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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
The Associated Press

Waiting for news, families of Israeli hostages in Gaza tell stories of their loved ones

Rachel Goldberg

They range from babies to the elderly. Most are civilians. Israel says at least 199 people taken during the Hamas attack are being held captive in Gaza.

Some of their families received frantic phone calls or texts during the attack. Others heard nothing and later saw video evidence their loved ones were taken.

For now, they wait, desperate to find out whether the hostages are even alive. And they tell their stories. Here are some of them.


Yaffa Adar loved reading, writing and keeping connected. Even at 85 she often sent her family messages and GIFs on WhatsApp. She was active on Facebook, her granddaughter recalls.

Keeping in close touch online became especially important in recent years as she found it harder to walk beyond her home in Nir Oz, a kibbutz near the Gaza Strip. Amid that physical struggle, she kept her mind busy and knew what she wanted, her granddaughter said.

“She loved reading,” Adva Adar recalled. “So we were like, ”We’re going to get you a Kindle.” What did her grandmother say? "‘No, I like the smell of the paper in books.’”

So when Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre at Nir Oz ended and no one could find Adar, her family worried. That concern turned to horror when video surfaced showing her being driven in a golf cart in Gaza, wrapped in a pink-flowered blanket.

The footage was among the first evidence that Hamas fighters had not only killed Israelis — more than 1,400, the vast majority civilians — but had dragged dozens back to Gaza regardless of age in the most complex hostage crisis the country has ever faced.

Some people speculated that Yaffa Adar’s unflinching demeanor in the video perhaps meant she didn’t understand what was happening.

Not her family, which includes three children, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandkids.

“She absolutely knew what was going on around her. She wasn’t going to panic,” her granddaughter said.

What’s frightening now is that her grandmother doesn’t have her medication for blood pressure and chronic pain.

“She was really the glue of our family. She loved her life,” Adva Adar recalls. “She liked good food and she liked good wine. She was very young-minded.”

— Laurie Kellman


“Mom, I’ll unpack my suitcase when I get back,” Maya Regev told her mother that Friday night, in a rush to get going. “See you tomorrow.”

And within a half-hour of returning to Israel from a family trip overseas, 21-year-old Maya and her brother Itay, 18, were on their way to the Tribe of Nova music festival, planning to dance the night away.

It was a typical activity for the duo, who both love to be on the move, gather with friends, and especially to travel, said their parents, Ilan and Mirit Regev. Maya had already bought her ticket for an extended trip to South America in December.

But early the next morning, Ilan Regev’s phone rang. It was a frantic Maya. “Dad, they shot me, they shot me!” she screamed in a recording the family has released. “He is killing us, Dad, he is killing us.”

Her father begged her to send her location, to find a place to hide. “I’m coming,” he said.

Ilan Regev jumped in his car from his home in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, and sped south to the festival site, where he was barred from entering. Soon, the Regev family discovered a Hamas video that showed Itay in captivity in Gaza.

Maya was not pictured, but the army has told the family both were hostages in Gaza. Officials gave no further information.

“I want to know that my kids are alive,” said Ilan Regev Added their mother: “We don’t know if they are eating. We don’t know if they are drinking. If they are hurt.”

— Jocelyn Noveck


His mother describes Hersh Goldberg-Polin as like a lot of other young people.

The 23-year-old from Jerusalem loves music, wants to see the world and, now that he’s finished his military service, has plans to go to university, his family says. But first he has to come home.

Goldberg-Polin was last seen on Oct. 7, when Hamas militants loaded him into the back of a pickup with other hostages abducted from the music festival where at least 260 people were killed.

Despite those harrowing accounts, his mother, Rachel Goldberg, holds out hope she will see him again.

“He’s a survivor,” Goldberg said of her son, whose grin beams out from behind a sparse, youthful beard in family photos. “He’s not like this big, bulky guy. But I think that survival has a lot to do with where you are mentally.”

Born in Berkeley, California, Goldberg-Polin moved to Israel with his family when he was 7 years old.

As a child, he wanted to learn about the world, poring over maps and atlases to learn the names of capital cities and mountains. Later he became a fan of psychedelic trance music and once took a nine-week trek through six European countries so he could attend a series of raves.

Not surprising then, that he and some friends headed to the Tribe of Nova music festival, billed as a place “where the essence of unity and love combines forces with the best music.”

That vibe was shattered by gunmen who stormed into Israel from the nearby Gaza Strip.

Witnesses said Goldberg-Polin lost part of an arm when the attackers tossed grenades into a temporary shelter where he and others had taken refuge, but he tied a tourniquet around it and walked out before being bundled into the truck.

Family and friends have organized the “Bring Hersh Home” campaign on social media, hoping he will still be able to take a planned backpack trip through southern Asia.

But first his mother hopes someone helps her son.

“It will require like the biggest heroism and strength and courage, but I want someone to help out and I want someone to help all of those hostages.”

— Danica Kirka


Ada Sagi was getting ready to travel to London to celebrate her 75th birthday with family when Hamas militants attacked her kibbutz and took her hostage.

The trip was supposed to be a joyous occasion after a year of trauma. Her husband died of cancer last year, she had struggled with allergies and was recovering from hip replacement surgery. But the grandmother of six was getting through it, even though it was hard.

“They had a very, very, very strong bond of 54 years,” her son Noam, a psychotherapist in London, told The Associated Press. “And my mum, this is her main thing now, really, just getting her life back after dealing with the loss of my dad.”

Ada Sagi was born in Tel Aviv in 1948, the daughter of Holocaust survivors from Poland. She moved to a kibbutz at the age of 18, not for religious reasons but because she was attracted by the ideals of equality and humanity on which the communal settlements were built.

A mother of three, Ada decided to learn Arabic so she could make friends with her neighbors and build a better future for her children. She later taught the language to other Israelis as a way to improve communication with the Palestinians who live near Kibbutz Nir Oz, on the southeastern border of the Gaza Strip.

That was, for many years, her mission, Noam said.

While he hopes his mother’s language skills will help her negotiate with the hostage-takers, he is calling on the international community for assistance.

“The only hope I have now is ... for humanity to do something and for me to see my mother again and for my son to see his grandmother again,” he said. “I think we need humanity to actually flex its muscle here, and” — by telling her story — “that is all I’m trying to do.”

— Danica Kirka


Because of the fracture in her right leg, Karin Journo had talked herself out of going to the Tribe of Nova music festival and sold her ticket. But a week before Hamas militants turned the party into a killing ground, she bought another.

The 24-year-old French-Israeli airport worker who loved to travel had learned that a bunch of her friends were going to celebrate the departure of one of them to the United States. She didn’t want to miss out.

Before heading out to dance, she snapped a photo of herself in her party gear — black shorts and black halter top for a joyous night of electronic music in a dusty field. She’d left her long dark hair untied and painted her nails bright red. She was clearly excited, giving a V-sign in her selfie.

And dance she did: Video shot that night showed her waving her arms to the thumping beats, though she was rooted to the spot by the gray protective boot that encased her right foot and calf all the way up to her knee.

It made her easy to recognize in subsequent video footage filmed as Hamas started to launch its deadly attack.

Sheltering behind a car with a friend, her face was marked with worry. With explosions echoing in the background, she looked around anxiously in another. In a final video, she is seen sitting just outside the open door of an ambulance, wearing a brown hoodie borrowed from a friend. Two people were laid out inside the vehicle, not moving.

At 8:43 a.m. that Saturday morning she sent a final text to her loved ones, according to her father, Doron Journo: “To the whole family, I want to say that I love you a lot, because I am not coming home.”

“Since that message, we have heard nothing. We don’t know if she is dead, if she is in Gaza. We know nothing,” the father says.

“My daughter didn’t go to war,” he says. “She just went to dance.”

—- John Leicester


David Moshe was born in Iraq. So decades later in Israel, his wife, Adina, cooked his favorite Iraqi food, including a traditional dish with dough, meat and rice.

But what really delighted the family, their granddaughter Anat recalls, was Adina’s maqluba — a Middle Eastern meal served in a pot that is flipped upside-down at the table, releasing the steaming goodness inside. Pleasing her husband of more than a half-century, Anat Moshe says, was her grandmother’s real culinary priority.

“They were so in love, you don’t know how in love they were,” the 25-year-old said. Adina Moshe “would make him his favorite food, Iraqi food. Our Shabbat table was always so full.”

It will be wracked with heartbreak now.

On Saturday, Hamas fighters shot and killed David Moshe, 75, as he and Adina huddled in their bomb shelter in Nir Oz, a kibbutz about two miles from the Gaza border. The militants burned the couple’s house. The next time Anat Moshe saw her grandmother was in a video, in which Adina Moshe, 72, in a red top, was sandwiched between two insurgents on a motorbike, driving away.

Her grandmother hasn’t been heard from since, Anat Moshe said. She’d had heart surgery last year, and is without her medication.

Still, Anat Moshe brightened when she recalled her family life in Nir Oz. The community was the birthplace and landscape of Adina and David’s romance and family. The two met at the pool, Anat said. Adina worked as a minder of small children, so generations of residents knew her.

But all along, low-level anxiety hummed about the community’s proximity to Gaza.

“There was always like some concern about it, like rumors,” Anat Moshe recalled. “She always told us that when the terrorists come to her house, she will make her coffee and put out some cookies and put out great food.”

__ Laurie Kellman


Delicate pearls peek out from silver and stainless steel chains — bits of brightness and optimism among Moran Stela Yanai’s jewelry designs that reflected cultures around the world.

Creating art to wear has been Yanai’s joy, but not the only one, her brother-in-law Dan Mor said. Yanai, a 40-year-old Israeli who disappeared after a desert rave on Saturday, also fiercely protected people and animals.

“Moran is the softest soul,” recalls Dan Mor, whose wife, Lea, is Moran’s sister. “She could almost be annoying with how much she was so kind and sensitive to animals. You couldn’t eat meat because she was so sensitive to animals being harmed — not just pets but farm animals and wild animals.”

Mor has a hard time speaking of Yanai in the past tense. But that’s the least of his family’s unknowns in the wake of her disappearance — and the family’s horror at recognizing her in a video on TikTok that surfaced later. In it, Yanai is sitting on the ground, looking terrified, amid derogatory Arabic text about Jews.

Days earlier, Yanai had posted a video on Instagram on her way to the rave, where she hoped to sell her designs. She posted a second video, recorded by a friend, of her designs displayed on a table at the festival.

“Moran, kind hearted, never caused pain to anyone, not even a fly,” reads the accompanying text. Her work, Mor said, is inspired by cultures around the world, including Chinese and Arab.

Mor, an actor, said his family in Tel Aviv is feeling Moran’s absence deeply and trying to fill the wait by telling the world about her.

“My beautiful dear sister-in-law, auntie to my kids,” he said. “She had a big heart, she has a big heart, and I’m hoping that heart is still pumping.”

— Laurie Kellman

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