Let Our People Go: Captivity and Crisis
The word alone defies imagination. How can one conceptualize, relate to, or understand the agony of captivity…
Babies, women, men, elderly - kidnapped, mistreated, starved, raped, abused… because they are Jews, or were present in the abhorrent attack on the Jewish state on October 7, 2023. The worst terror infiltration and attack on Israeli soil left 1400+ dead, and 240 hostages in the hands of the evil barbarian Hamas and their Palestinian accomplices.
No denial efforts can erase the facts, but we must make sure they are known and continuously a part of evoking awareness as to what the hostages mean as a reflection of who Hamas and Islamofacsist Jewhaters of the pro-”Palestinian” movement really are.
How are people talking about it? Considering what ways we can engage with the event, or what it means for us in a spiritual, existential way?
The Hamas terror group, accompanied by thousands of ordinary and "innocent" Palestinians/Gazans raped, beheaded, burnt people alive, looted, and tortured them sexually and physically because they are Jewish. Then, they dragged off babies, young children, young women, men, and the elderly into captivity in Gaza, where they continue to starve, torture, and rape, incurring mental manipulation and tortures we cannot comprehend.
“What would you rather hear? That your family has been all slaughtered and burnt to death? Or that they are being held captive by Hamas in Gaza? Which is the better news?”
On the morning of October 7, they were told to remain in safe rooms with the door locked. When the initial attack ended, they left their homes for somewhere safer, similar to more than 130,000 other Israelis living in the South and near the Northern border. A person that my wife briefly dated before we met was murdered during the attack and his mother and brother are currently being held as hostages in Gaza. My kids can’t sleep at night. They are scared. I try to tell them that everything will be fine, but they hear in my voice that I am not sure that this is true. Still, in many ways, we were the lucky ones on that day because our close family and friends survived.
- from the remarks by Dr. Yahli Shereshevsky to the American Society of International Law
Hamas and other armed groups use hostages as human shields or as currency to negotiate an exchange. Deliberate intent was laid out in a manual entitled “How to take Captives,” which the Israeli army found among dead Hamas militants: “Separate and isolate (women and children/men). Kill the difficult ones and those who pose a threat.”
Even peace activists, die hard believers in the potential to live in harmony with the Gazans just a few kilometers away, could not be saved by their faith and pursuit of kindness that drove their compassionate acts.
LET OUR PEOPLE GO has been a rallying cry for Jewish freedom in every generation.
Emboldened by Moses in his plea to Pharoah, used as the chant calling for the release of Soviet prisoners of Zion, this should now be the call that every single Jew is making to every single organizational body that can do something, anything, to release our hostages.
While most of the world has moved on, we are still held to ransom by an evil terror group that has, in the cruelest possible way, stolen our children.
The first hostage release awakened us to the realities they are facing in the tunnels, at the hands of UNWRA teachers, hospital doctors, UN employees, and local civilians.
Testimonies document first-hand witness experience - yet the lies and denial are spreading worldwide.
What started with the pulling down of KIDNAPPED posters has transformed into an entire movement claiming there are no hostages, simultaneous to the claims that hostage taking is a legitimate form of resistance “by any means” in their attempt to commit a genocide against Israel.
Few are arrested or held accountable for their crime, and fewer places continue to recall the hostages at all as an issue worthy of consideration. The sadistic rape and butchery of women by Hamas, and not a single word is forthcoming of condemnation from world organizations that evidently protect, fight for, and look after the interests of women.
Small sparks of hope are extinguished quickly, and the despair and concern grows, as more and more hostages are reported as having been killed (Hamas claiming their death is the result of IDF bombing, in their continued success at blaming the Jews). The EU demanded a release of all the hostages in exchange for a ceasefire, but terror-supporting Qatar refuses to oblige the humanitarian needs, and the Red Cross continues to ignore their obligation - all because the victims are Israeli Jews.
Yet with the nationalities of the hostages spanning the globe, not a single country has made a unilateral declaration to release their citizens. Always the mention is couched in some apologetics for the hostage taking as if it is logical.
It is not resistance to steal children, young girls, women, men, and the elderly; this is terrorism. It is not resistance to invade another country, rape, burn, behead, and humiliate; this is terrorism.
“The hostage crisis in Gaza has few precedents. It involves mass hostage-taking of many countries’ citizens, efforts to negotiate during a major military operation, and the distribution of hostages across many locations. It may not approach the largest or longest hostage incident in history, but such an incident defies easy comparisons… All hostage crises are characterized by extreme danger to the hostages posed both by the hostage takers and by any rescue effort. Hostage-takers frequently kill hostages to communicate their resolve to their adversaries or to keep the incident in the news. Security forces have also frequently killed hostages in operations intended to resolve the crisis. Governments that have committed to the safety of their citizens must therefore tread extremely carefully, balancing the desire to resolve the crisis without giving in to the demands of hostage-takers with the desire to return the hostages safely home.”
Israel has a long and controversial history with hostage-taking, hostage swaps and hostage rescues — sometimes deadly ones. Previous governments have bargained for hostages and battled for them. Continuously a point of debate, what does the Torah tell us about the obligation to secure the release of hostages, pidyon shvuyim? Rambam wrote in the Mishneh Torah that ensuring the release of hostages comes before services and shelter to the poor.
Read more about Prisoner Exchange in Jewish Law
Hamas, the Tribe of Death, continues to taunt us with their horrific psychological and emotional trauma.
Israel, the Tribe of Life, might agree to impossible deals to release our captives - just as we recite in our prayers every day.
And we will keep praying, holding our breath, imagining their despair and hoping they are still alive and strong in spite of it all. "It can be extremely hard to lose a loved one, or to cope with the sense of helplessness we feel as more of our brothers and sisters are lost to this war. Sharing that sadness with others can be consoling and a way to remember them. For Israeli families, grieving can be overpowering and alienating. It feels like a double blow in a hostile world where Israel is being held responsible for the human cost." (Dr. Zieva Dauber Konvisser, trauma expert)
Since October 7, many have held an empty seat at their Shabbat and holiday tables. Some have lit candles as they recite the prayer for the release of captives we say every morning. Others have joined the efforts of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum at Hostage Square in Tel Aviv.
And in Israel and in Jewish families connected by heart and soul, we can feel the pain and we remain in agony.
So what are we to do, while waiting with baited breath? Do the petitions matter? The letter writing? The reels, the rallies, the posters? What we do know is that our efforts CANNOT stop. We must continue to say the Prayer for Hostages for those individuals still being held captive in Gaza. Together, our voice may pierce the heavens and our hope for מתיר אסורים (matir asurim, releasing prisoners) will be fulfilled - Hashem may not control the situation when the evil of men shows its power, but our faith and unity will help us outlast this, and all, fights for our existence and freedom.
People of conscience have seen enough evidence of intentional barbaric and genocidal crimes committed by the Palestinian people and their Hamas militants and leaders.
We must do all we can not only to demand of Israel’s leaders and soldiers to “Bring Them Home Now,” but to put pressure on the external bodies and organizations, policy makers, educators, and every human rights organization in the world to do more, say more, and never let the Jewishness of our hostages be an excuse for turning a blind eye to the humanitarian rights that are being violated.
The popular sentiments about broken hearts, heartfelt feelings, sympathy for "all victims of conflict," and other mushy musings may come from honest intentions.
But Israeli Jews continue to be brutalized as we speak by a heartless terror organization, and our hostages, our displaced citizens, and our nation living in trauma are being ignored.
It is a profound moral failure to deny Jewish human rights.
HAVE THE DIFFICULT DISCUSSIONS:With every effort being made by the Israeli government, the responsibility also rests on every Jew and friend of Israel to keep our captives in the attention of the world and call out the war crimes of Hamas again and again.Talk about the hostage crisis.
- Everyone became a witness to the kidnappings that were streamed live by the Hamas terrorists. How did you feel watching children, elderly, moms with babies, teens missing limbs and showing visible signs of rape, men young and old being taken from their homes? How did you understand what you were seeing?
- If someone hasn’t seen or denies the videos, how can we emphasize the message learned by watching them be paraded through the celebrating streets of Gazan civilians beating them with sticks?
- What ARE those messages that we think we can teach others in this war for humanity that Israel is fighting?
- Is ripping down posters of the kidnapped a crime? Should those people be arrested? Should they be fired from their jobs? Should this, or participation in any Hamas-Nazi rally, be on someone’s permanent record and prevented from further employment for their support of hate crimes?
- The videos of the kidnappings, murders and rapes are live, brutal, and heartwrenching. How is it that people are able to deny the evidence so easily? What do we need to understand from this?
- Innocent victims who sincerely wanted peace with the Gazans were viciously raped, beheaded, burned, and then dragged off into captivity on October 7. These Israeli Jews were happy to compromise to reach this peace but were betrayed by the people they sought to befriend. What can we learn? What do we do now with our hopes for peace?
- How do you think the hostages are sustaining hope while in captivity?
- Why did the hostage crisis already fade out of public consciousness?
- Is denial of the kidnappings antisemitic? How would you explain that, and to WHO would you try to talk about it with?
- Why is freeing the captives considered to be one of the most important mitzvot in Judaism?
- Yahya Sinwar - the mastermind behind October 7 - was released in the famous prisoner release deal for the return of Gilad Shalit. Now they are discussing releasing the prisoners who committed the rapes and beheadings and burning alive of Israel’s citizens. Is the life of the hostage, or their body if already murdered by Hamas as several have been, worth freeing those with blood on their hands?
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Create cold calling and email campaigns to organizational offices, educational institutions, and humanitarian efforts to make sure they are aware of the ongoing hostage crisis. Ask if they would join an effort to demand action for human rights of the Jewish captives.
- Send THIS article to friends and family, or educators and community leaders. Encourage them to share in a newsletter, or host a discussion event.
- What message would you send to someone who is a captive? Or has been released from captivity? Send your Healing Hearts letter here.