Monday, March 4

Freed Israeli Hostages Give Tel Aviv Protesters Hope for Those in Captivity

Yelena Trupanob, 50, a Russian Israeli hostage who was released from captivity in Gaza three days ago, had a message for the thousands of demonstrators who gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to continue to pressure the Israeli government to make freeing the remaining hostages a top priority.

“I came to say thank you,” Ms. Trupanob said. “Because without all of you, I wouldn’t be here.”

In her first public appearance since being released, Ms. Trupanob, was joined onstage in front of the central military headquarters in Tel Aviv by her mother, Irena Tati, 73. She was also one of the 105 hostages — which includes Israelis, Thais and other foreign nationals — who have been released and returned to Israel. Most were freed as part of a seven-day cease-fire that ended Friday morning local time. With roughly 240 hostages taken in the surprise Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7, more than 100 hostages remain in captivity, according to Israeli officials.

Ms. Trupanob, her son, Sasha, 28, and Ms. Tati were kidnapped from their home in Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct. 7. Mr. Trupanob is still being held in Gaza. Her husband, Vitaly Trupanob, was murdered in the attack.

“Now, we have to continue, to return my Sasha, and everyone,” Ms. Trupanob said at the demonstration. After repeating the message in Russian, her voice cracked with emotion as she chanted “Right now!” with the crowd.

Tears flowed more freely and chants to “bring them home now” were louder than in the previous weeks of rallies in Tel Aviv, as protesters celebrated the return of some hostages and lamented the many still in captivity.

Michal Lebenthal, who is the same age as Ms. Trupanob, said she was moved by her speech because “as a mother she wants her son to come back, and I feel the same.”

Before the temporary cease-fire, thousands of people rallied outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem to call on the government to do more to free hostages held in Gaza, the culmination of a five-day march from Tel Aviv that began with just 100 friends and family of the captives. But with the military operations resuming in Gaza, families of the hostages say they feel as if they are back to square one.

Amit Shem Tov, 24, whose younger brother Omer, 21, is still being held in Gaza, said, “The end of the cease-fire is the worst thing that could have happened because it seriously delays the release of my brother.”

Seeing Ms. Trupanob at the rally filled Mr. Shem Tov with hope, and a bit of jealousy. “I wish next Saturday we’ll be here with him,” Mr. Shem Tov said, but until his brother returns, he added that he would continue to put as much pressure as possible on the government to secure the release of the remaining hostages.