Roughly 200 people attended a gathering on Jan. 24 organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington outside the Qatari embassy in Washington, D.C.
The peaceful gathering marked 110 days since the Oct. 7 attack – 110 days of captivity for the more than 130 hostages still being held in Gaza. The gathering’s purpose was to urge the Qatari government to use its unique position and influence to facilitate the release of the remaining hostages.
Most of the embassy’s blinds remained drawn throughout the gathering but for a few windows on the top floor where two people could be seen watching from above. Attendees held the now-familiar red and white hostage posters, Israeli and U.S. flags and homemade signs.
“Qatar has helped secure the release of more than 100 hostages to date. We thank them sincerely for these efforts,” Ron Halber, JCRC’s executive director, said. “But it has been months since any hostages were released and time is growing increasingly short for those still held in captivity.”
Other speakers included U.S. Reps Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Glenn Ivey (D-MD), congressional candidate and former Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn, former Cuba hostage Alan Gross, the cousin of one of the hostages, and other local faith leaders.
“With all due respect, Your Excellency, I implore you to convince your government to do everything within its power to bring about the release of all of these hostages living and deceased on a humanitarian basis as soon as humanly possible and as soon as humanely possible,” Gross said, just a feet away from the embassy’s gate.
Raskin, who represents Maryland’s 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, also addressed Qatar directly.
“We call on Qatar, which is politically and financially in a position to make things happen, to put this at the very top of the priority list – the hostages must be released and must be returned to their families and their communities now,” Raskin said. “On behalf of the American people, we demand that the hostages be brought home.”
Ahead of the gathering, Halber explained the urgency of their plea, saying that the hostages need to be home with their families today and that he doesn’t know if many of them can survive another 100 days of captivity.
One sign at the gathering echoed this sentiment, saying “Get Them Released BEFORE They’re Deceased!” in printed writing.
“As far as we know, there’s only really two countries that have the influence over Hamas in this situation – one is Iran, and they’re not going to help us, and two is Qatar,” Halber said. “Qatar has very strong financial and political leverage over Hamas and we want them to use it crushingly to get them to release the hostages.”
When asked if this gathering was to be part of a larger campaign to free the hostages, Halber said that was yet to be determined, but that they are prepared to advocate on the hostages’ behalf wherever, whenever and however they need to in order to get them home.
“100 days. It’s just unacceptable, unfathomable, and they need to come home right now,” Halber said.
After the gathering ended, a number of attendees lingered and shared their stories with news crews and one another. One attendee, Phyllis Levinson, shared her reason for being there.
“I’m here to support Israel. The first thing is the hostages – the hostages include a baby who just had their first birthday in Gaza,” Levinson said. “How does a civilized person take a baby as a hostage?” Levinson said.
The baby, Kfir Bibas, who was kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7, turned one year old on Jan. 18.