A large group of Israelis and British Jews gathered in Parliament Square in a solemn and poignant show of solidarity with the Jewish State and to demand the release of the more than 200 hostages still held by Hamas.
Israeli-born Orit Eyal-Fibeesh, who has been living in the UK for the past 20 years, spoke to the hundreds of people in attendance about the devastating impact the tragedy has had on the country.
Because of how small Israel is, she says, “every single person I know knows someone who has either been murdered, kidnapped, or injured.”
She said that since Saturday’s terror attacks, it “has never been so difficult” for Israelis living abroad to be away from home. “We are all heartbroken. I don’t think we have ever felt so desperate.”
Man poses with an Israeli flag at the vigil for Israel, October 15, 2023 (Photo: copyright unknown)
She said later: “Now more than ever it is important to show support for Israel in the UK. The world must understand that we are currently in a fight against an extremist fundamentalist terrorist organisation that has never believed in or supported peace and coexistence.
“Hatred of all forms will never prevail. Antisemitism will not win. History will not repeat itself, and the loss of lives must stop. We must be united to support our loved ones and Israel as a nation,” she said.
She added: “Today we are here together, Jews, Israelis, and allies, to mourn, to support each other, to pray for the safe return of loved ones held in captivity, and for our brave soldiers to remain strong and to come home to their families soon.”
Line of pages listing the hostages that are still captives of Hamas in Gaza, Parliament Square, October 15, 2023
Rabbi Jeremy Gordon of New London Synagogue spoke on behalf of a “dear friend and one of the most remarkable people” he knows, a member of his congregation, Noam Sagi, whose mother, Ada, has been missing since Saturday. She lived in Kibbutz Nir Oz near the Gaza border, one of the hardest hit communities.
“Noam is hurting,” Rabbi Gordon said, “but he is so grateful for the support he gains from each of you here. He wants you to know he is strong, and resolutely focused on ensuring his mother and all the hostages can come home.”
Ada, a teacher of Hebrew and Arabic and retired school principal, worked for peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs for decades. Her husband, Noam’s father, passed earlier this year.
Vigil for Israel in front of Big Ben, at Parliament Square, October 15, 2023
Rabbi Gordon said Noam thinks taking hostages, especially those under 18 and over 65, is “an affront to all that is human”. Despite his pain, Noam carries “no hate for the people of Gaza, no hate for Muslims, for the Arabs, or the Palestinians. His love for all humanity remains resolute, even tested as horribly as it has been.”
Rabbi Gordon said the vigil was an opportunity “for both the Israeli community here in England and the Jewish community, as well as allies who aren’t part of either community, to come together.
“Historically, that has been one of the strengths of the Jewish people, being able to come together during times of stress and strain.”
The testimony of a survivor of the Nova music festival was also read aloud after being translated into English.
Michal Netta, one of the organisers of the vigil, told the non-Jewish and non-Israeli supporters present: “I implore you to join us with a full heart, to be brave. Extricate yourself from the carefully orchestrated propaganda traps set by Hamas that have demonised Israel for decades and sanitised the horror of Hamas.
“If you have tears for the devastation experienced by Palestinian civilians, cry them. Their pain and tragedy are undeniably real. Some of us will join, but others have no more tears to spare. Please accept that with compassion. You’re not asked to close your heart to the Palestinian grief, but make no mistake, the responsibility of the colossal misery in the Middle East, the atrocity in Israel and suffering of innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip lies with Hamas.”
Pages of hostages still held captive in Gaza were pasted throughout the square, October 15, 2023
Neta Gracewell, another organiser, said that it was held so Israelis and allies could come together “to mourn and be able to hug and support each other, and pray” in London.
“We think the top priority is that we get the over 200 [hostages] back home. It’s more important than anything else that we get these people back home,” she said. “So many of us have had the toughest week of our lives.”
Organisers asked that posts about the vigil be shared through the hashtag #BringThemHomeNow