Israeli student: I’m scared to speak Hebrew in street, but feel supported by Czechs

Bring Them Home Now! is the title of a gathering set for Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Tuesday evening demanding the release of the over 200 hostages still being held by Hamas, exactly a month after its brutal attacks on Israel. Ahead of the rally I spoke to one of its organisers, Israeli student Goni Biran.

“The aim of the gathering is to raise awareness and share the cry for our brothers and sisters that are held by terrorists in Gaza, by the Hamas organisation.

“We are going to stand together peacefully, pray and sing and hug – and hold posters with the faces of our people that are held in Gaza.

“Some of us will also be dressed as hostages, to symbolise our people there. We are going to be with blindfolds, with red paint on ourselves, to symbolise the blood and the suffering, and to be tied up.”

Goni Biran | Photo: Ian Willoughby,  Radio Prague International

Do you or any of the other organisers have a personal connection to people who have been killed or kidnapped, or otherwise suffered, in these terrible attacks?

“Unfortunately, we all have been affected. Israel is a very small country, we are very few people and we all know somebody who was affected one way or another.

“I can share that my friend was killed at the peace festival, at the Nova music festival, and another is being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.”

There have been reports of some tensions at Czech universities between some students supporting Hamas and other students who are either Israeli or Jewish. Have you seen anything like that?

Photo: René Volfík,

“Yes. It’s important to say that neither I nor other Jewish Israelis in Prague are against supporting the Palestinian civilians. We are for peace and we also want them to be free of Hamas and their oppressive government.

“But we’ve seen people who openly support the terrorist attack and the Hamas organisation. A day after the October 7 people here in Prague posted stuff embracing what had happened, calling this a just resistance.

“It is important to say that attacking civilians is never a justified cause.”

Do you or your friends feel in personal danger now in Czechia?

“Specifically here in Czechia, no. We know that the Czech people, and the government, are humane. They’re seeing what’s happening and we feel supported here.

“But I feel scared to speak Hebrew in the street, because it only takes one extreme person for something horrible to happen. And the environment right now… the tension is felt all over Europe.

“So yes, I do feel scared, even though I feel supported by the Czech people.”

I have to ask you also, what do you think about what Israel is doing to Gaza right now?

“First of all, I see that people are calling for a ceasefire. We had a cease-fire. Until October 6 there was a ceasefire. And more than that, there was talk of a new peace agreement, involving Saudi Arabia.

“So of course, we want peace, we don’t want the death of civilians. I wish this would not be happening. But I think that Israel has to react and protect us. Bring our people home, you know.”

But will what they’re doing bring your people home? Will this kind of mass bombardment succeed in bringing home the kidnapped people?

“Right now the IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] actually freed one hostage. In Judaism they say that if you save one person it’s like you save the whole world. One person is saved – she’s back with her family.

“And right now, from what I understand, the aim is to eliminate Hamas, so we can actually in the future see better opportunities for the whole region – also for the Palestinians. This can happen only after Hamas is dismantled.”

But even still, some people will say, is it proportionate? The number of people killed, children killed – is it proportionate?

“What is proportionate? Does proportionate mean that we go into Gaza and we kidnap, rape, behead babies, burn elderly people alive, in their homes, put kids in the oven? This actually happened – there are reports of that. Would that be proportionate?

“I know that our country is doing what it can to minimise civilian casualties. I personally would never be happy for anyone dying, but I don’t see what can happen right now. I don’t see another way to eliminate Hamas.

“Unfortunately, they are using their own civilians as human shields. They are hiding in schools and in hospitals, cynically using Western media as they report it.

“But I know, and all reports show, that the IDF is trying to minimise civilian casualties.”