Community united at vigil outside Downing Street for the hostages six months on

186 days after October 7, 133 hostages are still believed to be held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza


Hundreds gather outside Downing Street on Tuesday, 9 April, for a hostage vigil six months after October 7 (Credit: Daniel Ben-David)

Rabbinical leaders from across the community were united in their call for the return of the hostages as six months since October 7 was marked by a vigil outside Downing Street.

They were joined by over 1,000 Jewish people, Israelis and supporters at the rally for the 133 hostages still held captive in Gaza.

UJIA chief executive Mandie Winston introduced the evening, saying: “Tonight, after 186 days, we saw that enough is enough; that time has already run out. We are here to call on all people in positions of power and influence to act on our demand that the hostages are led from captivity to freedom.”

Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirivs said: “From here we declare our promise to the hostages and to their families, we will not rest. We will not be silenced until every single one of them comes back home.”

He added: “Unlike Hamas, which celebrates the rape, the torture, and the murder of innocent civilians, our tradition commands us to respect all life and to hold all life sacred, as the result of which we regard the loss of every single innocent civilian as being a tragedy and that includes innocent Palestinians who have died in Gaza.

“This Passover, regardless of the intentions of Hamas and of a rise in antisemitism, and all the hatred and all the lies that exist out there, we know that: Am Yisrael Chai, the Jewish people will live on forever.”

The evening’s attendees heard from the relatives of two hostages. Steve Brisley spoke about his brother-in-law Eli Sharabi, who is still  held in Gaza. His brother Yossi was killed in captivity. Eli’s daughters Noiya and Yahel, and wife Lianne, Steve’s sister, were all murdered in Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7.

Neither Jewish nor Israeli, Brisley said he wanted to thank the Jewish community for the “unwavering support my family has received both here in London and back home in south Wales since the horrific events of October 7”.
He said: “I’d like to thank you because you are my people, you are my family, you are my loved ones.”

Ayala Harel, niece of hostage Michel Nisenbaum, also spoke on stage with her family by her side. She spoke about how the “agony of worry” has impacted her family, especially her grandmother, mother of Michel.

“Her days are now filled with great sadness, her spirit is dimmed by the pain of not knowing whether her beloved child is safe. Each day without Michel chips away at her,” she said.

She added: “We cannot allow the hostages to be pawns in this cruel game that Hamas is playing. They are human beings; they deserve dignity, respect, and above all freedom.”

Michael Marlowe, father of Jake Marlowe, 26, who was murdered on October 7 alongside his friend Aviv Eliyahu, also spoke. Their friend, Shlomi Ziv, remains a hostage.

Following the testimonies of hostage relatives, the crowd turned silent as the names of the 133 hostages were read aloud.

Magen David Adom paramedic Ophir Tor, one of the first responders at the October 7 massacre, said a few words. Twenty-seven of his MDA colleagues were murdered that day. 

Progressive Judaism co-leaders Rabbi Josh Levy and Rabbi Charley Baginsky spoke jointly. Baginsky said: “As a community we have reached half of a year without any sense of moving on, with no rituals to transport us to a new phase, no sense of transition. We are suspended in the liminality of this time. At the heart of our suspension, in the moment of the October 7, is the fate of the hostages, whose absences their families and friends feel every day. And not only their loved ones; all of us wake each day to the knowledge that they are still there.”

She continued: “So, there is no ritual to accompany us at six months, but by gathering today we create a ritual that unites us. We continue to name our pain and create a moment when we can see each other, support one another, and give it each other strength.”

Senior Rabbi of S&P community, Joseph Dwek, said: “In this year, the sky is blue but our hearts are dark. And our hearts have been dark for six months, as our hearts are tied to our brothers and sisters who are being held hostage in dire circumstances and suffering in inhuman and inhumane conditions. Day in and day out.

“We wake and we sleep and our hearts are dark, and pained, and broken. We hear it as it certainly feels like the world at large tells us ‘Yes the hostages, but…’.

“The hostages are our brothers and sisters. Not a day can go by where we do not cry for them, pray for them, feel for them, and speak out for them, stand strongly for them, and yearn for their return.”

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg OBE, of Masorti Judaism, said: “To the hearts of our governments, over the road and the White House, in Qatar and in Egypt, please may all our feelings gathered here reach your heart so you do your utmost to bring all our people home. And to the hearts of our own governments, who do not put that first.

“May our words and may our prayers and may out thoughts reach the hearts of the families, reach down the deepest tunnels to give strength to those who are hanging on in there.”

The vigil concluded with the singing of the Israeli and British national anthems.

The event was organised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, UJIA, MDA UK and the Embassy of Israel.

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