After coming back to Tel Aviv, we had our last day of the trip—day 4 of what already felt like a 4 week trip.  No visit to Tel Aviv is complete today without a stop to the courtyard of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, now known as Hostages Square.  We visited the art installations and met with a cousin of one of the hostages from the Nova Festival still in Gaza.  The part that really stuck with me was how “lucky” his family was since they received video of his cousin’s video very early in the crisis and did not need to scroll through hours of Hamas videos to find him.  Students had additional reflections…

Adela Cojab starts us off:

The last stop of the trip before returning to the hotel for our final lecture was Hostages Square, the courtyard of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art which, following October 7th, has become a place for visual art installations for the hostages, calling for their release and memorializing those who have passed.

 I had visited Hostages Square before, on November 5th, 2023, less than thirty days after October 7th. What greeted me then, and what now stood before me, were stark reminders of the inexorable passage of time. The long Shabbat table that symbolized the hostages in Gaza, the first installation in the square, was now divided — about two-thirds of the seats were set at a beautiful table, with a sign on each plate reading “Welcome Home,” while the remaining seats, including two high chairs for infants, were rugged, a desolate scene strewn with detritus and deprivation, with dirt and contaminated water bottles, symbolizing the hostages that remain in Gaza spending yet another week away from their homes and loved ones. 

 It is at this square that echoes of sorrow mingle with the whispered solace shared amongst those who bear the heaviest burden. We had the honor to hear from Merat, whose cousin Evyatar David was taken hostage at the Nova Festival. Merat told us about Evyatar’s love for music and bringing his friends together, and how leading up to the festival he’d play sets from the festival’s featured artists to convince his four best friends to go with him. Of the group of five, two were killed, two were taken, and only one friend returned home.  

Again, it is one thing to think of the war and the conflict mechanically in terms of politics or law, but the landscape shifts when you hear from the people who are hurting most, and geopolitics yields to raw, unvarnished humanity. It served as a reminder that behind the veneer of diplomacy, each hostage has a family back home, counting the days until their return, angry, mourning, and fearing the worst.

Student Jacob Segal eloquently added:

Day Four of our trip to Israel. Our first real day in Tel Aviv, a day that put faces to names, and helped to contextualize the situation occurring in Israel today. The hostages. The innocent civilians were snatched from their homes. Day Four introduced four key words: Bring Them Home Now.

 When approaching the square, the defining installation is the long Shabbat table in the middle of the plaza. It is set up in two halves: one for all the released hostages and one the hostages still held captive. It serves as a reminder as to why we are here, and the commitment Israel has to their people.

 We then had the unique opportunity to speak to Merat, a cousin of hostage Evyatar David, and strong advocate for his immediate release. He started off by telling us about his cousin, how they grew up, his personality, his overall positive outlook on life, and then about the events that took place on and after October 7 th . Merat’s story was impactful. It put into the context the type of people that were taken hostage – peace-loving, fun seeking individuals, just trying to live their normal life. It left a clear image in our minds: Bring Him Home Now.

 After speaking to Merat, we walked around the rest of the square. There were other various installations – ranging artistic expressions and posters of the people kidnapped. Most notably, there is an installation replicating the tunnels in Gaza, representing and simulating some of the conditions that the hostages may be in. Walking through it, you are met with darkness, tightness, and the sound of bombs dropping above you. A chilling reality for those who are kidnapped. Bring Them Home Now.