Family and supporters of Emily Hand, the Irish-Israeli girl who was thought to have been killed in the Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7 but is now believed to have been taken hostage, gathered in Dublin and other cities to mark her ninth birthday on Friday, November 17.
The Embassy of Israel in Dublin shared photos and clips of the solemn observance in Ireland on X, formerly Twitter, on Friday, the day of Emily's ninth birthday.
Today, we mark the sad birthday of Emily Hand, turning 9 while in captivity of Hamas terrorists.— Israel in Ireland (@IsraelinIreland) November 17, 2023
We call for the immediate release of Emily and the rest of those kidnapped. #BringThemHomeNow pic.twitter.com/f380v06pE3
Emily Hand was at a sleepover at a friend's house in Kibbutz Be’eri when Hamas launched their attacks on October 7.
Afterward, her father Thomas Hand, a native of Dún Laoghaire, made headlines when he told CNN that he felt it was a "blessing" that his daughter had been killed as opposed to being kidnapped.
On Friday, Anna Byrne, a cousin of Thomas, was in attendance at the gathering to mark Emily's birthday at St. Stephen's Green in Dublin.
“We are so thankful to the organizers of today, the whole family is so thankful for keeping Emily in everybody’s hearts and minds,” Byrne said, according to The Press Association.
“Especially today. It is quite sad today because we were hoping to have her home for her birthday. We don’t know what type of birthday she is having.
“I just thought I would come today to represent the family and to be here for Emily and to wish her a happy birthday.”
Byrne added: “We are trying to keep strong and positive. We worry about Tom, he is doing so much and it is hard for him to keep going.
“It is a horrific time so we just try to give as much support as we can and send our love and best wishes, but it is hard.
“You feel useless, not being able to do anything and they are so far away. None of us can go to Israel so it is very hard but we are keeping positive and just praying and hoping.
“The family are so positive, that is the thing that is keeping us all going, the positivity that we are going to see Emily.”
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Micheál Martin, who was in Egypt, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territory this week, said in a statement on Friday that he remains "deeply concerned about the situation of hostages in Gaza, and call for their immediate and unconditional release.
“Today, Emily Hand will turn 9. This loving and talented young girl needs to be returned to her family immediately.
“My Department will leave no stone unturned in pursuing that outcome.”
Update on Irish citizens crossing from Gaza into Egypt pic.twitter.com/JdFPuEJChm— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) November 17, 2023
The Tánaiste met with Emily's father in Dublin on Tuesday. Thomas, who was in Ireland to drum up support for his daughter and the other hostages, also met with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and President Michael D. Higgins during his visit this week.
On Friday, Thomas was in New York City for the unveiling of a billboard and posters from the Hostage and Missing Families Forum calling for the release of the hostages.
”I was praying for a miracle that she’d be out by her birthday,” Thomas told local paper Westside Spirit.
Thomas was joined in Times Square by Israeli couple Rob Anders and Odelia Torteman who came up with the idea for the posters and billboard.
“This billboard says not only is Emily not home on her birthday, blowing out candles, but she is one of now 238 hostages being held in Gaza,” Anders said.
Members of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum also gathered outside of the private residence of UN Secretary-General António Guterres in New York City on Friday, where they sang birthday songs in Emily’s honor and read the names of all the hostages.
Right now, outside of the UN Secretary-General's private residence, members of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum are *shouting and directing their words at the UN Secretary-General as he leaves his residence: "Come celebrate Emily's birthday with us! Do you even care at all… pic.twitter.com/4M8Glsx3mA— The Jewish Voice (@JewishVoice) November 17, 2023
Emily's birthday was also marked outside of the London offices of Save the Children on Friday where a party scene was set up with an empty seat for each of the 30 child hostages.
Emily Hand should be celebrating her 9th birthday today but she remains in Hamas captivity, one of more than 30 children stolen from their families.
A party scene was set up outside the London offices of Save the Children - each seat empty as we long for them all to be freed pic.twitter.com/vHcpx6MsXr— Jewish News (@JewishNewsUK) November 17, 2023