EVANSTON, Ill. — Dozens from the Israeli and Jewish community gathered in Evanston’s Fountain Square to pray for and demand the release of more than 100 hostages abducted by Hamas militants.
Those who gathered on Saturday night urged international leaders to act quickly to get everyone home as they called for the conflict to come to an end.
The group could be heard chanting “Bring them home,” as they looked to put pressure on world leaders to release the estimated 150 hostages taken by Hamas.
The more people hear about it, the more pressure they can put on, you know, our governor, state reps, senators. You know, anybody that can do something,” Oren Orkin, one of the organizers of Saturday’s event said.
On Friday, the Israeli military said its troops conducted temporary raids into Gaza to battle militants and hunt for traces of hostages. On Saturday, the chief of the Israeli National Security Council said that Hamas had not given information on the captives.
Maayan Hilel, a native of southern Israel, said she personally knows three people from Israel who have been taken hostage.
“We don’t know if they’re dead or alive, we don’t know if they need anything, we don’t know where are they. Are they still in Gaza? Have they been taken out of Gaza?” Hilel said.
Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie, who are from Evanston, are among the dozens of people believed to be held hostage by Hamas. 23-year-old Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who community members say is from Chicago but now lives in Israel, is also among those taken hostage.
“His aunt and uncle are members of our synagogue, his grandmother comes to worship at our synagogue. You know, this situation is not something far away. This affects many people in our community very personally,” Rabbi Ari Hart, from Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob, said.
In the midst of the conflict, which has left thousands of Israelis and Palestinians dead and injured, organizers of Saturday’s gathering say they are not numb to the suffering of Palestinians.
“It’s heartbreaking to see those 2.2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. They have nowhere to go they are basically under siege,” Hilel said.
Ultimately, the group says it wants the hostages released, but in the meantime, they say they are also asking for a humanitarian corridor to be opened up so that people can have access to essential resources and medical care.
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