40,000 people march through London calling for the release of the hostages

Over 120 hostages are still being held in Gaza, 240 days after their capture by Hamas terrorists on October 7


Thousands gather outside Downing Street to call for the immediate and unconditional release of the Gaza hostages (Photo: Daniel Ben-David)

In one of the biggest shows of UK solidarity with Israel since October 7, over 40,000 people marched through London on Sunday afternoon, calling for the hostages to be released.

In a sea of yellow ribbons and balloons, people from across the spectrum of Anglo-Jewry and many supporters from other faith groups joined the United We Bring Them Home march from Holborn down to Whitehall, chanting “Bring them home”, waving Israeli flags, carrying posters with the words “Time is running out” and singing along to Israeli songs blasting from loudspeakers.

Marchers wore stickers with the number 240 on them, a reference to how many days the hostages have been held captive in Gaza.

Bemused tourists stepped aside and took photos, while several cars beeped their horns in support and were given loud cheers by the rally-goers in return.

Addressing the thousands outside Downing Street, Lord Stuart Polak said he had “never in my life seen such a crowd here in Whitehall. You should all be proud of yourselves."

He added that the Jewish community was “haunted by the deafening silence” of international organisations and bodies who, he said, had not done enough to rebuke the actions of Hamas.

Lord Polak condemned the International Criminal Court for comparing Israeli leaders with those of Hamas, and the BBC for various “failings” since October 7, including, he said, for its coverage of the Al-Ahli hospital explosion and its “refusal” to label Hamas as terrorists.

“It’s not easy to stand up proudly and publicly as Jews in these times,” Lord Polak said. “Today, we shout loudly together: ‘Bring them home’.”

The crowd stood solemnly in the bright sun to hear from the relatives of Ron Benjamin, 52, who was murdered and abducted by Hamas on October 7, and the relatives of hostage Omer Neutra, 22.

Attendees also heard from Merav and Amir Daniel, the parents of Sgt Oz Daniel, who, at the age of 19, was killed and abducted by Hamas on October 7. 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,” she said.

Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis and Rabbi Mark Goldsmith of Progressive Judaism both led the crowd in prayer, in a powerful display of cross-communal support for the release of the hostages and Israel.

Israeli diplomat Daniel Shek, former Israeli ambassador to France, 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,” he said.

"We cry out for those who have lost their voice. We cry out and shout for them,” he said.

Banners of the various organisations and local communities present were held aloft, including the 7/10 Human Chain Project, StandWithUs UK, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum UK, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and WIZO.

Invited to walk in delegations, a number of marchers came with their synagogues, including Bushey, Richmond and Woodside Park, or with another Jewish organisation. 

One participant, who was with a group from Finchley Synagogue, said she had decided to march “to show unity and solidarity. The fact that the hostages are still there 240 days later just makes me feel physically sick. I am a mother of teenage girls, and I just feel horrible about the whole thing.”

She added that antisemitism in the UK was “a massive issue”, telling the JC: “I was out on Saturday night. A guy was wearing a kippah, and he was run after by a bunch of girls shouting: ‘Free Palestine!’ It made me realise that we need to stand together as a community. While I don’t agree with everything the Israeli government does, on this particular issue, I think it’s massively important we show unity and solidarity.”

The global march, which took place today in 24 countries, came two days after Biden announced a three-phase hostage deal, proposed by Israel.

Marching alongside the Jewish community was MP Suella Braverman, who told the JC she was “very inspired and honoured” to be there, saying: “It’s so vital that we show support and solidarity for the hostages. There are still over 100 people held in captivity by Hamas - women, one-year-old Kfir Bibas, fathers, brothers, grandparents, and these people need to be released.”

The former home secretary said that “the narrative around the world has shifted so much to forget the plight of these hostages, to paint Israel as the enemy. The UK and US governments seem to have lost the focus of what this is all about. This is about Israel fighting for its survival against a death cult in the form of Hamas, and this is about releasing innocent civilans who are being held hostage right now.”

Last night in Tel Aviv, the largest demonstration took place in Israel since October 7, when 120,000 people – including relatives of hostages – called on the Israeli government to push the deal through.

One participant at the London march told the JC: “[The hostages] is a matter where there is no need for nuance. This is a matter of humanity, and we’re here to show our support and to say that the hostages must come home.”

He added: “I strongly hope that a deal can be achieved and that there will be peace as soon as possible.”

Rupert Simon-Marks, 12, who had come on the march with his family, said that he was there “to show solidarity with Israel and to show that we need to get the hostages released now. I am also here to get our voices heard in a democratic country, unlike other countries, where people can’t have a say.”

Mother Rebecca Simon said that having also been on the previous rallies calling for the release of the hostages, “it’s really important that the community feels it has an opportunity to come together in solidarity with each other, and also it’s our democratic right that we are present, visible and proud. We don’t have to hide away.”

A half-Israeli participant with a delegation from Bournemouth said they were “here to help the hostages, especially the girls and the Bibas family, because it’s disgusting, and Israel needs to see, the world needs to see that we are behind them.”

She added: "More people need to understand and educate themselves on what the issues are. It’s not Israel against Palestine. It’s freedom against terrorism.”

The march was organised by the 7/10 Human Chain organisation and the Hostages and Missing Families Forum UK.

Closing the ceremony with 125 seconds of silence to mark each hostage still held there, Nivi Feldman of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum UK said: “We are working around the clock to support the hostage families in their plight to bring them home. The hostages are our family, they are my family.”

"When I hear that any of them is suffering, that any of them are confirmed dead, any bodies come out of Gaza, my heart breaks every time. Bring our family home. Thank you.”

Phil Rosenberg, newly-elected president of the Board of Deputies, said: “My first public event as president could not have been to support a more important cause - that of the release of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. It is time for the world to cry out in unison with us: ‘Bring them home now!’”

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