A rabbi and educator, Avidan Freedman, has gone on hunger strike in an effort to get the International Red Cross to visit the kidnapped hostages being held in Gaza by Hamas.
Speaking to Jewish News on the fifth day of his strike, the Canadian-born Freedman, 43, said “there is a non-stop stream of people from all over Israel visiting this initiative”.
He made aliya 13 years ago and set up home in Efrat, on the West Bank. He became involved in an organisation called Yanshoof, an Israeli endeavour which works to stop Israeli arms sales to countries whose regimes violate human rights.
“I have no direct connection with any of the families”, Freedman said, “but I feel that the people of Israel are one big family and that the hostages are my children, my brothers and sisters, my grandmothers and grandfathers. Sitting here for the last five days, I can really attest that that is how most of Israel is feeling”.
Freedman is carrying out his hunger strike in an area in front of the Tel Aviv Museum which has become known as Hostages Square, a place of impromptu tents and installations. The city’s famous Dizengoff fountain has become a place for mini-shrines commemorating those killed in the October 7 attacks.
To accompany his fast, he has drawn a circle around himself from which he has not moved since his hunger strike began. “The statement is that I won’t move until there is a Red Cross visit, and that Israel should stop humanitarian aid into Gaza until there is a Red Cross visit.”
He hopes that others will take up the challenge, and says there is a plan for other hunger strikers to draw circles around themselves, one for each hostage, and operate in other parts of the country.
Freedman says a number of relatives of the kidnapped have come to see him while he has been on strike. “They told me they have drawn great strength to see someone who is not related to the hostages take such an extreme step.”
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