On the 75th International Human Rights Day, climate change representatives from 25 organizations united to advocate for human rights and social justice for those held captive in Gaza.


BRING OUR SUNHINE BACK, climate activists gather together to form a sign for the hostages being held captive in Gaza. (photo credit: OFER MERIASH)
BRING OUR SUNHINE BACK, climate activists gather together to form a sign for the hostages being held captive in Gaza.(photo credit: OFER MERIASH)

“How can we talk about environmental justice when basic human rights were violated on October 7 and continue to be violated to this very day?” shouted Dr. Nirit Lavi-Alon in the center of Captives Square on Sunday.

For over three decades, Lavi-Alon has been a dedicated climate activist.

On Sunday, however, she spoke as the mother of Inbar Heiman’s partner, presently a hostage in Gaza, at a gathering of almost 400 passionate climate activists in the square. 

Their collective voice resonated on the 75th International Human Rights Day, advocating for human rights and social justice for those held captive in Gaza.

Bring our sunshine back 

Representatives came from 25 organizations, including the Society for the Protection of Nature; Greenpeace Israel; Green Movement; Adam, Teva V’Din; Zalul; and EcoOcean. They met with some of the hostages’ families and created a large display of a sun made from yellow umbrellas. The phrase “bring our sunshine back!” was written in the middle. 

“We embrace the families and call for the immediate release of the kidnapped,” explained the event’s initiators. “It is our duty to stand by the families anxiously waiting for their loved ones. The purpose of the display is to convey a message: Every kidnapped person is a world in their own right and a ray of sunshine to their surroundings and us all. Just as the sun serves as a symbol of good and the future in the climate and environmental world, so does the return of the hostages.”

Lavi-Alon said that while she has been active in Israel’s environmental movement for 35 years, for the past 65 days, she has become part of the family of hostages. Heiman, she said, “is like a daughter to me. She is [Noam’s] happiness.”

“Inbar, 27, and my son Noam were supposed to start their fourth year of art and visual communication studies at [the WIZO Haifa Academy of Design and Education]. They were just waiting for their studies to end so they could start their real life together, get married, start a family, and be ‘grown-ups.’

“Inbar is a creative and talented young woman,” she said. “She loves to draw, listen to music, and dance, and she went with friends to the NOVA Festival to enjoy these things before returning to studies. She went there as a volunteer to help those in need. That’s who she is. Always helpful, with a big and open heart.”

Lavi-Alon said that according to testimonies from two Israelis who hid with her in the last hours before she was abducted, she was kidnapped on a motorcycle. According to a Hamas video, she was injured. Since October 7, the family has heard nothing of Heiman’s whereabouts.

“We don’t know if she’s alive, if she received treatment, if she’s alone, or who is holding her hostage,” Lavi-Alon said. “This uncertainty is unbearable

The focus of activists shifts to Israeli hostages

She said climate activists like herself usually use International Human Rights Day to discuss environmental justice and equality. However, this year, she said she could not talk about these issues when Israeli hostages are being “held in inhumane conditions and, worst of all, prevented from fundamental human rights by the Red Cross and access to medication.

“I appeal to our friends in the global environmental movement and to all nations of the world, especially the United States, Egypt, and Qatar: Help us bring justice to the kidnapped. Help us bring them home now,” Lavi-Alon concluded. 

The rally came after a similar rally over the weekend in Dubai by anti-Israeli climate activists, who complained to the media that they faced “unprecedented restrictions” at the United Nations climate change conference when trying to protest against the Jewish state. 

According to reports from journalists who attended a press conference by these activists at COP28, strict rules were in place around protests, which are generally banned in the United Arab Emirates. This was particularly evident in the context of discussions surrounding the Israel-Hamas war.

Israel sent only a tiny official delegation to the climate conference due to the war. Israeli participants told The Jerusalem Postthat the Emirates largely embraced them. However, several petitions and smaller protests have erupted during the conference, including a small protest outside the pavilion on its opening day. 

There have been multiple calls at the conference and internationally to link environmental justice and Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Last week, climate activist Greta Thunberg penned an op-ed for the Guardian titled “We won’t stop speaking out about Gaza’s suffering – there is no climate justice without human rights” on behalf of the climate organization in which she is involved, Fridays for Future Sweden.

In the op-ed, Thunberg accuses Israel of imposing “a siege, preventing food, medicine, water, and fuel from reaching the 2.3 million Palestinians trapped in the occupied Gaza Strip.” 

Israel has allowed hundreds of aid trucks into Gaza since the start of the war. The IDF has said it found dozens of rockets and other Hamas weaponry hidden under boxes with UNRWA markings.

Thunberg came under fire in October when she took a photo of herself holding a sign that read “Stand with Gaza” and posted it on X. She was also recently filmed chanting “crush Zionism” at a rally. 

“Our response to Greta: Strong and clear solidarity with the hostage families,” Elad Hochman, executive director of Green Course, told the Post. “Throughout the year, we at Green Course, Strike for Future-Israel, and the entire environmental movement promote a better reality for the future of our children and our families out of a belief in equality and justice. It is our duty to demand the safe return of our extended family, safe and sound – now.”