Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Andrea Blanco

Sobbing families beg for Biden’s help to bring missing Israeli-Americans home


Sobbing families issued a heartbreaking plea for President Joe Biden’s help to bring missing Israeli-Americans home as they revealed the harrowing last moments they heard from their loved ones.

Gathered at the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv in front of a room full of reporters, the relatives of four American citizens shared their personal drama as they continue desperately searching for their loved ones days after Hamas launched an unprecedented terror attack on Israel over the weekend.

According to local media reports, more than 1,500 people have been killed in Israel and Gaza, while US officials confirmed at least 11 American fatalities in the ongoing conflict. During the press conference on Tuesday, families shared the Israeli government’s shortcomings in keeping them informed about the ongoing efforts to bring the missing home and demanded that the Biden administration choose to be “on the good side” of history.

The adult children of Adrienne Neta, a 66-year-old grandmother and dual citizen who was kidnapped from her home in Berum, recounted the haunting last call they had with their mother when terrorists barged inside her home. Adrienne’s daughter Dayana Neta said her mother had tried to reason with Hamas militants using the little Arabic she had learned in her career as a nurse before the call got cut off.

“When she walked into the delivery room she saw a human being in front of her. Not a religion, not a race, not a hijab, not an orthodox Jew – it was always the human being she saw,” Dayana Neta said as she held back tears. “When Hamas walked into my mother’s room in Berum? They saw her alone. But they did not see a human being.”

‘We’ve had zero communication from the Israeli government’

Dayana Neta described her mother as a compassionate and devoted healthcare provider who had brought “thousands” of lives into the world. Adriene’s son, Nahar Neta, also broke down in tears as he revealed that he had “zero communication” with the Israeli government

“I want to speak of the responsibility that President Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and that is to bring American citizens home safe and sound. I expect nothing less,” said Nahar Neta, who was brought up in Israel by his American mother but moved to the United States five years ago.

Adrienne’s daughter Dayana Neta said her mother was taken hostage by Hamas
— (Adrienne Neta/Facebook)

“I’m Israeli blunt and I want to be blunt ... and say we’ve had zero communication from the Israeli government,” he added. “I do have friends who are currently engaging in the combat and I can appreciate the total mayhem that the combat is creating, but I think that after three days it is more than reasonable to request that officials with the Israeli government approach us with any type of info on our family members.”

American severely injured, taken hostage

Meanwhile, the parents of 23-year-old Hersh Golberg-Polin said they had reason to believe their son was taken as a hostage by Hamaas at a festival in Re’im — a kibbutz about three miles from the Gaza border. More than 260 bodies have been recovered at the site of the Supernova Festival, and hundreds remain missing, the BBC reports.

Hersh’s mother Rachel Goldberg said that she received two final text messages from her son, hours later she found out through footage and people who were with Hersh when he was taken hostage that he had been severely injured.

“I woke up my two daughters so we could get in the bomb shelter. At 8.11, the first [text] said ‘I love you,’ and immediately at 8.11, he texted, ‘I’m sorry,’” Ms Godlberg said. “I took it to mean, ‘I’m sorry and I love you because whatever happened is going to cause you tremendous pain and worry.’ I’ve not heard from him since that text.”

Hersh Golberg-Polin, 23, has not been seen or heard from since Saturday
— (The Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies/Facebook)

Ms Goldberg said that she was told by people who were hiding in the same bomb shelter as her son that his arm had been “blown off.”

“He was sitting at a bombs shelter, terrorists came to the door, they were throwing grenades in, shooting machine guns,” the mother said. “We know that Hersh’s arm, from the elbow down, was severed, and that he tied a tourniquet around with his shirt. Hamas came after the gunfire settled down and said, ‘Anyone who can walk, stand up and get out.’”

Ms Goldberg said that she was told her son appeared calm and that his phone last pinged near the border with Gaza.

Following Israel’s retaliatory attacks on Tuesday, the spokesman of Hamas’s military wing said the group was responding to heavy bombarding of Gaza’s residential areas and threatened to execute one civilian hostage every time Israel launched an attack “without prior warning.”

‘We ask the US not to take a backseat’

Another American missing is Itay Chen, a 19-year-old US-Israeli dual-citizen who was serving with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on the border with Gaza, according to his father Ruby Chen. Mr Chen spoke directly to reporters on Tuesday, asking them not to bury his personal tragedy under loaded headlines.

Itay has been described as missing in action after he stopped any communications with his family and the IDF on Saturday morning. He is not listed as deceased and authorities have not located him at any area hospital, prompting fears that he was taken hostage, his father said.

“I just want to ask all of you here and those listening to us. Please do not think of us just as a headline, we are more than that,” Mr Chen said. “Itay, in order to be at home this weekend [for his brother’s Bat Mizvah], was at his base this previous weekend. So we could all be home celebrating the Bar Mitzvah, we still hope for that celebration.”

Itay Chen, a 19-year-old US-Israeli dual-citizen who was serving with the Israel Defence Force (IDF) on the border with Gaza
— (Itay Chen/ABC)

Mr Chen said that his son joined the Israeli army a year ago. He said that he had been contacted by the US Embassy but hoped to sit down with State Department officials in the following days to discuss what they could do for their son, whom he described as a prisoner of war.

“We want to go back to become a family again,” Mr Chen added. “We ask the US not to take a backseat, the US has a lot of resources and can do things that the Israeli government can’t do.”

‘They had one thing in mind .... to kill, maim and destroy’

Jonathan Dekel-Chen also joined the press conference on Tuesday to plead for the safe return of his 35-year-old son Sagui Dekel-Chen, who was led away by terrorists in Nir Oz, a kibbutz of about 400 people. Mr Dekel-Chen spoke out about the tragedies the besieged community had experienced in the last three days, saying that he hoped the US government did anything in its power to rescue his son.

“[Nir OZ] was destroyed in a barbaric attack in which dozens of my friends and neighbours were killed and attacked,” Mr Dekel-Chen, originally from Connecticut, said. “He is an arm’s length away from me in Gaza, but couldn’t be farther from me and my family right now.”

35-year-old son Sagui Dekel-Chen was led away by terrorists
— (Sagui Dekel-Chen/Fox)

Mr Dekel-Chen is a father-of-two with one on the way. The worried father said that the community in Nir Oz had come together, trying not only to make sense of the senseless violence they had experienced but also to gather efforts to help locate their missing loved ones.

The contact with Israeli officials had been “limited,” Mr Dekel-Chen said.

“Hundreds of heavily armed, well-organised terrorists walked and ran over the border with one [thing] in mind,” Mr Dekel-Chain said. “And that’s to kill, maim and destroy civilian life within the border.

He continued: “The US always wants to be on the side of good ... the Hamaas are evil and when we witness this kind of savagery, this kind of inhumanity, it must be stopped.”

Israeli-Americans plead for safe return of loved ones missing after Hamas terror attack
Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.