With a face marked by 47 days of tense anticipation, Hadas Kalderon took a stand on a main street in Tel Aviv near Israel’s military headquarters. Her demand: the approval of a deal to release around 50 hostages held by Hamas, potentially including her children.
Kalderon passionately stated, “Our goal is to bring them all back. I won’t relent until everyone is home.” Her children, 16-year-old Sahar and 12-year-old Erez, along with their father Ofer, were taken captive on Oct. 7 from Kibbutz Nir Oz. They are among the roughly 240 held by Hamas since the attack.
The pending agreement, set for Israel’s government approval, aims to free at least 50 Israeli hostages, including women, children, and the elderly. In return, about 150 Palestinian women and minors imprisoned in Israel for security-related offenses will be released. Additionally, Israel has agreed to a four-day halt in its conflict with Hamas in Gaza.
Kalderon recognized that this deal wouldn’t bring her entire family back immediately but viewed it as a crucial starting point. “My children’s father is there, and I want them to have him back. But we must face reality,” she acknowledged. The proposed deal reportedly excludes men and soldiers initially, focusing on the vulnerable: infants, children, and the elderly, with future considerations for broader releases.
Unlike previous mass protests, only a gathering of about 100 Israelis showed up to support the approval of the hostage deal. Despite causing traffic disruption, there was minimal police intervention, and even affected motorists displayed understanding.
Drivers like one from a stalled bus expressed support, noting the significance of Israeli citizens held in Gaza compared to other issues. However, amidst the potential release, concerns lingered, especially among relatives of those excluded from the deal.
Shir Sella, a cousin of the Kalderon family, voiced worry about the implications and felt let down by the government for not safeguarding them. Anxiety also surfaced regarding the risks during the ceasefire for soldiers in Gaza, including those held captive.
Michal Roth, a worried mother whose son serves in Gaza, described the situation as a heart-wrenching dilemma. Despite her concerns for her own child, her thoughts remained with the captive kids rather than her son.
Opposition to the hostage deal was evident with a small group of counter-protesters, mainly aligned with far-right political parties in Israel’s parliament. Limor Son Har-Melech, a member of Knesset from the right-wing, distanced herself from both protests.