Relatives of captive kids blast UN on World Children’s Day

Simultaneous protests in Tel Aviv and New York took place at the UNICEF building to combat the lack of a response by international bodies like the UN in response to over 40 children held hostage in Gaza.

By Debbie Weiss, The Algemeiner

The families of the hostages kidnapped from Israel last month and their supporters expressed outrage in various rallies and campaigns on World Children’s Day on Monday over the silence from international bodies like the UN regarding the 40 children and babies being held by terrorists in Gaza.

Hundreds of people held simultaneous protests in Tel Aviv and New York outside the offices of UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. Protesters noted that the UN agency ignored the children abducted by the Hamas terror group but did mark World Children’s Day by posting a video on X/Twitter highlighting the suffering of Palestinian children in Gaza.

UNICEF chief Catherine Russell also published a special World Children’s Day message which likewise made no mention of either the Israeli children murdered during Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel or those still in captivity after being abducted that day.

Hadas Calderon, the mother of two abducted children, Erez and Sahar, opened her remarks at the Tel Aviv rally by ringing a bell and calling out, “UNICEF, wake up!”

“If today is about children’s rights, where are my children’s rights?” she asked. “How is it possible that in the face of this horror, the world is silent? Organizations like UNICEF are silent. Have you forgotten your role?”

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In the background, images of Calderon’s children and the others being held hostage were projected onto the UNICEF building.

Yoni Asher, whose wife Doron and daughters Raz, 5, and Aviv, 3, are hostages in Gaza, said, “If I can feel sorrow and concern for every child in the world, how can an international organization like UNICEF not say the same. You cannot define yourself as an organization that protects children’s rights if you cannot care for children on both sides of the fence.”

The protest was disrupted by red alert sirens triggered by rockets fired from Gaza, prompting demonstrators to take cover on the ground.

Several prominent Israelis presented at the rally, including actors and performers; Vered Windman, CEO of Israel’s National Council for the Child; and Shai Gross, the youngest hostage in the 1976 Entebbe hijacking. “I remember the fear, the all-consuming anxiety, and helplessness,” recalled Gross, who was six when the Air France flight he was on was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. “I came back a different child.”

Windman addressed UNICEF officials, noting that children were taken from their beds on Oct. 7, some after having been forced to watch the murder of their parents.

“The return of the kidnapped children should not only be a matter for their families, nor only for the citizens of Israel — it should be an international matter,” he said. “This is your professional, legal, and above all, your moral duty.”

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Speaking at the rally in New York, Omer Lubaton-Granot — the head of the hostages forum in New York who has four family members in captivity, including three children aged 9, 12, and 17 — said, “A search on the UNICEF website led to zero messages on the subject of the Israeli abductees in Gaza. There are updates on difficult stories in Kyrgyzstan, in Haiti, and in Africa — but there is not a single update on the largest abductee crisis in history.”

Meanwhile, not far from the UNICEF building in Tel Aviv, a different demonstration took place at a Toys “R” Us storefront in the Dizengoff Center mall.

Conceptualized by Israeli photographer Ziv Koren, the toy store’s window was turned into a somber space of remembrance to mark World Children’s Day with an exhibit displaying toys collected from the ruins of Kibbutz Be’eri.

hostage toys r us

Exhibit displaying toys collected from the ruins of Kibbutz Be’eri. (Photo/Toys r Us)

Of the 29 residents of Kibbutz Be’eri who are being held hostage in Gaza, 11 are children. Members of the kibbutz, including children, attended the Toys “R” Us exhibit.

A sinister video clip that was also released on Monday features the Be’eri toys as they once were and as they appear now, charred, broken, and falling apart.

Also on Monday, the Israeli Association for Early Childhood launched a video campaign leveraging World Children’s Day to raise awareness about the plight of the young abductees.

The video features superhero toys, each wrapped in flags from the United States, Germany, Argentina, and Japan, urging those countries to “bring my hero home.” Below the superheroes is a child in a terrorist tunnel, covered in an Israeli flag.

The text that overlays the images reads: “Wake up world! When your children dream of superheroes, our children were kidnapped to Gaza by Hamas-ISIS and dream of freedom and their basic rights!”

The association said that World Children’s Day was a “day (of no) rights (and no) children” for Israeli children.

“The terrible events of 7.10.23, murder, burning, rape, killing, kidnapping, and especially crimes done to children, babies, and toddlers, constitutes a blunt and intolerable violation” of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog met with families of the children at another event on Monday at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

“Today is the UN’s International Children’s Day. A day designed to protect our children. Kidnapping children from their beds, kidnapping children in general [is] a barbaric act, a terrible act that violates all international codes. The enemy who kidnapped these children is trying to use them and the other abductees as a psychological tool, as a tool for extortion,” Herzog said in a statement.

The World Children’s Day events came amid news of a possible hostage deal, with the White House on Monday saying it was “closer than ever before” to reaching a deal to release those in captivity. The US and Qatar have been working through diplomatic channels to broker a deal between Israel and Hamas terrorists to release at least some of the hostages in Hamas-ruled Gaza.