Hundreds of T-shirts hung in Toronto represent 240 Israeli hostages taken by Hamas

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Plain white T-shirts were hung on clotheslines between four olive trees in a Toronto plaza on Wednesday, each representing one of the 240 Israeli hostages abducted by Hamas in the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks.

The names and ages of the hostages were printed on the shirts in a public art installation titled Threads of Hope, which was displayed in David Pecaut Square. Photos of the missing children were hung from the olive trees, which traditionally represent peace.

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Threads of Hope organizer Tamara Horowitz said the T-shirts represent that a hostage could be anybody. “It’s something that every single person owns, has and wears,” said Horowitz.

Qatar announced Wednesday that Hamas will release 50 hostages over the course of a four-day ceasefire in exchange for what Hamas said would be 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Those released by both sides will be women and children. The identities of the hostages who will be freed have not been released.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would resume the war after the truce and keep fighting to destroy Hamas’s fighting and governing abilities and secure the release of all hostages in Gaza.

One of the hostages is 23-year old Romi Gonen, who is described by her cousin Maureen Leshem as a lover of life who enjoys travelling the world. “She loved to celebrate,” said Leshem. “That’s exactly what she was doing on the morning of Oct. 7.”

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Gonen was with her friends at the Tribe of Nova music festival in southern Israel when Hamas began gunning down civilians.

Gonen was on the phone with her mother when she found refuge in the bushes and then a car, until she was shot at. “Romi told her mom that she witnessed people being murdered left, right and centre. People she knew,” said Leshem.

The call was recorded, and on the tape Hamas terrorists say they have a hostage alive. Then the phone cuts out, Leshem said.

David Pecaut Square
A woman takes a photograph of shirts at Toronto’s David Pecaut Square at an installation called “Threads of Hope” with the names of those taken hostage by Hamas terrorists from Israel to Gaza, Wednesday November 22, 2023. Photo by Peter J. Thompson/National Post

“We have not heard from or seen Romi in, it’s going to be 47 days today,” Leshem said on Wednesday. “We don’t know if she’s dead or alive.”

Flags from the dozens of countries from which the hostages are home to were displayed at the installation, along with the images of the 34 children amongst the 240 hostages.

Judith Weinstein Haggai, a 70-year-old retired teacher from Toronto who lived with her husband in Israel, is the only Canadian believed to be among the hostages.

Horowitz said the exhibit drives home how many people were kidnapped.

“You walk in here and you see the 240 shirts out together in not a very big space, you realize the enormity of it,” said Horowitz. “That’s a lot of people.”

Each T-shirt represents the voice of an innocent civilian who cannot speak right now.

“This is an international crisis and strictly about the hostages safe return,” said Leshem. “That is a humanitarian crisis that the entire world is affected by.”

Horowitz said the goal of the art installation is to invoke hope and inspire global leaders to address the crisis.

“Bring these people home that are innocent civilians,” said Horowitz.

National Post, with additional reporting from The Associated Press

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