Today (Friday 1/12), in the Hostages Plaza, the families of the hostages prayed for the return of all the hostages held captive by Hamas in Gaza, using 136 Torah scrolls, correlating to the number of hostages currently held captive in Gaza.
The event was held with the participation of the Chief Rabbi of Israel Meir Lau and Minister of Religious Affairs Michael Malchieli. The Chief Rabbi of Israel offered a prayer for the release of the hostages and sounded the shofar. Singer Ishay Ribo performed some of his songs for the families, including "Song of Ascents" .
He also sang the traditional Friday night prayer Shalom Aleichem (Peace Be Upon You) used by Jewish families worldwide to welcome Shabbat. The prayer refers to a Talmudic passage that states that two angels visit each home on Friday night as Shabbat begins, and welcomes them and asks for their blessing. To the traditional verses bidding the angels to arrive and depart in peace, Ribo added a new verse - "Return in peace".
Chief Rabbi of Israel Meir Lau offered a prayer for the redemption of captives and protection of IDF soldiers, and said in his speech*: "We pray and hope to fulfill the commitment of the prophet Elijah 'and the children shall return to their own borders'. It is important for me to clarify that the events of October 7th are not a Holocaust and have nothing to do with the Holocaust. Back then we did not have a home or place to return to, and barely anything left to dream about. No one came then to rescue any Jew. Everyone fought against the Nazis, but they did not fight to rescue a single Jew. Today we have a home, a state, might, and emissaries of the Creator of the World. Everyone is working towards one goal: to rescue our brothers and sisters from a cruel fate inflicted by savage, cruel people. What does Hamas want from a 3-year-old girl or a 10-month-old baby? Is that your enemy? Is that who you go out against? We pray to the Creator of the World that this unity will stay with us for years to come. May we know to stay united. We have one desire - to live together as one people."
Minister of Religious Affairs Michael Malchieli commented: "Today we brought dozens of Torah scrolls out to the streets of the city, to cry out the cries of the families. The people of Israel do not give up. We ask the Creator of the World: Bring all our sons and daughters back home. We must not give up on any person. We want to celebrate a great victory in which everyone is back here, back home."
Ilan Zaharia, uncle of Eden Zecharya commented: "This disaster has befallen the entire country. It doesn't matter who we were before or what community we come from. After this event, we must not return to what was before. We need to find dignified ways to communicate and find peaceful ways to live together. I call on our leaders to take national responsibility. Unify our country, do not let us return to days of division... At the Re’im party, there were 4,000 young people who came to celebrate and have fun with their friends. They had the state's approval to be there and the army was also updated. That party cost us 370 dead and dozens more hostages. Eden was among them, she went to celebrate happily with her friends. The end of the current deal this morning is a huge disappointment for the families. We demand that the Qatari and Egyptian mediators as well as Hamas sit down and come up with a deal to increase the number of those released from Hamas captivity. The women and children deal has started but has not ended. Eden was very close to being released. We want everyone back. We want a major deal that will bring all our hostages home. As part of the agreement, the Prime Minister demanded a visit by the Red Cross to the hostages, those who were injured, dragged, and run over on the way to Gaza. I demand that the state and mediators ensure that medical teams enter. That they demand and provide what is needed, in order to provide medical treatment to the hostages so they can hold on until they are returned”.
Eli Shtivi, father of Idan Shtivi, commented: "Idan came to volunteer and photograph the party, he didn't even manage to enter it before being kidnapped... I am here on a mission. The prayers are important to us and I took it upon myself to put on tefillin every morning. I weep before the Creator of the World to return my son. We demand that the government take control of the reins. The return of the hostages is the top priority, especially the return of all those injured. We need to stop working based on Sinwar's flute, we need to work based on the outline that the State of Israel will determine."
Tamar Tzohar, grandmother of soldier Omer Neutra, commented: "Omer was born in the US. He received a Jewish education and was embraced by the Jewish and Israeli community in New York... When he finished high school he decided he wanted to come to the country in order to connect with the large family his parents have on both sides and get to know our beautiful country up close. Omer was stationed on the Gaza border fence on October 7th. He told his parents that after over a month, they received instructions on October 6th that alert levels can be lowered. Can you believe it? That's what he managed to tell his parents. From that point on, our world was completely overturned. We will work together to bring back Omer and all the other hostages."
The Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum headquarters also commented on the murder of Ronen Engel, a family member of some of the hostages.
"We share in the profound grief of the Engel family."
"Ronan (54) was a member of Kibbutz Nir Oz. Married to Karina, and father to Tom, Mika, and Yuval. A photographer, volunteer paramedic, and motorcycle enthusiast. His wife and two daughters were kidnapped to Gaza on October 7 and released this week."
"Today the family received the tragic update that he was murdered."