In Tel Aviv graffiti and posters, the ebb and flow of hopes for hostages


TEL AVIV – Graffiti and campaign posters have turned streets and office towers in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv into a tapestry of the rise and fall of hopes of recovering hostages held in Gaza.

With spirits in the usually freewheeling commercial capital dampened by the war between Israel and Hamas, residents have put their energy into the campaign to secure the release of the hostages taken by the Palestinian militants in an Oct 7 raid.

“We Won’t Stop Until They’re All Back,” reads a large English-language poster showing smiling photographs of the more than 200 people, including foreigners, who were snatched from border villages and army bases while 1,200 others were killed.

Individual portraits of the hostages have been pasted to walls, shopfronts, bollards, parking metres and even municipal rent-a-bikes bereft of riders because of the dearth of Tel Aviv tourism since the war began four months ago.

In some Western cities, similar posters are occasionally ripped down by pro-Palestinian protesters. In Tel Aviv, the wear and tear is mostly from motor exhausts and unusually heavy rain.

In some cases, the hostages shown were freed in a November truce brokered by Qatar and Egypt, requiring no new posters be put up. But with 132 people still in captivity, and Israel believing around 30 have died, there are signs of desperation.

“Now”, handwritten in angry red on a sticker, was appended to a poem about the hostages that was posted by a fashion ad.

A public chess board has pepper-grinders instead of pieces, designed to invoke the hostages, each with a tiny strip of cloth as a blindfold and a twist-tie as handcuffs. Their identical size suggests they have equal value: None is a disposable pawn.

A Tel Aviv plaza has been renamed “Hostages Square” and hosts regular demonstrations and other solidarity events.

One winter night, however, it was abandoned save for a large screen, ringed by small blue-and-while Israeli flags, which counted, to the second, the duration of the Gaza captivity. The digits were reflected in puddles between the uneven pavings. REUTERS

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