Dozens of mothers converged on the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv on Sunday, calling for the return from Gaza of the some 240 hostages captured by Hamas on Oct. 7.
The Mom Force initiative is the brainchild of Hadas Kalderon, whose ex-husband and two children were kidnapped to Gaza. Her son Erez, who turned 12 in captivity last month, and daughter Sahar, 16, were taken from Kibbutz Nir Oz along with their father, Ofer Kalderon, 50.
Hadas’s mother, Carmela, 80, and niece Noya, 12, were found brutally murdered near the Gaza border two weeks after the attacks.
“What is happening to our children is unacceptable. It is precisely on International Children’s Day that emphasis should be placed on this,” Hadas Kalderon told JNS on Monday.
“Every abductee is a mother’s child, it doesn’t matter what their age is. Mothers can move mountains and I want to harness this power to help me in my mission to bring them back,” she said.
“Everyone stands by us and cries out to return the children and all the captives now. We will see more beautiful days together, days when the light will overcome the darkness,” Kalderon said in reference to her children.
On Monday, World Children’s Day, Israel tweeted a picture collage of the 40 Israelis under the age of 18 being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.
“They should be with their families. Not in a dark room somewhere in Gaza,” the statement on Israel’s official X account reads.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to meet with the families of the kidnapped on Monday night.
Meanwhile, Momentum (formerly the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project), a global organization that helps women foster their Jewish identity and connect to Israel, organized the Mother To Mother Unity Trip, a women-only solidarity mission to the Jewish state.
Eighty women from the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia and Mexico participated in the six-day trip organized in partnership with the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism, which ended on Sunday. Twenty of the participants have relatives currently serving in the IDF.
Upon their arrival, participants were joined by 10 Israeli women who shared their wartime stories. They also harvested crops with Israeli farmers, broke bread with Israeli soldiers, toured Sderot and joined a march in Modi’in for the release of the hostages.
“Taking part in this demonstration allowed us to somehow feel their pain. At that moment we marched as one big Jewish united family,” Nadine Durbach, 52, from Irvine, California, told JNS.
“I am the proud Zionist mother of three children. My daughter moved to Israel two years ago. I wanted to show my children that Israel isn’t just a place where we vacation. It’s our home and Israelis are our extended family,” she said.
Durbach, a clinical social worker, provided emotional support to an Israeli mother in Sderot who was overwhelmed by the unprecedented destruction on Oct. 7.
“I helped her overcome the challenges with coping methods. My purpose on the trip was fulfilled,” said Durbach.
Sherri Ettedgui, 43, a mother of four from Toronto, also participated in the trip. When the war broke out, her first instinct was to come to Israel.
“I wanted to give Israel a big metaphorical hug, give my energy to its people and support the country in any way I could,” Ettedgui told JNS. “Picking a few sweet potatoes will not make a big difference but showing the world that I came will.”
The group attended a festive barbecue with Israeli soldiers in Gush Etzion to mark the Nov. 4 wedding of one of the troops.
“We danced together and sang Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah.” I felt very hopeful and proud of the country. It’s a long road ahead but Israel’s spirit is special and unique,” said Ettedgui.