Families of hostages offered a warm embrace on Shabbat For Israel

‘Their family is our family, and we will hold them in our hearts until they are safely returned home’


Shabbat For Israel Havdalah service at Cockfosters and North Southgate Synagogue

The families of hostages have been warmly welcomed by the UK Jewish community.

Relatives of some of the 134 women, men and children still held captive in Gaza were hosted by congregations around the country as part of Shabbat For Israel.

The event, launched by the Chief Rabbi, is believed to have been the country’s largest coordinated display of support for Israel since the terror attacks.

Organisers said the Shabbat was a chance to let the family members of hostages, abducted by Hamas terrorists on October 7, know “their family is our family, and we will hold each and every one of them in our hearts until they are safely returned home”.

Gili Roman, who is the brother-in-law of hostage Carmel Gat and who was hosted by Ealing United Synagogue, said afterwards that the “initiative of Shabbat for Israel has been very powerful and moving”.

Carmel Gat, 39, an occupational therapist from Tel Aviv, was visiting her parents in Kibbutz Be'eri on October 7 when Hamas terrorists attacked.

Gat was taken captive along with her sister-in-law Yarden Roman-Gat. Yarden was released in November as part of a temporary ceasefire deal and Carmel’s mother, Kinneret, was killed by terrorists.

For Yehuda Cohen, the father of Nimrod Cohen, a 19-year-old taken hostage, Shabbat For Israel was a reminder “that we are not alone”. 

In a message to his hosts at Hendon Synagogue, he said: “I’m writing this to really thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is not trivial what you did for us. It always reminds me that we are not alone.”

Almog Meir Jan, 21, was kidnapped by Hamas on October 7 from the Nova music festival.

His mother, Orit Meir, who spent the Shabbat with the Borehamwood community, said: “You have such a warm and embracing community. I felt a lot of love. You moved me a lot and I really appreciate it.”

She said she was longing for “the moment when I come to visit with my son”.

Almog was due to start his new job in Israel’s hi-tech sector on October 8 and had gone to the Nova music festival to celebrate his new role.

Speaking previously to the JC about the last time she had heard from him, she said: “He called me at 7:45 in the morning. He told me the army had stopped the festival. He didn’t know what was going on, but he was hiding. There were rockets coming from all directions, and he heard shooting.

“He told me he would call me every half an hour, and he said he loved me. That was the last time I heard his voice until now.”

Bushey United Synagogue hosted Yaakov and Or Bohbot, the family of hostage Elkana Ben Ruchama, 34. Speaking twice over Shabbat, they shared their story of how Elkana was taken hostage and what the community could do to help.

The family was joined by Israeli marathon runner Beatie Deutsch, who spoke to 170 people at a communal Friday night dinner. One attendee commented that Beatie “spoke with passion, humour and knowledge for an hour”.

Speaking about the events, Chief Rabbi Sir Mirvis said: "We were so gratified by the response to Shabbat for Israel, which reflects the desire of so many people across our communities to express their solidarity with the people of Israel in such challenging times.

"The feedback that we have already received suggests that the experiences of this Shabbat will remain with many people for the rest of their lives.”

Many communities invited special speakers and educators as part of the weekend, while others held special tefillot, community-wide meals and uplifting Havdalah events.

Cockfosters and Southgate Synagogue marked Shabbat for Israel with a Havdalah and Melava Malka event.

The Havdalah service was led by acapella group Kippalive from Israel.

Rabbi Meir Shindler said: “The event was both reflective and uplifting. Kippalive brought a fantastic feel-good musical blend of both thoughtful and joyful songs, bringing an atmosphere of Jewish unity and connection to Israel.

The community also heard from a resident of Sderot, originally from London, who gave the latest news about what was happening on the ground in the Gaza border towns.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive