More than a thousand Canadians, ranging from schoolchildren to the elderly, have joined a campaign to write letters to the hostages being held by Hamas.
Initiated by the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) of Greater Toronto, the goal is to reach each of the approximately 138 hostages and remind them that “they have not been forgotten,” said Ryla Braemer, UJA’s VP of community mobilization and volunteerism.
“We have a list of everyone who is being held captive, so often people will write to someone that they feel a personal connection with, whether as a parent or as a child,” she said. “Some people write one letter a day, some people write 50 a day. We are reminding them that we are thinking of them, we are waiting for all of them to be home and they’re not alone.”
The campaign, titled “You Are Not Forgotten,” aims to provide moral support to the hostages and pressure humanitarian organizations into action.
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Earlier this week, community members dropped off items at the Red Cross office in Mississauga as a symbolic reminder of the humanitarian aid the hostages need, including medical supplies and care.
“Red Cross has a unique opportunity and responsibility to reach the hostages and deliver these letters, but also to meet with them, to check on them, to bring them medications, to play the role that the Red Cross is intended to play and has played in the past to help,” said Braemer.
In a statement to National Post, the Canadian Red Cross acknowledged the receipt of the letters and the complexity of the situation. To date, the organization said it has been denied access to the hostages.
“The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) has publicly and repeatedly stated that access must be granted to the Red Cross to conduct visits with the hostages to check on their well-being, bring medical aid and pass messages between families,” said Jason Small, senior manager of communications.
In late November, acting as a neutral mediator, the ICRC successfully facilitated the transfer of hostages from Gaza to Israeli authorities, and Palestinian detainees to West Bank authorities, enabling their reunion with family members. Despite that, the organization has so far been unable to reach the hostages in Gaza directly.
“The ICRC remains committed and available to visiting hostages when access is granted and has met with immediate family members of individuals who are detained in Gaza,” Small said.
He also confirmed the receipt of letters in recent weeks to the Canadian Red Cross and said the organization is working to determine the next steps, intending to deliver the messages as soon as possible.
“When the ICRC gains access to detained individuals, there is a process and standard practices that must be followed to share messages from family members,” he added. “The Red Cross empathizes with friends and families who want to provide some comfort to their loved ones who are detained.”
In the meantime, Braemer said the intention is to continue with the campaign and to write as many letters as possible.
“In a way, this is personal for everybody,” she said. “We are a small Jewish community in the world. And it seems now, more than ever, everybody we speak to has somebody they know, directly or indirectly, who was killed or who was taken hostage on October 7. And I think as a community, we see ourselves in those people. So even if we might not have a personal connection, we can imagine what it would be like, and we feel a connection.”
Those interested in joining the campaign can sign up here.
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