Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

NEWSLETTER
Sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter!

Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Students share memories of Israeli hostages with empty chair demonstration in Kogan Plaza

In+Kogan+Plaza%2C+individuals+set+up+empty+chairs+with+signs+depicting+the+hundreds+of+Israelis+taken+hostage+by+Hamas.
Kaiden Yu | Photographer
In Kogan Plaza, individuals set up empty chairs with signs depicting the hundreds of Israelis taken hostage by Hamas.

Students from GW for Israel set up empty chairs displaying the names and faces of Israeli hostages in Kogan Plaza on Friday while community members gathered to share stories of their loved ones in captivity.

More than 30 community members gathered around rows of nearly 240 chairs, each representing an Israeli person whom Hamas had taken hostage during the militant group’s surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people. Noam Kara, the Jewish Agency Israel Fellow for GW Hillel, recited the hostages’ names and ages before speakers shared their testimonies about their personal connections to the hostages.

Senior Sophie Kaufman said 23-year-old Hersh Goldberg — one of the Israelis who Hamas is holding captive in the Gaza Strip — is a family friend of hers who was always in a good mood and would always make her laugh. She said their parents would joke when her and Goldberg were little that they would get married one day.

“I find myself going through stages of disbelief, complete and utter sadness, anger and back to disbelief again,” Kaufman said in a speech. “I’ve been angry, I’ve been struggling, confused, conflicted and hurting. I found myself lost in the terror of everything going on and at the same time I am commanded to carry on.”

Kaufman encouraged audience members to support each other through check-in texts and hugs.

“Lean on your friend and allow yourself to cry out to the mountains, cry out in fear and cry the anger, cry,” she said. “We are all here to listen to each other’s screams on the other side, bring them home.”

Last week, officials said they suspended and removed an unnamed student from campus accused of tearing down more than a dozen posters from inside the GW Hillel building, according to a Thursday statement shared with The Hatchet. The posters resembled the same flyers as those displayed on chairs during Friday’s demonstration.

Aaron Schwartz, a senior and member of GWI, said he met with the parents of one of his childhood friends since first grade, 22-year-old hostage Omer Neutra, who are “on a mission” to get their son back. He told the group to keep Neutra in their prayers and to not let their memories of the hostages be forgotten.

“I just want to remind everyone we want to be able to say where we were and what we did in this time of hardship,” Schwartz said in a speech. “When so many people are divided, we just want to be able to say that we stood together, that we remember the people that we care about.”

Hailey Figur, a 2023 graduate, said she became friends with Neutra in high school and that she remembers his smile and jokes. She said she finds what little comfort she can in that the hostages may feel their “outpour” of love and support, adding that community members must allow themselves to feel sorrow.

“We must not allow ourselves to fall deep into toxic positivity and ignore what is real,” Figur said in a speech. “It is a grave situation with grave consequences we see going on.”

She said Neutra decided to join the Israeli army after spending a gap year in Israel. Hamas abducted Neutra while on duty at the Israel-Gaza border on Oct. 7, Figur said.

“Bring Omer home,” Figur said in a speech.

Yuval David, an actor, filmmaker and activist from the D.C. area, said 32 of his friends and colleagues were killed in Hamas’ attack. He said when Kara read the names at the beginning of the demonstration, he heard the names of his own friends. 

“I have two friends who are held hostage. I did not have time to sit Shiva, to mourn for the loss of my friends — actually, it’s not a loss. They were stolen from me. They were stolen from us. And they were stolen from their own lives,” David said in a speech.

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Cade McAllister, Events Editor
Cade McAllister is a sophomore double majoring in international affairs and political science from San Diego, California.  He is The Hatchet's 2023-2024 events editor.
Fiona Bork, Assistant News Editor
Fiona Bork is a sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communication from San Diego, California. She is The Hatchet's 2023-2024 assistant news editor for the Student Life beat.
Donate to The GW Hatchet