Marking one hundred days since the hostages have been held by Hamas in Gaza, a thousand people braved sub-zero temperatures at Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto on Sunday to draw attention to the captives’ plight.

Maayan Shavit, a cousin of hostage Carmel Gat, compared her situation with “horror movies in theatres.” She stressed the sobering point that “this can happen in a democratic country, and any country in the world.”

Shavit told the crowd that she resents the phrase of “making a deal” with the terrorists.

“A deal is something you do with an object, but human life is not a bargaining chip,” she said.

She also said “this is a humanitarian world crisis, not an Israeli one” and elicited cries of “shame!” from the crowd when noting that “the so-called humanitarian agencies haven’t visited the hostages.”

Other speakers included Toronto area Liberal MP Marco Mendicino; Progressive Conservative MPP for Thornhill Laura Smith; author and Postmedia columnist Warren Kinsella; Iranian prison survivor and activist Salman Sima, and hostage family members.

The event was spearheaded by Avi and son Dean Attali, and the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, with help from Canadians for Israel.

Avi Attali said at the event that the 136 remaining hostages are in “Hamas hell – tunnels, cages, with medical conditions unknown. One hundred days; each day is incomprehensible.”

“Imagine it was you or someone you love,” he said. “While the rest of the world has ignored them, we have not.”

The rally was organized “to be the voice of the hundreds of kidnapped that cannot talk for themselves, and to insist on their immediate release,” Attali told True North.

Those who attended and watched the live-stream, “came together in a message of remembrance and awareness,” adding that “the speeches of support and solidarity offered us as a community some measure of hope.”

Mendicino told the crowd that “for all of us, time moves on, but for the hostages, it is still Oct. 7.”

He said his recent trip to Israel, where he saw what was left of the kibbutzes that were attacked, was to “bear witness of the atrocities of Hamas.” He and fellow parliamentarians on the delegation “grieved with the families of victims and hostages, and we know the pain is palpable.”

What was particularly chilling for him was to learn of the “vile, depraved, unspeakable violence against women and children.”

Mendicino told True North that he “will never forget” what he saw in Israel, and is using that visit “to motivate all of the actions” he’s taking, including demanding the immediate release of hostages, and condemning antisemitism. “And I believe this is something that all Canadians should unite behind.”

It is not just a Jewish issue or an Israel issue, he told True North. “Because what starts with the Jews never ends with the Jews. And we saw that throughout history. And so the antisemitism which does directly target Jews, has as its core fear, and anger, and division, and spreads like a disease to other communities as well.”

Mendicino said he believes it’s important for people to reach out to Jewish friends and neighbours, at a time when they’ve “felt like there’s just been crickets,” he said. “Tell them they’re not alone. And just doing that will make a difference.”

Smith pointed out that there were members of twenty nationalities and five religions represented in the hostages, and that as a mother, she was affected by the fate of the young daughters who were captured.

“What kind of torture are they going through day to day? Are they losing hope?” she asked. “The only thing that would be worse would be those who deny these heinous atrocities took place. To deny these hostages is to deny Canadian values.”

Sima, an Iranian Muslim and event speaker, said that standing against radical extremism was personal for him.

The mathematics teacher, who fled to Canada from Iran in 2011, said that he could relate to the hostages as he was jailed as a political prisoner in the Islamic Republic as a student, convicted of phony charges. Over the course of three arrests, he served a year-and-a-half behind bars, mostly in solitary confinement.

“We share the same enemies,” he said of his birthplace Iran. “You should not fear to defend Israel. You do not need to be a Jew; you just need to be human,”

“This is not our fight, or your fight. It’s the same fight. I do believe that. I’m not alone in this belief. Many Iranians believe that,” he told True North. He also said that the gathering might go a long way to foster morale. “Courage is contagious. As a freedom fighter I know the value of the streets” — referring to rallies and demonstrations. “How else are you doing to show everyone what you stand for?”

Kinsella in his speech said that “when one of us is held hostage, we are all held hostage. When one of our businesses is attacked, we are all attacked.” Leaders are silent on antisemitism, moreover, and they “refuse to acknowledge what is happening. When they refuse to confront the hate, that is seemingly everywhere these days, they fail. They fail our children and our future.”

Brian Lilley, a Postmedia reporter in attendance told True North that “it’s important to show solidarity and support for Canada’s Jewish community, as they’re dealing with this” because the religious extremism driving Hamas also drives other terrorist groups.

“If they’re coming after Israel, and they’re coming after (the) United States, you think they’re not coming after us?” Lilley told True North, noting that there have been scores of terror attacks all over the world.

Politicians, meanwhile, “could be stronger in their denunciations” of antisemitic attacks, “and, I’d like to see more action.”


  • Dave Gordon

    Dave Gordon is a media professional and has worked in an editor capacity for National Post, Postmedia, Markham Review, Thornhill Liberal, Pie Magazine,, Swagger Magazine and Checkout My Business. His work can be found at