“Today we pray with our feet,” Lior Sinai of the American Zionist Movement, told hundreds of Jewish students rallying on Tuesday in front of the United Nations for the release of Israel’s kidnapped soldiers.
The protest was one of about 50 planned by the Jewish Agency for Israel and other groups for the same day in communities and college campuses in the U.S. and another 30 in countries around the world, from Australia to Ukraine. It was billed as a “world solidarity day” for the prisoners.
The great majority of those gathered at the UN were yeshiva high school students who chanted “Bring Them Home” and “Let Them Go,” and were addressed by a number of student leaders as well as community and political officials, the new Israeli Consul General, and the mother of one of the kidnapped soldiers.
“Help free our son, your brother,” urged Miki Goldwasser by phone from Jerusalem. Her son, Ehud, now 32, was abducted by Hezbollah in the north in July 206, along with Eldad Regev. Gilad Shalit was taken by Hamas several weeks earlier.
“This may happen in your backyard” someday,” she warned.
Despite the painful circumstances, the air was festive at the UN event, co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council and AZM, and many of the youngsters socialized during the steady string of brief speeches. “It’s camp reunion central,” observed Cynthia Dweck, a senior at the Magen David Yeshiva High School in Brooklyn. She and schoolmate Leona Ashkenazi, a ninth grader, urged bystanders to sign a petition on behalf of the three Israeli soldiers missing for almost a year and a half, and handed out flyers asking people to call the Red Cross and urge the organization to visit the prisoners, which has not happened.
Rachel Klapper, a Baruch College student who organized a campaign to collect signatures on behalf of the missing soldiers, told the crowd how she delivered 3,000 letters “from you” to the families in Israel this summer. “Always use your own power to make a difference,” she said, “and understand the power of your activism.”