As Israel drops bombs on Gaza and continues to prepare for an all-out ground invasion, both the Atlanta Jewish community and local Israeli ex-pats are focused on keeping attention on Israeli hostages held by terrorist groups in Gaza.
Some 200 hostages were captured by the terrorist group Hamas — which controls Gaza — on Oct. 7 as part of its massacre of 1,400 people who lived in Israel along the Gaza border. Several of the communities were essentially left in ruins after the rampage.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta notified the community that it will hold a solidarity event to bring home the hostages at 7:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 30, at Ahavath Achim Synagogue on Peachtree Battle Avenue. The “entire community” is invited to “pray for the release of the hostages.”
Similarly, the Israeli ex-pat community is aiming its efforts to bring awareness to the plight of the hostages. Within two days after more than 1,000 terrorists from Gaza attacked mostly unprotected civilians enjoying an outdoor music festival or in the more than 20 communities in Israel, a couple of Israelis created a poster with photos of the young to elderly hostages with the caption, “Bring Them Home,” or “Kidnapped.”
An Israeli who happened to be vacationing in the U.S. contacted the poster creators and then got to work, contributing her talents and contacts in the U.S. and abroad to share the message.
An employee of a U.S.-based multinational information technology company, she contacted her company’s operation center in Atlanta as well as customers around the U.S., Europe, and South America to print out thousands of posters on hard stock.
At the same time, Atlanta’s expat Israelis immediately pivoted from their protests against the Israeli government’s moves to weaken the country’s judicial system, to gathering their energies and resources to help bring back home their fellow Israelis in any way they could.
More than 100,000 posters were printed and distributed throughout the U.S., some from Atlanta and some from New Jersey.
In Atlanta, at least 10,000 posters have been printed and are being distributed around the city. In addition to the professionally printed posters, Israelis such as Ronit and Rafi Erlitzki printed their own paper posters at home. According to Ronit Erlitzki, she and her husband placed some of the posters near a Starbucks in the Crabapple and Milton area, and around Avalon in Alpharetta. Until Avalon security officials stopped them, they were attracting a number of people who were interested in getting more information.
It was partly due to legal concerns about posting posters on public property without owners’ authorization that the Israeli ex-pat group, which is active on WhatsApp, decided that on Sunday, Oct. 29, they will dress in black and silently hold up posters of the hostages and let people come to them to ask questions and learn more. The Bring Them Home Now demonstration is scheduled for 10 a.m. in downtown Alpharetta at Main Street and Milton Avenue. The gathering has been approved by the local government and with the support of the Alpharetta Police Department.
“For those who don’t want to show up for protests, they may want to show up for this rally,” said Erlitzki, who moved to Atlanta when her husband’s company was acquired by UPS. “I have a good friend at work whose cousin and uncle were murdered. I’m not sure about the aunt. And I have three members of our family who are soldiers” who are prepared to fight for Israel, Erlitzki said.
She noted how one of the young hostages had his 9th birthday since he’s been in captivity. Among the hostages are babies as young as nine months and elderly Israelis in their 80s.
When the war broke out, Erlitzki was traveling in Europe on business. “I was feeling lonely, and it was the first time in my life that I was scared being an Israeli.” But she also ran into people who expressed sympathy for Israel after the gruesome attack by Hamas.
“Many of us understand that we need to look for a solution for the Palestinians,” she said, pointing out that Israel’s war is against Hamas, not the Palestinian people.
But the ex-pats’ overall feeling right now is that they need to educate people about the plight of the hostages so that they can stay on people’s minds and agendas as the war continues.
“In Israel, too, the psychology is really just about the need to do something, to feel like you’re influencing” the world and the situation, Erlitzki said, whether it’s donating money, sending much-needed supplies for the soldiers, or making and distributing posters.