'That’s my approach' - Vilan stands for hostages

PHOTO: Noga Vilan, bottom left, stands with a poster for a hostage held by Hamas in Gaza during a demonstration at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland. (Gloria Hammer for The Jewish Review) 

The Jewish Review
Every weekend, Noga Vilan is standing outside, holding a sign. 
In rain, sunshine or even – as happened late in January - ice. Sometimes there are many people around her, sometimes only a few. The signs she holds each weekend bear the faces and the names of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. 
She started on Oct. 28, and she will keep going until all the hostages are released. 
“At least two hours every week,” she said, “I let those families know that they are not alone in this horrifying situation.”
Vilan is from a kibbutz in southern Israel. After Oct. 7, she looked for a way to raise awareness about the hostages. Seeing images from New York City of hostage posters in subway stations and elsewhere, she decided to replicate the effort in Portland. On the evening of Oct. 21, she, her husband and their two sons went to Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland and began hanging posters. 
“I literally printed all of them,” she said of the posters, one for each hostage. “And it took us forever and we were not even halfway through.”
While they were hanging the posters, people would come up to them and ask questions or scan the QR codes on the posters. 
“I realized it’s better to be out there in the light and actually interact with people,” Vilan said.
Vilan put out a call on Facebook that she would be at Portland Saturday Market the next Saturday – Oct. 28 – and invited people to join her. Around 40 did, and the momentum hasn’t ceased from there. 
The demonstrations have changed locations each weekend, which ensures a wider audience but also deters counterdemonstrations. On Nov. 10, she and others held the empty Shabbat table demonstration in Beaverton; the next week, she and a group were in front of the offices of the American Red Cross on Friday afternoon. 
“I said, OK, the Red Cross is not doing anything,” she recalled. “So, let’s say that there.”
While some will wave Israeli flags, Vilan sticks to her posters. She’s found that symbols of the State of Israel tend to provoke more hostile responses, while the pictures and names of the hostages startmeaningful conversations. 
“People start crying in front of us,” she recalled. “One of them went and they brought us some cookies and stuff, just because we were standing there in the rain with the pictures.”
Through the end of the year, she hoped each weekend would be the last.
“I was so sure that, ‘OK, they will be released,’” she recalled thinking before Thanksgiving. “Then I was sure there would be a Chanukah miracle. ‘No way we will get to the end of December and there are still 130 people.’”
As February rolls toward March, negotiations between the Israeli government and Hamas wax and wane and news trickles out about hostages dying in Hamas custody, Vilan is still out there. She’s settled on Sundays each week and is still trying to find new locations. Sometimes as many as 80 people have joined her, even amid heavy rains. Sometimes, that number is closer to 30. But Vilan is there. Even as an ice storm gripped Portland last month, she wanted to be out there. 
To leave her home that day, Vilan said, “We had to drive under a tree. We had no electricity when we left and still no electricity when we came back, but we stood there.”
Vilan insists she will keep on standing, as long as it takes. 
“No one should continue with their life like it’s just another storm or something that you just need to accept,” she said. “That’s my approach at least.”
To sign up to receive notifications about when and where demonstrations for the hostages will be held, visit tinyurl.com/hostages-demonstration-PDX.


Add Comment