Online video project remembers those kidnapped by Hamas 2
In the video project, relatives have their say, like these parents whose son is missing. Image: #bringthembacknow volunteers

Online video project remembers those kidnapped by Hamas

With #BRINGTHEMHOMENOW, Israeli filmmakers are drawing attention to those taken hostage by the Hamas terrorist organization in Israel.
Verena Greb | Oct 28 2023

"They believed that they could live side by side with the Palestinians. War was the opposite of them. Nobody kidnaps a 72-year-old woman. This is against humanity, this is against everything people can believe," Eyal Nouri says of his aunt and uncle in relation to what happened to them on October 7.

Nouri is involved in a project by Israeli filmmakers in which he and many others are sharing video statements of beloved relatives and friends they miss under the hashtag #BRINGTHEMHOMENOW.

Many of those involved have found the project therapeutic
Many of those involved have found the project therapeutic. Image: #bringthembacknow volunteers

On that October 7, the militant Islamist Palestinian group Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the European Union, the United States, Germany and other countries, carried out unprecedented terror attacks on southern Israel. Some 1,400 of people died, and many were injured in the heavy attacks.

In addition, more than 220 people, mostly Israelis, were taken hostage and abducted to the Gaza Strip, including very likely Nouri's aunt. As a result, Israel declared war on Hamas, which is why many people have died on the Palestinian side since then as well.


About the project

With #BRINGTHEMHOMENOW, the creators want to draw attention to those who have disappeared in Israel. In short clips, friends and relatives talk about them, and through additional photos and videos taken in better times, the missing get a face.

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The project is constantly expanding. Currently, the team is in the process of recording 30 testimonials from additional relatives. The finished social media clips will be subtitled in several languages that can be shared via the hashtag.

This campaign now has its own website and several social media channels. One of the initiators is the 31-year-old Israeli director, screenwriter and producer Eliran Peled, who lives in Tel Aviv. In an online conversation with DW, he explains why he has teamed up with some well-known colleagues. 

"Some of us filmmakers in the industry felt that we really needed to do something. And we tried to think how we can help, especially with the hostage situation." 

Peled adds that this is the first time his country has had to deal with something like this. He compares the situation to a "nightmare" they are still in, especially emotionally.

He and the others reacted quickly and contacted some of the relatives. Just five days after the events, Ari Folman, a Haifa-born son of Polish Holocaust survivors who is internationally known for his animated films "Waltz With Bashir" (2008) and "Where is Anne Frank" (2021), and US-born Jasmine Kainy, a journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Israel, conducted initial interviews. A team of volunteers edited the videos so they could be distributed for the first time the weekend after the attack. Days later, the project's own website was ready.


Babies and children also missing

Ari Folman summarizes the initiators' concern in an interview with the German broadsheet Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "There was, and is, so much anger, the demand for revenge. And we wanted to draw attention worldwide to the fact that babies, children, old people, people suffering from dementia have also been kidnapped. They are not part of this conflict, they should be freed."

Peled also emphasizes this when speaking to DW. He also mentions that it was important to them "not to show the horrors, but to tell the story of the people." The point, he says, is to make everyone around the globe aware of the "human situation" —  regardless of what anyone thinks about Israel, the conflicts or the politics. 


The clips should keep the memory alive

The videos are intended to prevent the fate of the hostages from being "pushed to the back pages," as Yael Reuveny, who supports the project from Germany, tells DW.

From the Israeli director's point of view, the most important thing is "at least from the Israeli side, to not give up on these people, not forget that they are there every minute."

One of the videos features Ilay David, whose younger brother is missing. The latter was at a music festival in the Negev desert not far from the Gaza Strip and was presumably abducted from there.

Lior Katz Natanzon mentions in her video that her mother as well as her mother's partner, sister, brother and two nieces were kidnapped. "I never thought anything like this could ever happen," she says, adding that for her, it was a "horror movie."


Working on the project also helps those involved

The team has now grown to 140 people. Some research the stories or contact other relatives, while others take care of the website and social media, all on a voluntary basis.

The Israeli filmmaker Yael Reuveny raises awareness of #BRINGTHEMHOMENOW in Germany, where she lives. In an interview with DW, she says that being involved in the project itself helped her. "I really didn't know what to do with myself. So it was a way to not only refresh the news every five minutes, but do something that can feel useful, helpful and important."


'Please bring them home'

Many politicians and diplomats — also from Germany — are currently trying to get the hostages released. Only four have been released so far. The release this week of two ladies in their early 80s was for humanitarian reasons, according to Hamas.

To what extent #BRINGTHEMHOMENOW can help bring back those still being held hostage, is hard to say. But all should be able to hear the message with which all of the relatives' statements in the videos end: "Please bring them home."

This article was originally written in German.