Israelis dance, sing, pray for Gaza hostages on 100th day of war
TEL AVIV, Israel (AFP)— On a cold and rainy day in Tel Aviv, hundreds of Israelis joined events to mark 100 days since Hamas militants attacked Israel, sparking a retaliation that has since taken tens of thousands of Palestinian lives.
The crowd’s focus was on the roughly 250 hostages taken by Hamas fighters on October 7, of whom 132 remain in Gaza, according to Israeli officials, though 25 are thought to be dead.
“One hundred days and they are still abandoned there, 100 days and there is no sign of their return,” said Amit Zach, a graphic designer who joined the crowds in Tel Aviv on Sunday.
The campaign to get the hostages back has been spearheaded by families of the captives and has helped keep their plight at the centre of the domestic debate.
Israeli politicians say it is one of their war aims in Gaza, along with destroying Hamas and ensuring an attack on the scale of October 7 can never happen again.
But some of those gathered in Tel Aviv were unimpressed.
“I don’t think we imagined a situation where we would be here on the 100th day,” said Gili Dvash Yeshurun, from north of Tel Aviv.
She said there was no longer any “concept of security” between citizens and the government.
The Hamas attack resulted in about 1,140 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
The fighters also abducted around 250 people from southern Israeli communities and a trance music festival, though dozens were freed in a swap with Palestinian prisoners in late November.
Israel has since bombarded Gaza by land, sea and air, killing at least 23,968 people in the Palestinian territory, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.
Early on Sunday in Tel Aviv, event organisers played trance music as a tribute to those taken at the rave party.
Music events throughout the day drew crowds who danced, chanted and joined arms, often under umbrellas.
Elsewhere, men wearing skullcaps and prayer shawls read from scriptures while standing in the rain.
Events are set to continue into the evening, with a mix of music and speeches from politicians and released hostages.
Israel’s trade union federation, Histadrut, said hundreds of thousands of workers around the country laid down their tools at midday in a 100-minute stoppage to mark the 100th day of captivity.
“Until the last minute, I hoped that a miracle would happen and we wouldn’t need to stand here today,” said Histadrut chairman Arnon Bar-David at a rally in Tel Aviv.
But he went on to say it was necessary to “remind the whole world” that the hostages were still held “in Gaza, in tunnels, in basements”.
On Saturday, families of hostages unveiled a replica of the tunnels in Gaza where their loved ones are believed to be held.
The mock-up of a Hamas tunnel was installed outside Tel Aviv Museum of Art, with a dimly lit passage, dirt on the ground and the sounds of gunfire and shelling playing constantly.