The Faces of the Hostages

The Fellowship  |  February 27, 2024

Families of hostages, Hamas terrorists, Gaza, Israeli border
(Photo: Flash90)

As I walk near The Fellowship’s Israel office, I stop to look, once again, at the faces of the hostages. After more than four months, most of the posters with their pictures are still on billboards, store windows, and walls of buildings. Out of the more than 200 hostages taken to Gaza by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 134 are still being held captive.

Because it is winter, some of the posters have ripped or fallen off in the wind and rain. These posters were hung up a few days after the war began and can be seen in cities across Israel. They keep these brave people, none of whom I know personally, in my thoughts and in my heart. A few are pictures of hostages that were fortunately released, but so many more are people who have not been heard from since the day they were cruelly kidnapped, some from their own beds, by wicked, vile terrorists with no thought or respect for human life.

Save a Life, Save the World

It says in the Talmud that whoever saves one life saves an entire world. I think about this as I pass the pictures of the hostages, looking into their eyes, noticing their smiles. Each one is a whole world. Each one has a family, friends, people that love them. And God willing, they will have a future filled with life and love and opportunity. Yet for them, time is standing still as long as they are still in captivity. How much longer will it be until they can return to their lives and loved ones?

About two weeks ago, two hostages were heroically rescued from captivity by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. When I heard this wonderful news, I was uplifted. I cheered the amazing IDF. This is what I have been hoping and praying for. Now I am waiting for either the release or the next daring rescue of hostages, but of course no one knows if or when that will happen. While there is constant talk of negotiations, in my opinion, Hamas is playing games. It seems to me that the only way the rest of the hostages will come home is if they are rescued. But we can only wait and see what will happen next.

Separated Families

At the beginning of the war, most of us stayed home. Many of us couldn’t go to work. Schools and kindergartens were closed. Young parents had to juggle full-time jobs with keeping small children happy and safe while staying close to safe rooms and shelters. Often, husbands were called into the army reserves, and wives had to take care of the home front on their own.

We have young mothers working in The Fellowship’s Israel office who were in that situation for months. (Happily, some of the husbands have returned from reserve duty.) Some young mothers were even called up too. I have a friend whose daughter was called to the army reserves and had to leave her four-month-old son behind with her husband. This woman has an important role in the IDF and had no choice but to leave her baby behind and report for duty. The grandparents on both sides pitched in to care for the baby so that the husband could work. Fortunately, my friend was finally released after three months and today is back home with her husband and child.

Another young couple I know were expecting their first child when October 7 happened. The husband is a career soldier, so even in quiet times – though in Israel, there are seldom times when it is entirely quiet – he is in the army and only comes home for weekends. This young husband has been fighting in Gaza since the beginning of the war. The wife moved in with her parents and when she went into labor in December was somehow able to get a message to her husband that the baby was on the way. Amazingly, he was able to get leave, and three or so hours later he arrived exhausted at the Jerusalem hospital in time to welcome his daughter into the world. Imagine the emotional rollercoaster of a couple who haven’t seen each other in months being reunited at the birth of their child! He was able to stay with her for two days and then had to return to his unit in Gaza.

There are many, many stories like this. Some people don’t call the situation in Israel an emergency anymore, they call it an “emergency routine.” Think about it, friends. There should not be such a thing as an “emergency routine.” Routine is something regular, expected, every day. A war cannot be routine no matter how long it goes on. It is not something we can get used to. No matter how many wars Israel has had to fight, and no matter how long they go on, war is never routine.

An Uncertain Future

And yet, life goes on. Some of us continue to stay glued to news reports. Others cope better by limiting their exposure to TV, radio, and internet news. There are still thousands of residents of the south and the north who have been evacuated from dangerous areas and are in temporary living situations, refugees in their own country. Some are beginning to return to their homes, and others do not want to or are afraid to, which makes total sense in the circumstances. Security will not come back until Israel destroys Hamas completely.

There are still so many question marks about the future. Nevertheless, I will go outside on this sunny winter day and enjoy the sun after so many days of rain. The continuing war and the hostages are in my thoughts every day. But when I laugh and play with my grandchildren, I still have faith that they will grow up in an Israel that is safe, secure, and continues to flourish. For them, one day this story will be just a memory.

Miriam Lock

February 25, 2024

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