Despite the first day of sub-zero wind chills in the Twin Cities this winter, a crowd of more than 30 people stood outside at Beth El Synagogue to mark the 100 days and raise continued awareness of the more than 130 Israeli and international hostages held by Hamas in Gaza in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack.
After short speeches by Rabbi Alexander Davis of Beth El and Shai Avny, an Israeli and the chief operating officer of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, the assembled group went onto the “Peace Bridge” – the pedestrian bridge over Highway 100, which runs next to Beth El to a Thai Temple.
“While it is cold here this morning here in Minnesota, listen, we’re Minnesotans,” Davis said. “For us, it’s a little bit cold. But that’s nothing compared to being stuck in hell in a tunnel under Gaza for the last 98 – almost 100 – days.”
January 14 is the 100-day mark, but Davis hoped that doing the gathering on a weekday would bring the benefit of rush-hour traffic; dozens of horns honked acknowledging the group as they drove by. The group on the bridge held Israeli flags and signs with the pictures and names of hostages printed on them.
“We pray for peace and we know that peace cannot happen until the hostages are released,” Davis said. “And you know the fastest way for peace to arrive, the fastest way that will save the most number of lives – Gazans and Israelis – is simply this: for Hamas to put down their weapons for, for Hamas to stop holding Israelis and Israel and Palestinians and Gaza hostage to their brutal and their corrupt ways.”
Sharon Rosenblum, an Israeli ex-pat living in Minnesota, was impressed by the turnout despite the weather.
“Given that it is 6 degrees out, I think it is wonderful,” she said. “I can’t believe we’re two days shy from 100 days. We have civilian hostages kept in Gaza. It’s really hard to imagine or understand, and I still think I’m going to wake up and it’s going to be October 8.”
Rosenblum said it’s really hard to be away from Israel, despite what the country has been going through the last 98 days.
“I wish I could be there and be part of the Israeli camaraderie, how people help each other,” she said. “There are over 200,000 displaced Israelis, [and] Israelis helped them find a new home, find what they need. We tried to do a little bit from here…but it’s hard to be away.”
Avny, also an Israeli ex-pat, said that there is continued hope that the hostages – including many who are children – will be back home.
“We have hope because we see the Jewish community around the world being with us, with Israel, and understanding that Hamas started this war and they need to release their hostages now,” he said.
Said Davis: “We’ve been praying and pleading, fighting and negotiating for their release. And while we’re glad that some have been set free, we will not rest until all of them are set free.”