Thousands rally in Times Square to demand release of Hamas hostages


(New York Jewish Week) — Ronen and Orna Neutra told a large crowd in Times Square that their son, Omer, had captained his soccer team at his Long Island high school and loved the NBA. They last spoke to Omer on Oct. 6 while he was stationed with his tank unit on the Gaza border, when he said he looked forward to a restful Shabbat.

“Omer is now considered to be held by Hamas,” his father said. “Omer, we know that you’re alive and you’re strong.”

He added, “We pray for your swift return.”

The parents delivered the speech as part of a massive “Bring Them Home” rally Thursday evening on behalf of the captives held by Hamas. The rally was organized by the Israeli American Council and backed by a range of Jewish groups. Thousands of people packed Times Square for the event, bearing Israeli and American flags and photos of the 200 hostages held by the terror group, which took the captives when it invaded Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, killing 1,400 and wounding thousands.

Hostages’ photos were displayed on Times Square billboards at the “Bring Them Home” rally in New York on Oct. 19, 2023. (Luke Tress)

Photos of the hostages were displayed on the iconic LED screens towering over Times Square, as well as on the LED billboards along Broadway and Seventh Avenue.

Community leaders and politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, addressed the crowd, vowing to bring back the hostages and defeat Hamas, and leading chants of “Bring them home.” Israeli singer Shiri Maimon sang Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah.”

“To free the hostages we will persist and persist and persist,” said Schumer, who had recently returned from a trip to Israel.“In every generation they have risen to afflict us,” he said, quoting the Passover Haggadah. “But we know in every generation we fight back until we win.”