After more than a hundred days since Hamas invaded southern Israel and committed atrocities on civilian and military populations near the Gaza border, the grind of the daily war news coverage—and the cascading reactions around the world—is causing fatigue and some indifference to set in. But there are activists determined to continue to advocate on behalf of the Israeli hostages and victims killed and tormented by Hamas. There are still 136 hostages in Gaza today.
Last week, I experienced the "Voices from the Tunnels" exhibit in an undisclosed location in East London. The exhibit and film screening organized by the 7/10 Human Chain Project aims to recreate the underground experience of the hostages based on survivor testimonies and information provided by the Israel Defence Forces. I met a small team outside on the street before verifying my identity and being escorted into an undisclosed decrepit building.
"Why is this exhibit done by invite only—there’s a lot of security around those who have been invited," I asked Orit Eyal-Fibeesh, one of the volunteer organizers.
"For the very exact reason you asked the question," she responded. Since October, millions have turned out globally to protest Israel in mass demonstrations often marred by instances of violent antisemitic threats and even support for Islamic extremism and terrorism. Some of those protesters make no distinction between Israelis or "Yahood" (Jews). I’ve witnessed many of those instances myself in my news coverage in London. One of the groups I covered that organized several large rallies, Hizb ut-Tahrir, was banned by the British government last week for terrorism.
Unfortunately, the extremism is not limited to the streets or social media. It is practically everywhere in London. A primary school in Leyton, East London, may be forced to close after being subjected to hateful protests and bomb threats for not allowing Palestine-related protest symbols.
An October 2023 pro-Palestine protest by terrorist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Britain. Photo: Andy Ngo
The "Tunnels" exhibit was held inside a decrepit dusty building that looked abandoned. Its dilapidated, desperate state was the carefully selected setting for a recreation of Hamas tunnels. As I was led underground to the building’s basement, bloodcurdling yells of "Allahu akbar" from terrorist video recordings echoed in the halls. The filthy floor was stained with trails of fake blood, showing what the dramatized rooms may have looked like as injured hostages were dragged in.
Two corpse props in the ‘Voices from the Tunnels’ secret exhibition. Photo: Andy Ngo
Discarded bloodied clothing lined the place and each room recreated spaces with faceless mannequins and props. One room depicted a mannequin in surgical gear standing next to a bloody mannequin lying on a makeshift operation table. Many hostages had injuries that required surgery. Returned hostages have testified some of the procedures were performed without anesthetic. In another room, two mannequins lay on the ground covered with bloody sheets. It’s unclear if they are meant to be dead Hamas militants or their hostages who died in Gaza.
In a recreation of a tactical Hamas operation room in the tunnel, two black-clad mannequins wearing green bands stood by weapons, rockets and an Islamic prayer mat. On a nearby table, a Quran respectfully laid. I found myself wanting to check repeatedly to make sure the shadow-like figures were just mannequins.
Mannequins posed as Hamas militants in a tunnel. Photo: Andy Ngo
One of the rooms imagined where child hostages were kept. Small mannequins sat subdued near dirty mattresses with crayons as toys. Israeli doctors treating child hostages who were returned in a brokered swap with Hamas say the children had been drugged with ketamine. They were suffering from withdrawal during treatment in Israel.
The exhibit featured several other rooms, all enhanced in an environment that was by default, filthy, dark and freezing cold. Attendees were forced to be physically uncomfortable.
A mannequin made to look like a hostage on a mattress in a Hamas tunnel. Photo: Andy Ngo
After returning upstairs, an IDF spokesperson led participants to a room for a screening of "Bearing Witness," an IDF-made video featuring compiled body camera, surveillance, mobile phone, first-responder and social media footage of some of the atrocities of Oct. 7.
Many write-ups have been made about the film since its private screenings began in November in cities around the world. The minimally edited documentary sparked intense backlash from anti-Israel activists, some who even tried to violently shut down a screening at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
The film is raw, graphic and brutal, but paradoxically not gratuitous. I had seen many of the clips or photos previously on social media in October as much of it was released by Hamas themselves through their Telegram channels to boast to the public. The militants killing people and mutilating their bodies did so while continually praising Allah with the same religious chants used by many of the demonstrators in Western capitals. Some of the young women who were shot in the head were also found bloodied in the genital area. Survivors have spoken at length about the sexual violence they witnessed. Their testimonies are denied by pro-Palestine activists.
There are news reports every day, sometimes every few hours, reporting the latest alleged casualty numbers in the Israel-Hamas war. Israeli officials report over 1,200 were killed on Oct. 7, 2023. For weeks, the numbers kept being revised because some human remains were so badly destroyed in the attacks that doctors could not confirm if it was one or more victims in a particular recovered body bag. It was also unclear how many were killed, missing or being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas. Hamas officials claim that over 24,000 Gazans have been killed by the IDF.
With so much changing information, disinformation and competing claims, people may be forgetting—or wanting to forget—the brutality of the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks. Efforts by activists in cities across the world to remember the hostages, many of them children, are sabotaged, sometimes violently, at every turn by Muslim and militant far-left activists who tear down the photos with glee.
The "Voices from the Tunnels" exhibit, lasting only five days in London, does its best to remind us why we can’t forget. That it can happen only to a limited, vetted audience due to safety concerns, speaks to another tragedy in itself.
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