Tel Aviv has some popular public squares: Dizengoff Square, Rabin Square, and Habima Square. The newest Tel Aviv square went viral around the globe — Hostages Square — not named after a hostage crisis from 1423, but sadly, from 2023.
Located in Tel Aviv on Shaul HaMelech Blvd. in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Hostages Square has become a place for the public to offer support for the families of the hostages. It's also the site of regular press conferences and rallies about the hostage situation, following Hamas' brutal massacre on October 7.
Hamas slaughtered 1,200 innocent people on Israeli soil, and kidnapped and tortured hundreds more, all in the span of a few hours.
Hostages Square has become the official headquarters for the families of the hostages. They formed the organization, Hostages and Missing Families Forum, within just 24 hours following the terror attack.
Official Hostages Square signage, December 2023, Tel Aviv (Photo: © Israel Sites & Sights / © Janis Raisen)
It has been officially named, "The Hostages and Missing [Persons] Square," as the families have gathered there since the beginning of the war to raise awareness about the hostage crisis, and to try and expedite a hostage deal.
Since October 7, there has only been one hostage deal. At the time of publication, there are currently still 136 hostages held captive in Gaza (not all are alive), and there are intensive negotiations taking place on the framework of a possible new deal.
It's almost impossible to walk around Israel, without seeing many wearing the famous dog tag necklace, as Israel stays united as one. Many new designs have saturated the market, but the original dog tag necklace design is seen below in two large displays at Hostages Square.
Translation from the Hebrew:
"Our hearts are held captive in Gaza." An English plea follows: "Bring Them Home - Now!"
Popular symbols by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum. (Photos: © Israel Sites & Sights / © Janis Raisen)
The community has been supporting the families of the hostages by wearing the dog tag necklace, some also wearing a yellow ribbon around their wrists or tying one on their car door handles, or bicycle frames. There is also a hostage ribbon pin that has become popular lately. The group also sells t-shirts and other items through their US site, and most items can be purchased at Hostages Square.
As the war progressed, a variety of exhibits starting popping up at Hostages Square, with the first one, "The Empty Shabbat Table."
The Empty Shabbat Table
The Empty Shabbat Table at Hostages Square between November 2023 and January 2024. (Photos: © Israel Sites and Sights / © Janis Raisen)
The first iconic exhibit was "The Empty Shabbat Table" in mid October that went viral. The exhibit symbolized the large number of hostages that would be missing from the Shabbat table with their families — a chair for each hostage.
The table changed as time progressed. In November, prior to the first hostage deal, a new table was set (top left). Later, a new version popped up in December (top right).
By early January, a new Empty Shabbat Table was set — one side conveying pain and suffering with no hostage deal in sight, along with the type of food that some of the released hostages ate, when they actually received food (bottom left). The far end of the table (bottom right) represents the place settings of released hostages. The plates in Hebrew say: "How great it is that you came home."
Replica Hamas Tunnel
Sounds, and Sights from the Tunnel
As you walk through a simulation of the Hamas tunnel built at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, you can hear the recorded sounds of bombings as you walk through the dingy, dirty, dark, and terrifying tunnel. You try to imagine the horrific conditions that the hostages face daily.
Replica Hamas tunnel at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, January 13, 2024. Built to mark January 14 —100 days in captivity
The replica tunnel has light at either end of the tunnel, in addition to proper air flow. The real Hamas tunnels do not.
Replica Hamas tunnel at Hostages Square, January 2024 (Photo: © Israel Sites and Sights / © Janis Raisen)
Nova Exhibit at Hostages Square, December 2023, Tel Aviv (Photos: © Israel Sites & Sights / © Janis Raisen)
Before the month-long Nova exhibition at Expo Tel Aviv, a smaller, different type of exhibit was first displayed at Hostages Square to bring awareness about the missing, and the kidnapped, and to remember the over 300 that were massacred at the Nova festival on October 7.
(Exhibits between November 2023 and January 2024)
Hostages Square between November 2023 and January 2024. (Photos: © Israel Sites and Sights / © Janis Raisen)
Hostages Square, January 2024. (Photo: © Israel Sites and Sights / © Janis Raisen)
The "Bring them Home" and "Bring them Back" pleas appear all over Israel, around the world, and on social media. With a possible new hostage deal on the horizon (at the time of publication), hopefully "Welcome Home" will soon replace "Bring them Home," and Hostages Square will never again be needed for its intended purpose.