Thousands blow shofars to call for the release of the hostages

Vanessa Feltz and Maureen Lipman were among those leading the rallying cry


Around 50 celebrities and communal representatives led the Blow For Hostages flagship event on Sunday afternoon. (middle row, left to right) organiser Marcel Knobil, Dayan Binstock, Nimco Ali, Maureen Vanessa Feltz and Rabbi Mendel Cohen (Photo: Jeremy Coleman)

In an emotionally and sonically charged display of solidarity with the 134 hostages still held in Gaza, thousands of people all over the world blew shofars and whistles on Sunday afternoon as a rallying cry for their release.

Leading a group of celebrities at the flagship event, which coincided with Mother’s Day, was actress Dame Maureen Lipman, who said: “Today, I’m a mother, actor, aunt and grandmother and since October 7, a hostage.”

She called on the Jewish community and its supporters to “fight back” against the “marching fools [and[ campus twits, who don’t know which river or sea they are talking about…As Jews, we are used to keeping our heads down, [but] we need to call out the BBC, Ken Loach and Chomsky.”

Before blowing a shofar, Lipman said she was blowing a shofar for the hostages and for “the safe return of civility”.

Clutching a bag with photos of her four grandchildren on it, a visibly emotional Vanessa Feltz told supporters outside St John’s Wood Synagogue in north-west London: “Today our hearts are linked to the hearts and souls of the mothers and grandmothers [of hostages], who will have been emotionally tormented for 155 days as we celebrate Mother’s Day with our children.”

She read out the names of the mothers  their children still held captive, including Liora Argamani, mother of Noa Argamani, 26. “The last thing she heard her daughter say was: ‘Please don’t kill me.’”

Quoting from an interview in last week’s JC, the TV and radio presenter said that Orit Meir, mother of Almog Meir Jan, 21, recalled that when she learnt her son had been taken hostage, “’it was a moment that is indescribable, one you can’t even imagine. It’s like a knife is put in your stomach and you can’t breathe.’”

Feltz said that she would “continue to trumpet the humanitarian message of: “Bring them home now”.

At midday, the celebrities joined around 50 communal figures to lead some 500 people in blowing shofars and whistles for one minute and 55 seconds to symbolise the 155 days the hostages have been held in captivity.

The mass shofar and whistle-blowing was replicated at Book Week 24, at weddings, cheders and as people were leaving church services. In other parts of the world, including Cancun, Jerusalem and New York, similar events were taking place.

Rabbi Naftali Schiff from Jewish Futures, who blew a shofar, said: “The sound of the shofar is a primal and guttural one that serves to remind us of the basic innate goodness of mankind…We are blowing the shofar as a universal act of prayer and hope that our innocent hostages - men, women and children shall come home and join the rest of the civilised world in asserting a universal moral clarity about good and evil and our commitment to building a better future for all.”

Women’s rights activist Nimco Ali OBE, who blew a shofar, told the crowd that while Jewish women had stood by her in her campaigns, she would “continue to stand with Jewish women”.

Criticising the lack of condemnation from feminist groups over the sexual violence carried out by Hamas terrorists against October 7 victims and hostages, Ali said that their “silence was deafening”, adding: “As a feminist and as a woman, I believe you.”

MP for Finchley and Golders Green, Mike Freer, who is openly gay, sent out a message to gay protesters who take part in the anti-Israel marches: “Let’s see how long you last being a gay man in Gaza.”

Reiterating his support for the Jewish community and Israel, Freer, who has announced that he will be standing down at the next general election due to threats he has received over his support for Israel,  paraphrased Golda Meir, who once said: “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.”

Marcel Knobil, who created the Blow For Hostages event, directly addressed the many journalists who were present, saying: “We are a tiny community. We depend on media …. All we ask of the media is to amplify the facts…We’d be grateful for you to deliver the message that Israel and the Jewish community want peace. As soon as Hamas deliver the hostages and lay down their arms, peace will prevail.”

Speaking afterwards, Knobil said: “The shofar is normally blown to spur a spiritual awakening. On this occasion the extraordinary haunting wails were intended to re-awaken the world to the horrific October 7th massacre, when around 240 innocent civilians were dragged into captivity in Gaza, and over 100 of them still suffer in dire conditions.

“Today more shofars will have been blown than probably on any day in history, marking the unifying and desperate hope of Jews and sympathisers throughout the world that the hostages will be freed.”

Knobil said that the event had probably involved more partners than any other hostage release initiative so far, with representatives from over 12 communal organisations, including the United Synagogue, Progressive Judaism, the S&P Sephardi Community and Masorti Judaism. Other partners included the Board of Deputies, the 7/10 Human Chain Project, Christian Action Against Antisemitism and the National Jewish Assembly.

"It is so uplifting to have representatives here from every strand of the community. At times like this, differences are transcended. We are linked together with feelings in our hearts for the hostages. Am Yisrael Chai!”

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