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Marchers call to free hostages on 100th day of their captivity

The demonstrators walked along Charles River Sunday morning to commemorate the date.

Tamar Davis Galper held a photo of her cousin, Omer Neutra, a 22-year-old Israeli-American taken hostage by Hamas while speaking at a rally at Harvard Chabad.Danielle Parhizkaran/Globe Staff

Hundreds of demonstrators filled both banks of the Charles River near Harvard University Sunday morning, marking 100 days since Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel and took more than 200 hostages.

The line of marchers stretched for several blocks as it wound from the Harvard Chabad Center to the John W. Weeks Bridge, looping back across the river via the Anderson Memorial Bridge. At one point, the crowd stretched long enough to fill both bridges and the stretch of pavement connecting them on the Boston riverbank.

Looking across the river at a handful of fluttering Israeli flags, Framingham resident Michelle Gelman said she was happy to see such a strong turnout. The 63-year-old said international support for Israel has waned in the past three months.

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“It seems the whole world is against Israel now. Everybody is forgetting what happened Oct. 7,” Gelman said. “Hamas is not going to give up. They’re going to fight until the end, and they have to be taken down.”

Rabbis Hirschy Zarchi, of Harvard Chabad, and Marc Baker, president and CEO of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, led the charge, carrying a banner proclaiming, “We won’t stop until they’re all back.”

Baker noted in his remarks after the walk that the 100-day anniversary fell on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend and said the iconic Civil Rights leader had once espoused his support for the Jewish state.

“He also reminded us that Moses’ call to ‘let my people go’ continues to echo loudly today,” Baker told the crowd.

In a phone call before the event, Zarchi said the march was coordinated with Jewish and ally communities across the world, synchronized to a 24-hour rally that kicked off in Tel Aviv Saturday night, according to the Associated Press.

Following the march, Zarchi spoke to the crowd as it filled the Chabad center’s lawn and spilled out into the streets.

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“The soul of the Jewish people has been stirred in ways that none of us saw or witnessed before in our lifetime,” Zarchi said, opening a speaking program with “Mi Sheberach,” the Jewish prayer for healing.

He passed the microphone to Tamar Davis Galper, who said her cousin, Omer Neutra, was taken hostage in the initial attack and turned 22 in captivity.

Speaking through tears, she described Neutra as “a loving son, a great friend, and a passionate, giving person,” who spent a gap year in Israel before deciding to enlist in the Israeli Defense Forces.

“We are acting and working with the full belief that he is alive,” Davis Galper said, quoting Neutra’s father. “Every moment counts. No mother or father should have to live with the agony of not knowing the fate of their child.”

As she stepped away from the podium, the crowd launched into a chant: “Bring Omer home,” they repeated.

The program also featured remarks by officials, including Meron Reuben, Israel’s consul general to New England, and Rotem Yadlin, mayor of Israel’s Gezer Regional County and a graduate of the nearby Harvard Kennedy School.

In an interview following his speech, Baker said calls for the hostages’ release go deeper than the Israel-Hamas war and should not be considered a strictly Jewish issue.

“It’s just critical that we continue to remind the world [that] the story of these hostages is not only about Israel, and it’s not only about Jews. There are citizens from different countries around the world,” Baker told the Globe. “This could be any of us, taken captive, taken hostage by terrorists anywhere in the world.”

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As the program wound down, around a half-dozen children led the crowd in singing Israel’s national anthem. Moments later, other children broke into songs of prayer as the crowd dispersed.


Daniel Kool can be reached at daniel.kool@globe.com. Follow him @dekool01.