Two mothers and a father share their despair when their world went dark when their sons were taken captive by Hamas as Thursday marked 60 days since the brutal Hamas October 7 attack on Israel.
For Iris Haim and Idit Ohel, whose sons Yotam Haim, 28 and Alon Ohel, 22, and Jonathan Dekel-Chen, whose son Sagui Dekel-Chen, 35, were taken hostage by Hamas the wait and not knowing anything about their family members have been excruciating.
When Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, a day called by Israeli’s as ‘Black Sabbath’ 1,200 people, mostly civilians were massacred and more than 240 were abducted to Gaza.
After a week-long truce that began on November 24 and ended December 1, 110 hostages- mostly women and children – were released by the extremist Palestinian militant group.
But, when the ceasefire collapsed the fighting between Israel and Gaza resumed leaving 138 people that still remain in Hamas captivity, including Yotam, Alon and Sagui.
At a press conference on Tuesday held by The Missing Families and Hostages Forum and produced by Media Central called: ‘Bring Back my CHILD! both mothers spoke.
Each shared their heartbreak and the last recordings, text messages and exact moment they lost all contact with their child, and their resolve in getting their child home.
Abducted from Kibbutz Kfar Aza: Yotam Hamin, 28, was hiding at his kibbutz in a safe room when he was abducted on October 7. His mother Iris said, ‘my son is a very charming boy. He is a musician. A drummer. He likes pets. He likes music. He likes sports. He was playing in a heavy metal band in Israel. He had a lot of dreams and plans on that day- on that morning of October 7 – our Black Sabbath’
Abducted from the Nova Music Festival: Alon Ohel, 22, a talented pianist. ‘He loves music. His music is part of his life. Everywhere he goes he plays. He was playing in the Phillipines just a month and a half ago before he was kidnapped. He was traveling all over Asia and was playing piano at every pub he went inside because he knew he was doing a good thing’
Abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz: Sagui Dekel Chen, 35, was taken hostage from his home. The loving father has two daughters, 6 and 3 years old, and his wife is expecting a third child
For Iris Haim that moment came at 10.44am when her son Yotam, who was hiding in a safe room in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, told his mother that terrorists were ‘shooting at the house, shooting the door, shooting the safe room and burning the house.’
Their conversation began at 6.30am but became more frantic after her son discovered that it wasn’t a missle strike taking place, but a terror attack happening in his kibbutz.
A panicked Iris, said her son who suffers from some mental and medical issues was alone and ‘afraid.’
She tried to call the police and the army but to no avail.
Though she and her son’s father live in a nearby moshav, she said that Yotam’s father wanted to get to their son, but were unable to as there were terrorists all around killing people.
‘We couldn’t help,’ she wept. ‘We knew we couldn’t help as a mother and a father we were so helpless.’
Calling his mother ‘mamou’ the endearing name, her son began using after a mother-son trip to France, she began to cry as she recalled the last time they would speak before they lost all communication.
‘Mamou I hope I will survive this…. I don’t know if I will survive, but I love you…. ask for help…. please…please… send someone please … I don’t have air… I cannot breathe.’
A musician and drummer in a heavy metal band, Iris said her son planned to play at a music festival in Tel Aviv that day. It was a day that he had been looking forward to as his dream, she said, is to become a famous drummer.
Iris said, ‘he disappeared at 10.44am.’
‘I remember. We all remember,’ she said. ‘We all remember the last minute exactly…when our children were gone.’
Recalling the fear in his voice when her son said his final few words, ‘I don’t have air. I cannot breathe.’
For the next 48 hours, she and Yotam’s father went looking for him all over Israel and in the hospitals.
‘We didn’t know if he was alive or not,’ she said. Until now we don’t have any informaton about him. He needs his medicine. We didn’t know what is going on with him.’
‘Even if he is 28, for us he is like a baby because of his problems, because of his needs.’
She later learned the horrifying news that 62 people were murdered at Kfar Aza and 18 kidnapped and one of those hostages was her son.
Earlier this month, Iris said that she was in Australia with the delegation with Israel and with other families, whose loved ones were murdered and kidnapped, trying to get help.
‘Till this day we need all the world help,’ she said.
‘What happened to my son and Idit and all other kidnapped and murdered that day – we know so many of them – is that Hamas terrorists are terrorists against the world.
‘He needs to come back to his family … to us,’ she said.
A musician and drummer in a heavy metal band, Iris said her son planned to play at a music festival in Tel Aviv that day. It was a day that he had been looking forward to as his dream, she said, is to become a famous drummer
For Idit the time was 7.50am when she last heard from her son Alon, a talented pianist, who went to the Nova Music Festival with a few friends.
Idit said he sent a message to her and his father on What’s App. He was ‘telling us he was in a bomb shelter and that he was fine.’
Idit explained that in the bomb shelter you cannot send messages and with no wifi they got his message 18 minutes after it was sent.
The time was 8.08am. She believed his phone fell when he was getting abducted and they lost all contact.
‘That was the last time we heard from him,’ she said. ‘We don’t know where he is. We don’t know how he is. We don’t know with who he is with – we know Hamas took him because we see the footage – but we don’t know up until today.
‘The Red Cross has not seen him or haven’t seen anyone. None of the hostages yet, so we haven’t gotten any word from him. It has been 60 days since he was kidnapped.’
She shared a harrowing video of her son being carried out by the Hamas terrorists after hiding in a crammed bomb shelter with 30 other young people.
Idit revealed that in that bomb shelter, the terrorists threw nearly a dozen grenades into the shelter. One brave person caught the grenades as they were being thrown and threw them back outside.
But, she said the last grenade exploded killing and injury many.
During the unimaginable terror, her son was one of those people taken captive by Hamas. She shared a video of the brutal scenes.
‘This is my son the person they are dragging right now. There’s blood on him and he’s frightened and he was trying to fight them.’
‘They’re putting him inside the car and taking him and pushing him and beating him inside the truck.’
‘You can actually see how they were taken- very harshly – he has blood on him because of the grenade that blew up.’
The video clip showed Hersh Goldberg Polin , the 23-year-old Israeli-American boy also taken captive from the Re’im musical festival. He was in the same truck bloodied and wounded.
VIDEO WE CAN ADD OF THIS SCENE IF WE HAVE
The distraught mother, who was wearing a picture of her son on a t-shirt, said weeks before her son’s abduction he had traveled to Asia.
‘He loves music. His music is part of his life. Everywhere he goes he plays. He was playing in the Philippines just a month and a half ago before he was kidnapped,’ she said.
‘He was playing piano at every pub he went inside because he knew he was doing a good thing.’
Idit said her mission now is to spread the ‘good’ that her son was doing as she fights to get him home and asks the community and world to do their part.
To help her son not feel so alone, she bought a piano and painted a portion of it yellow to look like a spotlight – she calls it ‘the yellow piano’ with the words ‘Alon You Are Not Alone.’
The piano is located in a public space in Tel Aviv called Hostage Square.
She welcomes anyone who wants to come and play music on it to visit. She believes the energy from someone playing the piano will transcend to her son until he is released and back home with his loved ones.
‘It is like a light so when a person comes and plays the light is on him- on the person that is playing – and the person is in touch with Alon.
‘We are doing this and it is very effective. Everyone in Israel knows this piano and I hope that the world knows.’
Idit showed a clip of her son sitting at the piano at a concert playing a beautiful classical song. ‘This is him playing one of the peices, He plays he plays jazz and many other things.’
Idit is fighting and asking the world to help ‘stop this’ so it doesn’t happen anywhere else.
‘You have the power and have a very important job to do. After Iris and I told you about our son and her special son we need you to go to your home country and tell the citizens there what is gong on in Israel.
‘Tell this story and ask what they can do today not tomorrow to make sure our son’s come back home,’ she said, in part.
‘Making sure that terrorism does not continue – this dark dark dark place of terrorism and innocent civilians, who just went to a party or were in their homes not doing anything.’
The heartbroken mother said that her family name ‘Haim’ means life in Hebrew.
‘I don’t want to be afraid, I want to live. I want them to live,’ she said.
‘They will always be our children, and we as mothers have to fight always. We’ll never stop fighting to bring our sons and daughters and our mothers and our fathers home.’
Idit shared a clip during the press conference of her son playing a classical song on the piano. She said that ‘music is part of his life’ and he plays piano everywhere he goes
Idit bought a piano and painted a portion of it yellow to look like a spotlight – she calls it ‘the yellow piano’ with the words ‘Alon You Are Not Alone,’ so her son does not feel like he is alone. The piano is located in Tel Aviv’s Hostage Square
Jonathan Dekel Chen, whose 35-year-old son Sagui Dekel -Chen, was taken captive by Hamas on October 7 from Kibbutz Nir Oz.
Sagui, is the father of two young daughters – ages 6 and 3 – and has a wife who is pregnant with their third child.
Like Idit and Iris, and all the other families who still have their loved ones in captivity- he believes their life is in danger.
Dekel-Chen, who lived in Connecticut before settling in Israel as a young adult, said that he and his son have dual Israeli-American citizenship.
He said at Kibbutz Nir Oz, 80 people were taken hostage and 35 they already know have been murdered that he knows.
‘What has to happen is the hostages – all 138 of them – need to come home now,’ Dekel Chen told DailyMail.com.
‘It is clear, we could have imagined this to begin with, but it’s certainly clear now given the testimonies of those who were released a couple of weeks ago, that the conditions under which the hostages are being held are abominable.’
He also believes that the vast majority of the hostages are in urgent need of medical care for those who were wounded on October 7.
With the current state of war, he believes the hostages are endangered by the shelling itself from from the Israeli side, and whatever retribution the remaining Hamas terrorists might take on them.
‘So what we need is hope for Israel’s leaders and for partner nations to absolutely commit to prioritizing the return of live hostages home.
‘These were civilians for the vast majority, of our civilians, but it’s true also with soldiers. They must not be victimized or collateral damage of this war.’
Jonathan Dekel-Chen the father of Sagui Dekel -Chen has been held hostage in Gaza since October 7. He has been fighting tirelessly for his son’s release. He told DailyMai.com ‘what has to happen is the hostages – all 138 of them – need to come home now’
Dekel Chen, who is a professor at Hebrew University, further continued that that is the demand over the Israeli government and from partner governments to impress upon the Israelis, and also the Red Cross.
‘These people have been totally abandoned by the Red Cross, which is not fulfilling its obligations, or doesn’t seem to be fulfilling its obligations to those hostages.’
He said: ‘it’s something that needs to happen immediately. If for no better reason than proof of life, which we don’t definitively have.’
Dekel-Chen told DailyMail.com that it was devastating when he learned that his son was not one of the hostages released during the partial-deal.
‘It was awful …of course …it was awful.’
‘I would add to that however, I am sure and every other hostage family whose loved ones are still not released were overjoyed for those released.
He said in his kibbutz alone about 30 hostages were released.
‘These are like my extended family. My son was not among them, but you know, these are like my brothers, sisters, older brothers, children. Some of them literally grew up in my house.
‘So I felt nothing but joy for them and relief for them and their families. But of course, the job will only be done when the remaining 138 hostages have been released and approximately 35 from my kibbutz among them.’
He also said that after the release of the hostages some of the families heard ‘bits and pieces’ of their testimony from the releasees.
‘Some of the lucky ones amongst us got from them some kind of proof of life about our loved ones,’ he said.
‘But that’s not nearly enough. They need to come home before their lives are even further in danger.’