This week, I tried to establish something resembling a routine. Every morning, I volunteered at a small vegan restaurant in Tel Aviv where I helped scoop portion of vegan food into individual containers. There was a sense of accomplishment as we managed to prepare over 450 portions for soldiers and evacuees during the morning shift. I spent six days there this week, and most of the other volunteers also came to work every day. Unlike me, many of them have regular jobs, but due to the war, everything has come to a standstill, so there is nothing much to do.
In addition to volunteering at the restaurant, I visited Kaplan several times in the afternoon to sit with the families of the hostages, showing support and demanding their immediate return. In Tel Aviv, there are two centers where these support demonstrations take place. The first one is at Kaplan, and the second is in the plaza in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. In the latter, at the center of the plaza, there is a table set for 200 people, symbolizing the hostages. This evening, the families of the hostages will welcome Shabbat in the plaza, next to a long table with 200 empty chairs around it.
Kaplan is most commonly associated with the protest against the judicial overhaul. The protest for the safe return of the hostages appears as a natural extension of the earlier protests, as we demand that the government takes care of its citizens and not relinquish its duties. Some people prefer not to connect the previous protest with the campaign to bring back the hostages, and that’s why they have chosen to sit in the museum plaza.
The tent where the families gather is filled with plenty of food and drinks. People go out of their way to find ways to help. We feel so helpless in this situation, so at least the people who bring food make sure that the families have enough to eat and drink.
As I was leaving the tent, I noticed two poignant posters. One read, “Who will we be if we don’t bring them back?” This question suggests that we compromise our moral standing if we fail the hostages. Another poster read, “Don’t abandon them twice.” In both cases, the message is directed at the government. It failed us once when it didn’t ensure the safety of the citizens, and now we demand that it does not abandon the citizens who were taken hostage and fail us again.