On Sunday, dozens of people gathered at North Carolina’s State Capitol building in downtown Raleigh as part of a worldwide protest organized by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, to call for the release of Israeli hostages. The group coordinated similar rallies in cities all over the world. 

Protesters gathered in front of the capital building and marched over to the North Carolina General Assembly, up the stairs of the back legislative building, and convened on the grassy lawn at Halifax Mall between the two legislative buildings. 

“The two priorities that we have are for Hamas to be eliminated and for the hostages to come home,” Marsha Glickman told the Carolina Journal. “At this point, the hostages need to come home and they come home now… we don’t even know how many are still alive.” 

As the march from the capitol building began, Palestinian counter-protesters made their way to the capitol building to counteract the rally in support of the hostages. 

Palestinian counter-protestors at rally organized by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.

Naama Shaked, the North Carolina representative for the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, opened the rally by telling the crowd that Sunday represented the 240th day of captivity for 126 hostages still held.

“Among them are babies, seniors, young women enduring unspeakable sexual violence, and young men facing relentless torture,” said Shaked. “These hostages come from many nations, including US citizens. Two of these hostages have roots right here in the Triangle – Keith Siegel and Tal Shoham – whose family in North Carolina are fighting for their return.”

Michael Feigin (L) and Alex Vitshetyn (R).

Israeli protesters Michael Feigin and Alex Vitshetyn told the Carolina Journal that all Jewish people, regardless of whether or not one has resided in Israel, have familial connections in Israel. Additionally, even if one is not personally connected to a hostage, they know someone who knows a hostage or someone who was raped or murdered.

“Today, we march in North Carolina and in cities all over the world with the hostages in our hearts,” said Shaked. “We send them our positive energy. We support the families of the hostages bearing this unbearable burden. To all family members, we say: ‘YOUR struggle is OUR struggle. Your cry is our cry. Your worry is our worry.’ We call on our government representatives here in the US and North Carolina to apply any means of pressure to push all parties involved to secure the release of the hostages NOW, and bring an end to this war.”

 Lorraine Meehan held hostage Gadi Moses’ poster during the rally.

“I don’t know Gadi but I don’t need to,” Meehan told the Carolina Journal. “The world does not speak up about the hostages. As a Jew, it’s important that I speak up.”

Meehan said that she urges the North Carolina Senate to pass The Shalom Act.

“Stop supporting rapists and murderers, realize they’ve started a war and that wars have consequences,” Andrew Gluck told the Carolina Journal. 

Andrew Gluck (L) and Lorraine Meehan (R).

“It takes guts to be outspoken, and you will find supporters of Israel will generally agree to give their names,” said Meehan. “However, if you ask the same of demonstrators at pro-Hamas demonstrations, many of them hide behind masks, or refuse to give their names, will not even talk to you or turn away, or they will admit that they are paid protesters. They cannot give a reason why they are protesting because they don’t know what river or what sea.” 

The rally included a prayer for the hostages as recordings and translations of messages from hostages.

Last week, footage was released of seven female hostages captured by Hamas; of the seven, five remain in captivity. One was rescued by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) during a special operation, and one was killed in Gaza, the other five remain in captivity. The rally included a message from the mothers of these five women who remain in captivity to their daughters. These seven women were all IDF personnel.

Marion Robboy, a resident from the RTP area, also read a letter from her relative Shoshan Haran, a former hostage.

Brad Young, who is not officially affiliated with the Hostages and Missing Families Forum but helped to arrange this and past rallies, called out the name of each hostage still in captivity as protestors responded “Now” to each name. 

“There are over 100 innocent people being killed, raped, tortured, and kept hostage by Hamas terrorists,” Guy Wachsmann, told the Carolina Journal. “I don’t think there’s any more noble thing than trying to release them. One of them is one year old, some are six, and some of them are 85. We want to bring them home. It’s a very simple message, it’s not rocket science.”

Guy Wachsmann (L) and Matti Shalev (R).

One protester talked about his personal connection to Itai Svirsky, age 35. 

“I visited the house of his parents in Israel, back in January. So, he is a good friend of mine. My niece lives in a kibbutz next door. Both of them went to school together, so she told me about him right from the beginning,” Matti Shalev told the Carolina Journal. 

“Let’s now join together in one collective action, as one people: to form one giant ribbon of freedom, the yellow ribbon calling to bring them home.” said Shaked. 

Protestors holding up giant yellow ribbon on the grassy lawn between NCGA buildings at Halifax Mall.

The rally ended with the singing of Hatikva, Israel’s national anthem, as protesters held up the giant yellow ribbon.