Sydney Jewish community calls for hostage release ahead of pro-Palestinian rally

Thousands of people from Sydney’s Jewish community gathered in central Sydney to call for the release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas.

The rally, with a similar gathering of pro-Palestinian protesters and supporters scheduled for this afternoon, has become a weekly tradition since conflict erupted in the Middle East early last month.

As part of the temporary ceasefire, the first hostages and prisoners on both sides were released on Friday, and after delays, a second group was released today.

Jewish leaders said while they were relieved that some hostages had been freed, they called for the immediate and unconditional release of all remaining hostages.

“We are relieved and grateful that some of the most vulnerable hostages, including infants and the elderly, have been freed from Hamas’ hellish captivity,” Australian Jewish Executive Council co-chief executive Alex Rivchin said in a statement. I’m hugging you,” he said in a statement.

Members of the Jewish community gathered in Sydney on Saturday to demand the release of hostages held by Hamas.(
ABC News: Kiana Norton

“But it’s hard to feel joy when you know that some of the hostages are orphans or the last surviving members of their families.

“It’s hard to feel joy when you know that so many children were tortured, raped and burned alive on October 7th.”

Israel said its fighters broke through the protective barrier around the Gaza Strip on October 7 and rampaged through Israeli communities around the blockaded enclave, killing 1,200 people, including 33 children, according to the United Nations. , vowed to annihilate Hamas after it took about 240 hostages.

Since then, Israel has rained bombs on Gaza, killing about 14,000 people, about 40% of them children, Palestinian health officials said.

Many participants at today’s rally waved Israeli flags and held placards with the faces of hostages still held by Hamas.

Some non-Jewish friends banded together to participate.

politician speaks at a rally

Federal MP Wentworth Allegra Spender told the rally she was “appalled” by the instances of anti-Semitism she had witnessed in the community.

“No one should feel isolated and targeted. What I know about my country is that you will not be intimidated,” she said.

“It’s not just a matter of [for] Not just the Jewish community, but Australia as a whole.

“We need to confront anti-Semitism and racism, and it is not just the Jewish community that is being targeted.

“I stand against hate speech and anti-Semitism because it is tearing this country apart. We must not stand for it.”

Allegra Spender in coat and brown hair speaks at pro-Israel rally

Councilor Allegra Spender spoke about anti-Semitism and hate speech at a rally in Martin Place.(
ABC News: Kiana Norton

“There was a glimmer of joy in the safe return of some of the hostages,” former New South Wales state treasurer Eric Roosendaal said.

“I hope and pray for the return of all the hostages and for peace,” he told the gathering.

He said instances of anti-Semitism were on the rise and needed to be eradicated.

“These incidents are completely inconsistent with Australian values ​​of tolerance, community harmony and respect for others.”

“What we are experiencing is simply un-Australian.”

Participants held up posters of hostages who have been held since October 7. (
ABC News: Kiana Norton

Additional gatherings are planned.

A pro-Palestinian rally is also being held in Sydney’s Hyde Park today, calling for an end to the bombing and Israeli presence in Gaza.

Palestinian Action Group Sydney also listed demands for full access to supplies in the Gaza Strip and for Australia to sever ties with Israel.

“A mere ‘pause’ of Israel’s genocidal attacks is not what we are calling for,” organizers wrote online ahead of the event.

“We will continue to protest until all Palestinians are liberated.”

Similar rallies are planned for today in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

With report by Gene Kennedy. Sydney Jewish community calls for hostage release ahead of pro-Palestinian rally

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