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Hostage march was ‘full of love, support and solidarity’

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith on hostages march

By Rabbi Mark Goldsmith

On Sunday 2 June, an estimated 40,000 people marched from Lincoln’s Inn Fields to the open space opposite Downing Street to support the families whose loved ones have been held captive by Hamas in Gaza for 240 days, since the Hamas attacks on Israel on 7 October.

Progressive synagogues throughout the UK have been joining communities of all denominations in treasuring the life of one or more particular hostages, keeping their pictures in their sanctuaries, making them virtually part of their communities.

Hostage marchSo it was natural that very many Progressive Jews were part of the march, holding the pictures of those they have got to know on a banner with the words ‘Bring them Home’ on the back.

The atmosphere of the march was full of love, support and solidarity. There were no chants of hate, and no counter-protests encountered. Rather as we passed busses and cars we often heard and saw gestures of support and understanding.

As Jews we felt safe in central London, with Police and hundreds of volunteers from the Community Security Trust helping to re-assure us. We were joined by many non-Jewish supporters, allies from churches especially, who understand that the holding of hostages is not acceptable under any circumstances.

As we reached the end of the march, in the blazing sunshine, we stood to hear families of some of the hostages speaking about their loved ones, still in captivity or whose bodies have been discovered after their murder by Hamas. Standing among the speakers of the day I could see how moved the families were by the warm support they could feel from all present. Among the tears were smiles of acknowledging friendship.

The Orthodox Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis recited Psalm 121 (I lift my eyes to the hills – Essa Enai) as an opening prayer and I was asked to recite a closing prayer.

I lifted up the picture of Keith Siegel, held captive still, whilst his wife Aviva was released in November. His life is treasured by my own Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue. Keith’s brother Lee is a prominent member of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, whom I met in Birkat Shalom Synagogue with a group of Reform and Liberal Rabbis in February.

Hostage march 2
Hostage march 2

I recited the prayer for the release of hostages which is in the Reform Siddur, Seder HaTefillot, remarking that when this Siddur was compiled in 2008 we had never expected to need to use this prayer. Hundreds of photos of the hostages were raised high by people on the march – though only 120 hostages, sadly maybe less, are thought to remain alive in Gaza.

After we said the blessing for the redemption of hostages, all sang Hatikvah and God Save the King.

The march was a comfort to the families. Lee Siegel to whom I had sent photos of the march sent an e-mail straight back to say to all in London, “we appreciate your support”.

It was a way of the UK Jewish community, and those who are moved to join us, to say that it is completely unacceptable for there to still be hostages held by Hamas. It was a statement to the government of the UK, Israel and governments worldwide that ending this conflict must include the return of all of the hostages to their homes and families.

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