April 8, 2024
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Focus Is on Chizuk at ‘Run for Their Lives’ in Central Park

Eylon Levy addressing the crowd. (Credit: Judith Falk)

At “Run for Their Lives” gatherings held globally, local community members run or walk together in a public space holding Israeli flags and hostage posters high while crying out “Bring Them Home Now,” so that all within earshot can hear this plea.

Those who attend the runs do so for the critical purpose of demanding the immediate release of the hostages from captivity. Yet even though there is one purpose for the run, there is more than one benefit: the attendees give chizuk to those who need it and also get chizuk from the crowd. The value of either can’t be minimized, as in this war it is necessary that everyone remain strengthened.

At this past Sunday’s run in Central Park marking the 149th day that the hostages have been in captivity, those present were privileged to hear from Leat Corinne Unger, cousin of 21-year-old hostage Omer Shem Tov, as well as Eylon Levy, an Israeli government spokesman in New York City on a hasbara mission. Each spoke about how crucial it is that everyone continues to strengthen one another by action.

First and foremost, though, Ungar addressed the pain of hostage families: “We have had 149 nightmare days. 149 days of pain, the pain of our people. 149 days of pain and darkness for Omer. 149 days of pain and fear for 134 of our brothers and sisters that are fighting to fend off the darkness.”

Leat Corinne Unger (Credit: Judith Falk)

 

Yet in stark contrast to the darkness that the hostages in tunnels are experiencing, those who are fighting for them are fortunate enough to experience strength.

Addressing the crowd, Levy stated: “I came here to try to give strength to the diaspora, fighting for us, fighting for Israel, fighting for the hostages, and I am leaving with so much strength and fire in my belly seeing the incredible diaspora awakening.”

In particular, Levy pointed out the Israeli Jews and expats “who have simply dropped everything [and] put their lives on hold to focus all of their resources, all of their expertise to the mission of total victory over the Hamas rapist regime and bringing all of the hostages back home now, alive, safe and sound.

“It is inspiring to see how you have mobilized since 10/7, to get the hostages back home, to stand up and speak up for Israel,” continued Levy. “I know it’s not easy in New York, you’ve faced violence, you’ve faced intimidation, people trying to shout you down, make it unsafe for you to do something as basic as fighting for the rights of the hostages.”

Unger similarly recognized how she is strengthened by those fighting for Omer and all of the hostages. “Today, my emotions are more overpowered by gratitude and hope; gratitude that you are here with us every Sunday for so many weeks. The hope that you all bring me every Sunday by standing here, by supporting us, by showing up, is one I can’t really put into words. And it goes back to the anthem of our people: the hope, the tikva. The hope that our families, our brothers, our sisters, our children, are on our way back to us healthy, safe and alive.”

Rabbi Mark and Jill Wildes (Credit: Judith Falk)

Unger had only one request of those gathered: “I ask you to continue showing up and being here for us, in the darkest days. And it’s not just for us because I believe, I know, that Omer feels the prayer, the light, the solidarity, the unity, the power of our unity in that darkness. 134 of our children feel the light in that darkness because of you.”

Those who attended the run in Central Park this past Sunday may have a vivid memory of the bicyclist who whizzed by and screamed “Am Yisrael Chai” to which attendees joyfully responded in kind. Perhaps others will close their eyes and remember the sky, which was as blue as the sea, or the spring-like temperatures heralding the coming out of winter.

It should also be remembered that in attending the run, participants provided strength to those who desperately need it.

Rabbi Yosie and Rachel Levine and Jewish Center members.
(Credit: Judith Falk)

Judith Falk is the creator of the Upper West Side Shtetl Facebook Group. You can follow her on instagram @upperwestsideshtetl. She is a lawyer by day and a former legal reporter.

 

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