‘It's So Lonely And Dark’: Relatives Of Israelis Taken Hostage By Hamas Still Have No Clue About Their Whereabouts

‘It's So Lonely And Dark’: Relatives Of Israelis Taken Hostage By Hamas Still Have No Clue About Their Whereabouts

The country, which is built upon a lot of pain and suffering after the painful Holocaust, raised the generation that dream of peace.

Priyanka ChandaniUpdated: Monday, October 16, 2023, 10:16 PM IST
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Emily Hand |

Tel Aviv: Cry, pain, hate, and lifelong mourning is all that these roads leading to the Southern part of Israel narrate. People die but the places remain to tell the sad stories. You suddenly feel dwarf seeing the pain the families have endured in the last ten days of horror that has been boasted upon them with no fault of their own.

‘Death is a blessing for my daughter’

The country, which is built upon a lot of pain and suffering after the painful Holocaust, raised the generation that dream of peace. Unfortunately, peace never followed them. The surprise attack on October 7 has shaken the country. Every house here, cries for their dead family members or pray for the survival of those held hostage by Hamas. 

Thomas Hand, the father of eight-year-old Emily Hand received the fateful news after two days his daughter was murdered by the Hamas terrorists. She went to sleepover at her friend’s place in Kibbutz. “When they said, we found Emily and she is dead, I went ‘yes’,” Thomas breaks down. “And smiled. Because that’s the best news of the possibly that I knew I was hoping for. She was either dead or in Gaza. And if you know anything about what they do to people in Gaza, that is worse than death. The way they treat you, they have no food, no water. She would have been in a dark room, don’t know with how many people and terrified every day, minute and possible years to come. So, death was a blessing,” says Thomas. 

Emily Hand

Emily Hand |

‘Waiting for my daughter to surprise me again’

27-year-old Niv Raviv, who on Friday left for her home with boyfriend Nirel Zini to Kibbutz, Kfar Aza from Tel Aviv. 

‘I will update, they’re here. I am putting the phone down, praying.’ Niv told her mother on the phone. In one hand, Nirel held a knife and in the other the door of the secure room in his home. 

“She wanted to study for her exams and wanted some quiet so left with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend had planned to propose to her after eight years of relationship. Both met while serving in the army eight years ago. 

“On Saturday morning, I received her message that she had reached home but the next morning she called and was whispering on the call. She said ‘mom there are terrorists in my building and I am scared’. I told her to lock the door and hide under the bed. She couldn’t talk longer. That was the last call I had with my daughter,” says Tammy who hoped that her daughter was alive since the IDF told her that they didn’t find anybody in the house. “There was blood and the building had a lot of smoke but there was nobody. I know she is alive and will come home safe,” she said as she broke down. 

But on Friday, the difficult news arrived: Niv’s body was found and a few hours after that Nirel’s body was identified. “My daughter was killed by the terrorists,” she messaged us after a few hours after we spoke.

Tammy holds the pictures of her birthday party in August when her daughter and boyfriend surprised her with an Indian-theme party. ‘I love India so she planned everything that I loved about the country. She told me we will go to India after exams. She won’t come back,” says Tammy. 

Niv Raviv  and Nirel Zini

Niv Raviv and Nirel Zini |

Don’t know if my daughter is alive or not’

Eyal Ashel, the father of Roni Ashel, a 19-year-old soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas-ISIS terrorists on Saturday morning. The last message Roni's mother, Sharon, received from her was on Saturday at 9:27 in the morning. 

“Mom, I'm okay, don't worry about me, love you." Eyal hasn’t heard back from her daughter who was serving in the army at the South border of Gaza. “I don’t know what happened to my daughter. There’s no confirmation if she is alive or they killed her. I am praying that she is safe,” says Eyal.

Eyal Ashel

Eyal Ashel |

He saved us with his life’

Uri Rousso was a member of the on-call team at Kfar Aza last Saturday and went out to confront Hamas terrorists as they invaded his kibbutz. He managed to kill six of the attackers before he was gunned down. Uri’s wife Dafna and their three daughters, Maya 13, Alona 11, and Ye'ela 9, hid in the family’s safe room for 14 hours while the Hamas gunmen rampaged outside, killing Uri and their neighbours. 

“My kids saw their father being killed. They will live in terror for their entire life. He was a brave man and saved some lives. I am proud of him. But I don’t know what my kids and I did to deserve this. He saved us with his life. Our complete family has been broken and we have to live with it,” says Dafna.

Dafna with her kids were rescued by the Israeli army late on Saturday. Dafna and her daughters are now waiting to get Uri’s body so they can hold a funeral. 

No corner is less painful in Israel. The streets are dense, the houses are close. Shops are shut. There are no morning walks and evening parties, for each family is trying to know something about their missing or dead loved one. Each day, there is a funeral and the sight is deeply disturbing. No matter where you are from, and what religion you follow, anyone with a slightest of humanity will be baffled to see the families mourning and crying inconsolably. 

Talking to them isn’t easy. It’s disturbing to tell them to narrate the horrific event of their life they wished never occurred. The Gaza Strip of the southern part of Israel is full of families looking for their loved ones and the area is now completely under IDF’s control. Citizens are not allowed to visit the place. Thousands of volunteers are helping find bodies, pack them and deliver them to their families. 

‘One gun and six people to save, I failed’ 

While some stories express the helplessness of the family members and those killed, others tell the tales of bravery. Nani and his family have been living in Nirim Kibbutz close to the Gaza Strip for over 50 years. On Saturday morning at 6:30 am the missiles started. The couple Nani and Aviral ran to the safe room in their house. While Nil, their daughter, husband and three babies were at another house. Their other daughter Rimon and husband hid in a different Kibbutz close to Nirim. Rimon texted her mother that the terrorists are outside their window, and that they are shooting at her. “At 8:30 am on Saturday we lost contact with them, and when my husband’s family went to look for them the house was found with bullets and blood and they were not there,” says Nani, who was in the safe room for more than 30 hours defending the family with a gun. 

“I can’t even begin to say what it’s like to be alone, and scared. Not knowing what happened to my daughters, while you are not sure if you are going to survive,” says Nani, who along with her husband were taken to the hospital in Tel Aviv. They are still in the hospital not knowing the whereabouts of their daughter Rimon and her husband. Nil and her husband with their three kids were finally evacuated to the Dead Sea. But sadly, Rimon and her husband are still missing and most likely kidnapped to Gaza.

‘Kidnapped, Chained, and bruised, I see my son on a video’

It was just three months ago when 21-year-old son Almog completed his military service and was set to start a new job. Almog went out with friends to celebrate his last weekend of freedom before beginning his new job. What was meant to be a joyous occasion quickly transformed into a nightmare.

At 7:45 PM, Almog made a  call to his mother, Orit, during a rave party in Kibbutz Be'ery. He informed her that there were shootings and said that he loves her, leaving her in a state of terror and confusion. Hours later, the family received a video that had been spread by Hamas through Telegram. The video shows that Almog and several of his friends were seen beaten, bruised, and with their hands tied. The footage confirmed their worst fears and left them utterly distraught.

The family tracked Almog's mobile phone, which eventually found that it had crossed into Gaza. Two days later, an official message confirmed that Almog had been kidnapped by Hamas. Since that harrowing day, the family has been tirelessly and actively involved in trying to bring Almog back home alive. “I know my son has been kidnapped. It’s not easy to see your child being beaten and tied screaming for help. I want my son back. It’s been 10 days and I am heartbroken that I still couldn’t do anything to bring my son back home. As a mother I feel so helpless,” says Orit. 

21-year-old Almog with his mother

21-year-old Almog with his mother |

1,400 innocent civilians killed in a day, still counting 

Getting the news of your family member dying is painful but not knowing if they are alive or not is another level of unsettling pain. Nothing less, but the families here are devastated, yet they are holding strong. They cry for their loved ones but pray for those who are missing and for other families. But the one thing everyone in this war trodden county wants is to demolish Hamas. “I don’t know about my daughter. Maybe she is killed by the terrorist or alive, but I want the government of Israel to finish Hamas. I know none of us want any innocent person to die in Gaza despite all the atrocities on us, but Hamas needs to vanish from the earth. Our kids have sacrificed their lives and who knows how brutally they were treated and killed. They (Hamas) have to pay the price for doing these atrocities,” says Tammy.

Apart from Israel residents, hundreds of non-Israelis are killed and abducted. Families of those request the government to bring back their loved ones. Israel prime minister  Benjamin Netanyahu met the family members yesterday. The families demanded safe return of their children and parents. 

Meanwhile, people in Israel remain under terror. The war has now also moved to the northern and central part of Israel from the South's Gaza Strip. Thus far, more than 1,400 people have been murdered in Israel and more than 3,500 wounded to varying degrees. It is also reported that over 120 people are classified as missing or captive after being kidnapped and taken to Gaza. This is the highest number of Jews slaughtered in a single day since the Holocaust. 

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel,  among the victims, approximately 152 of those murdered and 141 of the missing hold foreign citizenship (including dual citizenship).

The IDF had taken complete siege of the Southern and Northern border of Israel. However, on Sunday, a missile fired from Lebanon killed four people. Hamas is still firing about 1,000 rockets every day, most of which are intercepted and neutralised by Iron Dome and destroyed in mid-air. However, the danger looms over the country with the IDF's ground invasion. Civilians run into underground shelters within 30 seconds upon getting the alert. The streets, public transport though open remain empty, super markets and malls are quiet. Accept it: ‘This is a war zone, nothing is normal and safety remains unpredictable’ 

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