Berkeley hostage rally
Pro-Israel demonstrators hold Israeli flags and hostage posters on a Berkeley overpass on Sunday. (Ido Bartana)

Berkeley rally for hostages focuses on Amazon employee held in Gaza

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About 75 people gathered on a Berkeley highway overpass on Sunday to call for the release of all hostages held in Gaza, living or not. 

The event, “Coffee for Sasha,” focused on one hostage in particular: Sasha Troufanov, who was kidnapped Oct. 7 from Kibbutz Nir Oz, along with his girlfriend, mother and grandmother. His father, Vitaly Trufanov, was murdered that day. 

The women have since been released, but Troufanov remains in Gaza, his fate unknown. The 28-year-old engineer works for Annapurna Labs, an Israeli chip company owned by Amazon.

Organizers served coffee to rallygoers in recognition of Troufanov’s habit of drinking coffee every afternoon with his friends, according to David Holsey of Hayward, who helped organize the event.

This was the fourth monthly vigil at the Berkeley site above Interstate 80, Holsey told J. Attendees waved posters along with U.S. and Israeli flags at the traffic passing below.

“We have learned that up to half of the remaining 120 hostages may be dead but, still, look at the recent hostage rescue,” Holsey said, referring to the June 8 Israel Defense Forces’ mission that brought four hostages home. “So there’s a mixed bag of good and bad.”

A pro-Palestinian man showed up with a Palestinian flag, Holsey reported. The protester was joined “by a few friends,” he said, and police officers showed up but no arrests were made and the incident ended quietly.

Holsey has created a WhatsApp group called Berkeley Overpass Israel Solidarity Rallies to alert supporters to upcoming vigils. The next one is set for July, he said.