240 empty seats on the Vrijthof Square
240 empty chairs on the Vrijthof this afternoon. They symbolised the number of people taken hostage by Hamas in Israel on 7 October this year and still not found.
"This is not a political demonstration," explained Gabriel Greenstein, co-organiser of the initiative. "This is to make people aware that 240 people are still hostages. On 7 October 2023, they were taken by Hamas from their homes. Innocent people who have nothing to do with the conflict, elderly couples, young children, babies."
On the chairs rest their portraits. A screen next to the clock on the Vrijthof shows films and sound clips. Footage of Israeli relatives left behind telling desperately about their missing loved ones, telephone conversations between children and parents, at the time they were ambushed by Hamas. Some bystanders shed a tear at the sight.
People from Maastricht and the region
The demonstration was set up by people from Maastricht and the region. Together, they raised money to implement the initiative. "It's a total sense of helplessness," Greenstein says. "I want to go there to help, to do all sorts of things there. But it's not possible."
At the time the demonstration begins the chairs attract attention, but it is not really crowded yet. "Most people are understanding. Sometimes we hear nasty things. A man who then shouts 'Free Palestine'. That's fine. I fully support that, a 'free Palestine', but a Palestine free of terror," Greenstein says. "This is not a political demonstration. The hostages ... they just need to go home as soon as possible."