CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Dozens of local Israel supporters gathered in Marshall Park Sunday to raise awareness about the roughly 200 hostages under Hamas control in Gaza.

On Friday, Hamas released two American hostages, citing a humanitarian agreement with the Qatari government.

At the rally, supporters sang the Israeli national anthem, participated in the Jewish tefillin-wrapping tradition, and shared their personal experiences and feelings about the conflict overseas. Organizers from Club Z, a local teenage Zionist organization, also passed out missing persons flyers for each of the hostages.

“People are saying that it’s not terrorism and that it’s justified because Israel is Israel. But if you look at what is happening, you don’t kidnap, rape, murder innocent women, children, kids,” said Club Z event organizer Eve Weiss. “It hurts because I’m just 17, and looking at all of these things, if you look at the hostages, their ages, what is happening to them, I can’t imagine how it must feel for my mother to think, ‘What if that was me?’”

Weiss’ father spoke to the group about the importance of keeping their gatherings peaceful, and the group’s desire to avoid any division within the community.

For some people in attendance, the reality in Israel and Gaza is much closer than simply watching it on TV. Rachel Berendt has three sons currently serving in the Israeli Defense Force. Two of them had already finished their service but were called back to the army once the fighting began.

She facetimed one of her sons, 21-year-old Yotam Berendt, during Sunday’s rally. He is from Charlotte and is currently stationed in Gaza.

“We don’t get to talk to him very often, so it’s a very special moment,” said Rachel. “I know that my boys are doing the right thing to support Israel. Israel needs them now.”

Yotam spoke briefly via Facetime to Queen City News.

“I’m fighting for my country, and I’m fighting for the freedom of my people. I’m so proud of everyone back home and all of the world supporting us. We love you all,” he said.

No counter-protestors attended Sunday’s rally.