Just over a year ago, Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit was kidnapped from within the borders of Israel. Hamas were responsible for the kidnapping of Schalit by digging a tunnel under the border between Gaza and Israel and encroaching Israel's sovereign territory in an unprovoked attack.
Not long after, and in similar circumstances, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were kidnapped by Hizballah inside Israel's internationally recognised borders near Lebanon.
Israel did what it could to rescue these young men, which escalated to the point of going to war with Hamas in Gaza and Hizballah in Lebanon
Nothing has been heard from them for over a year. The Red Cross has not been given access to them. No word for their family and friends to provide any comfort. Let alone the fact that kidnapping soldiers from sovereign terrority in an unprovoked attack contravenes the laws of war.
This blog has mentioned the three kidnapped soldiers a number of times, including here, here and here.
This morning, in central Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, a rally was held by the Sydney Jewish Community to remember these three young men, and to demand their release.
People initially gathered in Martin Place.
A poster for each kidnapped soldier: Udi (Goldwasser) and Eldad (Regev).
One for Gilad (Schalit).
And also remembering the many other kidnapped Israelis over the last twenty-five years.
Soon after, the rally group - probably around one thousand in number - made their way down Macquarie Street towards Hyde Park.
Plenty of signs all with a common message. The soldiers should be set free.
Not sure about this one.
Peace as an end, yes. As a means, not until it is offered and committed to first by Israel's neighbours.
Am Yisrael Chai!
Images evoke thoughts of the crossing of the Red Sea.
The police kindly parted the sea of cars and traffic, since Moses wasn't available.
Video of the rally attendees entering Hyde Park.
Assembling in Hyde Park.
In front of the podium, adorned with the signs carried from Martin Place.
Yet more signs. This one making it real just how long these men have been held hostage simply because of someone else's hatred.
Plenty of the lay leaders of the community were there. Jeremy Jones, former president of ECAJ.
Ron Wiseman (Vice President of the State Zionist Council of NSW) opened the proceedings.
The Australian flag always stands proudly and prominently at such rallies.
And so does the Israeli flag.
Religious leaders were also there, including Rabbi Benzion Milecki.
Recognition was given to religious leaders of other non-Jewish communities later in the rally, to the sound of a very appreciative audience.
A Zionist Youth Council representative spoke in more depth about Gilad Schalit, a shy yet determined man who didn't have to join a combat unit due to a low health profile but wanted to do his part in defending the country.
She is probably around the same age as Gilad.
The Australian Union of Jewish Students representative told the crowd more about Ehud Goldwasser, and his family and friends who impatiently wait for his return. And his love of pets, including two cats and a stray dog.
A representative from one of the Jewish day schools spoke about Eldad Regev. A confident young man who is accomplished in more than one sport.
These short speeches probably personalised the kidnapped men more than any of the mainstream media have done collectively in the previous twelve months.
The crowds' thoughts were on the three young men.
And their prayers.
Waverley Mayor George Newhouse gave an excellent, thought-provoking speech.
Here's a video excerpt from this speech:
George went on to contrast the efforts of the Western world to obtain the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston with the silence about these three men.
Next was Anthony Roberts, MP for Lane Cove and Parliamentary Secretary to the NSW Opposition Leader.
A video excerpt from this speech.
He gave a strong speech, re-affirming the bipartisan support to the State of Israel, and the demands by all Australians for the men to be returned.
The crowd sang O'se Shalom Bim'romav.
Sung in solidarity and comfort with others.
A moving speech from former soldier and Hineni Shaliach, Chagay Meyer.
Chagay served in the same location alongside the unit that lost Gilad. He saw Gilad's kitbag on the bunk bed and wondered how the unit and all soldiers could go on. The answer came from an officer: because of what all my fellow soldiers and Israelis would do if I was in the same situation as Gilad.
Former Zionist Federation of Australia president Ron Weiser, now on the board of governors for the Jewish Agency, spoke next.
Ron made a powerful case for the outrage Israelis and Jews around the world should feel about the kidnappings, and our determination to demand their release, and the defense of the State of Israel.
The rally closed with a prayer in Hebrew and English given by the Habonim Shaliach and Vice President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies respectively.
And the two national anthems, sung by a young Australian Jew.
Here's an excerpt of the Australian national anthem being sung by the crowd.
And the Israeli national anthem.
May these three men - along with the other missing Israelis - be returned to their families soon.