the prime minister, of obstructing a hostage deal for political motives.

The forum addressed cabinet members in advance of the demonstrations, saying: "It’s been 200 days that nothing is the same. The holiday of freedom will not be celebrated in Israel this year. We expect to meet you before Passover eve, after months without an official meeting.”

”We demand to hear what the priorities are six months after the start of the war. Are the negotiations taking place? When will the exit from Gaza take place, which the State of Israel needs in order to begin the process of rehabilitation and healing?”

Among the main speakers during the Tel Aviv protest on Kaplan Street were Ruby and Hagit Chen, reported to Ynet News. They are the parents of Itai Chen, an IDF soldier who was murdered on Oct. 7 and whose body is being held by Hamas.

”Fulfill your moral, ethical and Jewish duty to return our Itai for burial in Israel, as a hero like he deserves. Your family has a grave for Yoni, the hero of Israel, we also want a grave,” the father said in reference to Benjamin Netanyahu’s brother Yoni, who was killed in action in the famous Entebbe raid of 1976.

”Bibi, more than 4 months ago, you promised us the families that a little more military pressure and Sinwar would beg to sign a deal. Where is the deal you were talking about? In Gaza, meanwhile, they are sunbathing in the sea. You failed and wasted the military and political credit that the USA and Germany gave you,” he added.

In Paris Square in Jerusalem, Eyal Eshel, the father of the IDF soldier Roni who was killed in the Nahal Oz base on Oct. 7, told the rally participants that ”the girls reported and warned and a much too long list of command and staff members did nothing. They don’t deserve to wear the IDF uniform.”

”On October 7, everything exploded in our faces because the government and the army are sick, and they are sick with the sin of arrogance,” Eshel said.

”Passover is approaching and this holiday symbolizes leaving slavery to freedom, and this year it is relevant on several levels. Our abductees: let them go to freedom already. Our people: that it will finally be freed from the yoke of its leader.”

Speaking at a rally in Tel Aviv, opposition leader Yair Lapid told the crowd.

"My job is to do everything so that this power of yours will turn into political change, will turn into people who will enter the Knesset plenum and vote correctly,” he added.

"They will choose the country instead of the party. My commitment to you is to keep trying until it happens. It will happen. This government will fall, this government will not last, we will send them home.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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