Hundreds marched on Oct. 22, calling for the release of the more than 200 Israeli hostages being held by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza. (photo by Pat Johnson)
Erez, aged 12, and his sister Sahar, 16, had spent the night at their father’s house in Kibbutz Nir Oz when Hamas terrorists stormed the home. The kids jumped out the window and hid in the bushes while gunmen rampaged their community, shooting entire families in their beds and safe rooms. “Mom, be quiet, don’t move,” he texted his mom, Hadas. She texted back: “I love you forever. I hope you survive.”
Erez did not reply. For hours, Hadas called Erez’s cellphone repeatedly, even as she fought for her life, physically blocking terrorists from breaking down her safe room door. Then Erez’s older sister found an 18-second video circulating on social media. It showed Erez in a black T-shirt, being gripped by both arms and led into captivity.
In all, five members of the Kalderon family were taken: Erez, Sahar, their 50-year-old father, Ofer, their 80-year-old grandmother, Carmela, and 12-year-old cousin, Noya, were grabbed from another house in the community.
This was one of many individual stories shared at a vigil and march in Vancouver Sunday, Oct. 22, where hundreds of Vancouverites chanted “Bring them home!” and “Let our people go!” as they marched from the Vancouver Art Gallery, protected by a large police presence, along Georgia Street, over to Robson and back to the original site. The steps of the art gallery’s north side were packed with people holding posters of the hostages – and these posters represented only half of the total number of Israeli hostages held by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.
The faces are also seen on thousands of posters around Metro Vancouver and elsewhere. Activists in communities worldwide have downloaded and printed the sheets, plastering them around city streets. The Vancouver efforts – which have seen probably 20,000 posters distributed so far – are led by Daphna Kedem, who also initiated the Sunday afternoon event and an earlier vigil two days after the Oct. 7 terror attacks.
Kedem is also a lead organizer of the local branch of UnXeptable, which, until the current crisis, was agitating against proposed Israeli government efforts to undermine responsible government there. Her current activism, she stressed, is done in her capacity as an individual, but she expressed gratitude to Rabbi Dan Moscovitz of Temple Sholom for helping organize, and to other synagogues, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and others for unhesitatingly jumping in to help.
Putting a human face to the hostages is the right thing to do, Kedem said.
“We have to bring it out to the public because it’s a humanitarian crisis,” she told the Independent. “Once you personalize it and you see that it’s an innocent baby or a child, you care more.”
Kedem said the cost of printing the thousands of posters was covered by two anonymous non-Jewish donors and, at the rally this past Sunday, Christian clergy spoke, including a Catholic representative and two evangelical ministers.
Nevertheless, frustration over the silence of so many others was evident in the words of Moskovitz to the rally.
“Once again, Jews are being slaughtered and violently attacked and the world is silent,” he told hundreds of attendees, many carrying Israeli or Canadian flags. “Or they say, ‘Yes, but.’ There is no ‘but’ to murder. There can be no ‘but’ to hate. There can be no ‘but’ to the kidnapping of civilians, of children, of grandparents, of pregnant mothers, of disabled people. There can be no ‘but’ to that. There can be no justification for that. This is 2023, not 1943. And yet ‘Never again’ is happening again right now. The Jewish people will not be silent. You must not be silent.”
Moskovitz slammed the moral equivocation heard in commentary and seen in street rallies worldwide.
“This was not an act of resistance,” he said. “This was not a military campaign. This was not a popular uprising. This was cold, calculated and barbaric murder and rape and kidnapping of innocent civilians, the vast majority of them Jews.”
Motioning to the posters of the hostages, he added: “We call on those in our own city who cheer and celebrate what Hamas has done to these people and thousands of others on that horrible day to stop. Stop cheering the terrorists. Stop denying our grief, our human value. Stop your whataboutism. Stop tearing down pictures of children who have been kidnapped. Stop helping the terrorists. Stop justifying their brutality. Simply, stop.… Find your moral compass. Find the compassion you have for everyone and everything except Jews. Join us in this most basic of human cries: return our children to their parents, return our families to their homes.”
A WhatsApp group, “BTH – Vancouver,” is coordinating the postering activities: to join, visit bit.ly/BTH-Vancouver. Posters are downloadable by anyone at kidnappedfromisrael.com.