An estimated 15,000 people gathered in Trafalgar Square yesterday to call for the hostages taken by Hamas on 7 October to be released and to hear the harrowing testimony family members of the kidnapped and murdered.
Ayelet Svatizky, David Julian Bar, Ofri Bibas Levi and Noam Sagi gave their emotional accounts of family members killed and abducted as the audience, holding Israeli flags and photos of the hostages, stood in shocked silence.
Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, described the attack of 7 October as an act of “unparalleled evil and barbarism”. He told the audience: “There is sympathy when Jewish people are suffering, but when Jewish people need to be strong, we hear cynics and critics attack. Israel must stand strong and Britain stands with Israel.”
He also expressed concern that children at Jewish schools felt anxious about displaying their school uniform and that university students were hiding Magen David symbols.
He added: “Every Jewish life is sacred and must be protected.”
Introducing the rally, Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said: “Today we come together to call on all those who have influence to stay strong in their support of Israel and to do all they can to find the hostages, to bring justice to those who have taken the and bring so many loved ones safely home.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis thanked all those who have supported the Jewish community over the past fortnight since the Hamas attacks; including King Charles, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer and Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey. He added: “It’s at a time such as this that words do matter and to all our friends from whom so far we haven’t heard a single word, your silence is deafening. Words do matter.”
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Jonny Reynolds said: “Let us stand united against terror, let us stand united against division and let us say, ‘bring them home’”.
Also speaking at the rally organised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council and UJIA, were Chief Executive Officer of Liberal Judaism Rabbi Charley Baginsky and Jewish Leadership Council Chair Keith Black.
After the event – the largest gathering of UK Jews in recent years – Jewish Leadership Council Chief Executive Claudia Mendoza said: “It is important for people to be able to come together, community members, allies and Israelis, to be able to stand with one clear, united message: that our hearts are with all the hostages and they must be brought home without delay.”
The names of all those known to be missing were read out from the stage followed by an emotional rendition of Hatikvah.
Photo credit above to Gary Perlmutter
You can watch the livestreamed video of the rally on our YouTube channel:
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