Sam Rigante

On Thursday, Jan. 18, gatherers at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, held hundreds of orange balloons to commemorate the first birthday of the youngest hostage still being held in Gaza, Kfir Bibas, who has now spent most of his life in captivity. The image of baby Kfir, a redhead smiling into the camera, has become merely one of the faces of the hostages that still remain in terror and captivity in Gaza. Posters of his face, along with the other hostages, have been plastered onto kidnapped posters calling for their return since Oct. 7, 2023, and, yet, more than 100 Israelis and some Americans are still in Gaza after more than 100 days.

Kfir Bibas’s brother, Ariel, Omer Neutra, Edan Alexander, Noa Argamani — these are the names of the other hostages also in captivity in Gaza. While late November brought some relief, as a few hostages were released, the large majority remain there and as tensions surrounding the war in Gaza continue to remain incredibly high, it feels as though one of the most important aspects of this conflict — the lives of the hostages — may have been forgotten. It is vital that, one day, peace will be restored to the area and both innocent Palestinians and Israelis will be able to return to their homes, but that will not be the case until the hostages are returned.

At the outset of this war, calls to release hostages were everywhere, but, recently, the larger focus of bringing them home has been overshadowed by several other political developments in the Middle East — most seriously, Yemen’s Houthi attacking American tankers in the Red Sea and the United States’ response of airstrikes. Demonstrations and protests in the United States largely focused on calling for a permanent ceasefire have also eclipsed calls to free the hostages, and, while some believe these serve an important purpose because a permanent ceasefire is the way to ensure peace, they have overshadowed many calls to free the hostages in Gaza and have blurred out the hostages from the focus of the media.

In addition, Hamas continues to use tactics of psychological torture to make the families of hostages believe that their loved ones may no longer be alive. On Jan. 15, Hamas released a video of two bodies, claiming them to be of hostages Yossi Sharabi and Itai Svirsky. The video was narrated by a third hostage, Noa Argamani, and urged Benjamin Netanyahu to halt the war at risk of being struck by Israeli fire. In the video, while the dead bodies of the hostages appear to be shown, it ends with a caption claiming “Tomorrow, we will inform you of their fate.” The confirmed death of these hostages remains inconclusive.

Amid all this, calls to bring the hostages home have not grown louder, but calls to “globalize the intifada” and pro-Hamas protesters outside of children’s cancer centers explicitly saying to ensure the children hear the demonstrators have. Since the Houthis began attacking United States tankers in the Red Sea and claimed to send missiles to Israel as a protest against the humanitarian crisis, these same pro-Hamas protesters in the United States have begun to share their support for the rebel group whose slogan contains the phrases “Death to America, Death to Israel” and “Curse the Jews.” And, yet, there remains silence about freeing the hostages.

Speaking at Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Jon Polin, father of 23-year-old hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin said, “For 103 days, my wife Rachel and I have received minimal information on Hersh. We don’t even know if he’s alive. 103 days is 103 days too many, and we are running out of time. The hostages are running out of time.”

To subject anyone to such torture, including a child as young as 1 years old and descendants of Holocaust survivors, is unimaginable and simply inhumane. And it is not only the lives of the hostages, but all the family members of the hostages who are severely affected by this. Families have been praying for their mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, rallying for a deal that releases the hostages, but it feels as though the call is no longer being heard.

A deal that secures the release of all remaining hostages is imperative and should be implemented as soon as possible. Reuniting the hostages with their families and returning the focus to freeing them is important. It is time that we finally bring them all home, now.

Sam Rigante is a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law.