An incredible moment occurred when an 85-year-old hostage extended her hand to her Hamas captor and uttered a single word: “Shalom”.
After being held captive by Hamas for 16 days, Yocheved Lifshitz is now determined to help secure the freedom of other hostages. According to her daughter, Sharone Lifschitz, the captor responsible for her mother’s release was apparently a paramedic who had spoken with her about peace.
Sharone reported that her mother was providing emotional support to the families of other hostages while she was undergoing medical treatment in Tel Aviv.
She expressed great pride in Yocheved, a former educator who has come out of her difficult experience with a smaller weight but a strong resolve to bring hope to the families of the remaining hostages.
Sharone, an artist and academic from London, expressed difficulty in articulating the current situation: “It’s challenging to convey the fact that we are still stuck in this. My mother often says that physically she may be here, but emotionally her heart is still with the other hostages.”
Yocheved and Oded, both 83 years old, have been married for 63 years and are advocates for peace and human rights. They were abducted by Hamas militants on October 7th from the Nir Oz kibbutz in southern Israel.
Yocheved informed her daughter that she was separated from Oded when she saw him getting shot in the hand. Yocheved was then taken on a motorcycle to Gaza, but Oded, an experienced journalist, is still unaccounted for.
Sharone, who has travelled to Israel, described her mother as a “tough cookie” and said it was impossible to comprehend the trauma she has experienced.
“My mother is making great progress, she improves every day. She is highly dedicated to the safe return of the remaining hostages, which is her top priority,” she informed the Guardian.
Today, she has been conversing on the phone and recognizing photographs of both familiar and unfamiliar hostages. She is speaking with their families, attempting to provide reassurance that the group she was with received medical care and some food after enduring atrocities and horrifying experiences, and are not being subjected to torture.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Yocheved shared that she was forcefully taken on a motorcycle, physically assaulted with sticks, and made to walk for kilometers through a complex network of dark underground tunnels to an unfamiliar place where she was held against her will with 25 other individuals, including minors.
On Monday evening, she was freed along with Nurit Yitzhak (also known as Nurit Cooper), 79, through a negotiation facilitated by Egypt and Qatar. When the two women were given over to aid workers, Yocheved approached a masked Hamas fighter carrying an assault weapon, shook his hand, and greeted him with “shalom.”
Sharone mentioned that her mother informed her about the man being a paramedic who had taken care of her while she was held captive. They had conversed about promoting peace, using a combination of limited English and Hebrew. Sharone explained, “He was a paramedic and they discussed finding a more harmonious environment for the world and the region.”
Sharone emphasized that her mother’s statements regarding the Hamas captors displaying “care” and “gentleness” after the initial brutality should not diminish the severity of the hostages’ experience.
“My mother’s life has been completely disrupted in a terrible manner,” she expressed. “My mother has always had faith in the goodness of people. It is important to recognize that there are distinct factions within Hamas, and the individuals responsible for her kidnapping are not the same ones who cared for her. The atrocities and savage acts committed against humanity in those kibbutzes cannot be erased by any means.”
She expressed that it felt like her mother had returned from the grave when they were reunited. The family is currently prioritizing their efforts towards advocating for the liberation of the remaining hostages, including Oded.
Sharone expressed her joy at having her mother return and her concern for her father. She shared that he has dedicated his life to promoting peace, making it difficult for her mother to see his legacy being overshadowed by current events.
We are making every effort to assist in the safe return of those who are still trapped in the underground tunnels. These individuals are not involved in the ongoing conflict and deserve to come home. Among them are infants, children, young adults, senior citizens, and those who have been injured. Our priority is to bring them back to safety.
Yocheved shared with her daughter how she had witnessed hostages supporting one another despite the terrible experiences they went through. Sharone expressed that her mother had seen people displaying incredible acts of kindness, taking care of children and providing for each other during such a difficult and unprecedented situation. Coping with this level of trauma is not something that can be taught in textbooks.