Exactly one hundred days since Hamas carried out the October 7 terrorist attack in which some 1,400 individuals were murdered, maimed, and kidnapped, thousands of people gathered in central London to express solidarity with Israel and to demand the safe return of the 136 hostages that still remain in Gaza.
Israel embassy estimates put the crowd numbers at as many as 40,000.
The event, organised by the 7/10 Human Chain Project, saw a number of speakers address the crowd in Trafalgar Square, including Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis, Lord Eric Pickles, Christian Wakeford MP, Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy, relatives of hostages, and a video message from Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
The first speaker, Aviv, a leader of the 7/10 Human Chain Project, said he had “never been prouder” of being Israeli, Zionist, and Jewish.
He said: “We will never be intimidated about the lies spread about us, because history and truth is on our side. Israeli brothers and sisters, you are not alone. We stand shoulder to shoulder with you today, tomorrow, and forever.”
Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, referring to the ongoing conflict as a “most justified war”, said: “One hundred days on, over 130 [hostages] are still being held hostage in Gaza. They continue to live through a nightmare with every passing second they remain in the hands of their Hamas captors. They are refused medical attention and, unfortunately, the women there are sexually abused. So, gathered here, united, we demand in one voice the immediate release of our hostages.”
Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, said via recorded message that it was “deeply moving and inspiring” that thousands “gathered together in the historic British landmark of Trafalgar Square to raise your voices with crystal-clear clarity: Together, you insist we stand united with Israel.”
He added, “Around the world, we see that Jew hatred [raises] its ugly head again. In the United Kingdom and across the globe, a shocking resurgence of antisemitism has exposed the lie that Israeli hatred is anything other than Jew hatred. We reject this lie, and we reject this hatred. We stand for justice, we stand for human dignity, we stand for democracy, we stand for the core values of human civilisation, and we stand for Israel.
“This battle isn’t between Israel and Hamas only; it is between those who choose life and liberty and those who sanctify and glorify death and destruction. This battle isn’t just about the safety of Israel’s borders, but about the safety of our global borders. This battle belongs to the entire free world.”
A member of the St Martin-in-the-Fields church grips a lamp post in Trafalgar Square, who later said antisemitism was a 'crime against all humanity'
Lord Eric Pickles, the United Kingdom’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, began: “I stand before you a proud and unapologetic Zionist.
“I never understood how in the 1930s people could stand with the Nazis, but by midday October 7th, I understood. The people marching yesterday [in the pro-Palestinian march], the majority are not antisemitic, but they are happy to walk alongside people who are.”
He added that Hamas is “against civilisation”, and so Israel was therefore “fighting for all of us.”
A man holds a poster that reads 'From the sea to the river, soup kneidlach and chopper liver', January 14, 2023
Echoing Lord Pickles, Eylon Levy, Israeli government spokesperson, said: “The British public are watching today’s rally on a split screen. Split between our display of decency and yesterday’s parade of hate. They see the sea of British flags here in Trafalgar Square, a protest far smaller than yesterday, and with so much more love for this country.
“Here nobody is calling for Houthi terror attacks against British forces and British targets like the mobs calling for Yemen to make them proud and to turn another ship around. Here nobody is calling for intifada that means more 7/7 attacks or distributing leaflets glorifying proscribed terror organisations. Here nobody is storming restaurants or turning the centre of London into no-go zones for thousands of law-abiding civilians.
“The British public can see that many of the people marching since the October 7 massacre gave them the thrill of their lives, marchers to save Hamas are also calling for attacks on Britain. On one side, Hamas rapists and Houthi pirates, on the other side, Israel and the United Kingdom. I know which side we choose.”
Defying the outbreak of light rain, impromptu calls to “bring them home” broke out numerous times during the two-and-a-half-hour event, as well as chants of Am Yisrael Chai.
One hundred seconds of silence was also poignantly observed to mark the 100 days that Hamas has held hostages.
100 seconds of silence to mark the 100 days that Hamas terrorists have held hundreds of civilians hostage pic.twitter.com/d6n39vaWdF— Daniel Ben-David (@DannyBenDavid) January 14, 2024
Author and educator, Ben M. Freeman, said on stage: “Zionism is not a dirty word. Zionism is our movement of self-determination and only we get to define it. One thing we have to remember is we are not Jews with trembling knees, we are strong and proud.”
The day also saw powerful testimony given from three relatives of hostages. Eylon Keshet, a relative of the Bibas family, told the audience: “Usually, counting when children are involved is a thing to celebrate. But not this time. Now we count the days since Hamas took our loved ones.”
Keshet is a relative of 4-year-old Ariel Bibas and 11-month-old Kfir Bibas. Kfir, Eylon said, will be spending his first birthday in a few days’ time in the hands of terrorists.
Christian Wakeford MP, Vice Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, spoke after having recently returned from Israel where he toured some of the hardest hit communities.
He referred to the experience as “harrowing”, and which “numbed me to the core, and will stay with me forever.”
“When Israel cries, we cry with you, when Israel mourns, we mourn with you, and when Israel stands, we stand with you. Am Yisrael Chai,” he said.
Afshin Payravi, a director of the Association of Iranian Human Rights and Allies, said on stage: “Our message to the people of the region and to the world: We are not your enemies, we are your friends; we are not your rivals, we are your partners; we are not a threat, but your ally. We are ready to work with you for peace and prosperity for all.”
Also present was a delegation from Stand With Us UK, who said: “We could not be prouder than to be on the streets of London supporting Israel in this just cause against Hamas. The message is clear to our allies both within and outside the community: stand with us.”
The event closed with a prayer from Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis, and the singing of the Israeli and British national anthems.
Many thousands sing Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, in Trafalgar Square. Included on stage was Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Eylon Levy, Ben M. Freeman, and Rt. Hon. Lord Eric Pickles, among others pic.twitter.com/WJme5XI5ox— Daniel Ben-David (@DannyBenDavid) January 14, 2024
Earlier in the day a convoy of over 250 cyclists bearing yellow ribbons to honour hostages rode together in unison from north London to Regent’s Park.
Organiser Howard Kayman said: “Today was just a phenomenal day, something I will never forget. Everyone arrived on time, no mechanical problems and then the 7 laps [around Regent’s Park] was magical.
"The way the community came together was awesome and I pray that the hostages will be released soon so we can ride again, and celebrate.”