WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — 229 people were taken hostage during Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
On Friday, hundreds of people rallied in D.C. calling for the release of those hostages.
Family of those presumed to be kidnapped by Hamas spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial just before Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.
An empty Shabbat table symbolized all those currently missing or confirmed to be kidnapped by Hamas.
There was a lot of emotion in the air as the Jewish community stood together.
“Bring them home now,” the crowd said in unison; a call to action from the local D.C. community 20 days after Hamas opened fire on Israel.
“It’s a terrible situation. Nobody imagined that even a few weeks ago,” said Boaz Atzili.
Atzili lives in Rockville, but most of his family lives near the Gaza Strip. His cousin Aviv Atzili is now missing.
“We assume that he’s in Gaza. His phone is in Gaza and his wife as well, Liat, she’s missing as well. She’s a U.S. citizen,” Atzili said.
“It’s not just the Israel. It’s not just the United States. 32 different nations. And yes, some of them are American-Israeli or Israeli Americans, however you want to call it,” said Avi Galanti.
Galanti helped organize the event. He’s a volunteer from Bethesda with the Hostages and Missing Families Forum based in Israel.
“229 innocent people are held hostage in Gaza. This beautiful Shabbat dinner represents only half of the number of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas,” Galanti said.
Atzili wants peace, but he said that starts with releasing his family and others.
“My message is it needs to stop the fire from all sides to give to get the kidnapped people back and then to start to think about how you actually solve this conflict,” Atzili said.
Galanti said he and families of hostages spent Thursday on Capitol Hill.
“We had meetings with senators. Chuck Schumer hosted us in his office with a number of other senators. We had meetings with Congress members as well,” Galanti said. “They got a chance to hear the stories directly from the families to learn about their missed loved ones. Of course, we called for them to assist in any way, any capacity that they can to make sure that the hostages come home now.”
As those gathered at the Lincoln Memorial talked about the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust, they also noted that Friday marked five years since the deadliest attack on Jews on U.S. soil. In 2018, 11 people were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa.