Last Saturday, around 300 community members rallied in front of Palo Alto City Hall calling for all hostages taken by Hamas to be returned home safely in the ongoing Israel-Hamas War.
The rally lasted roughly one hour and was hosted by UnXeptable, a pro-Israeli grassroots movement started in San Francisco. The group was founded in 2020 in response to the Israeli government’s tolerance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s continued leadership despite being indicted for bribery and fraud.
The event, titled “Bring Them Home Now!” brought people from around the Bay Area together to advocate for the safe return of the 241 hostages Hamas took when they invaded Israel on Oct. 7. Co-Founder Offir Gutelzon felt the need to host a local rally to give support and prayers to those affected.
“I felt like it was my duty to find a way to serve Israel,” Gutelzon said. “Even though it is not popular to protest from the U.S., it is very necessary to do right now.”
The rally featured several guest speakers, including Gunn High School junior Ronnie Horowitz, who performed a song in Hebrew about a town in Israel that longed for peace amid constant warfare. Horowitz appreciated the song selection given Israel’s current political state and was glad to see the local Jewish and Israeli community coming together.
“[The war] allowed me to see our Jewish community come together and fight for what we believe is right,” Horowitz said. “It allowed us to unite all together in our grief to support each other.”
Families of kidnapped individuals also shared testimonies during the event. Palo Alto Mayor Lydia Kou also gave a speech in support of local Israelis and Jews and called for all hostages to be returned home safely.
Rally participants and speakers alike felt the rally was necessary to raise local awareness about the hostage situation and condemn Hamas’ actions towards Israel and Jewish communities.
“There is no excuse for sexual assault,” high school student Rowan Hepler said. “There is no excuse for kidnapping. There is no excuse for the murder of civilians. There is no context in which what [Hamas] did was okay.”
According to Israeli immigrant Adi Diner, Hamas is also hurting Palestinians in the process of attacking Israel.
“Hamas is not only making Israelis suffer, they are making Palestinians suffer because they are not democratic towards their own people,” Diner said.
Rally participant Olga Shoikhet emphasized that local involvement is needed to push for global peace.
“I hope more people will get more familiar with the subject, learn the facts, and participate,” Shoikhet said. “Without people being involved and interested in solving [the war], nothing will change.”