Relative of Gaza Hostage: Time Is Running Out for the Hostages

By Aryeh Stern

People release balloons during a protest calling for the release of the Bibas family, including 10-month-old Kfir, four-year-old Ariel, and their parents Shiri and Yarden Bibas, in Tel Aviv, Friday. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

​Representatives of families of hostages who are being held in Gaza attended Monday’s meetings of the Finance Committee, chaired by MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), and the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, chaired by MK Rabbi Yaakov Asher (United Torah Judaism).

During the meeting of the Finance Committee, Yifat Zailer, the cousin of hostage Shiri Bibas, said, “Shiri and her children have been in Hamas captivity for too long. We have heard the word ‘dilemma’ or the phrase ‘tragic dilemma’ too many times this week, when the lives of our loved ones are at stake. I would like to replace the word ‘dilemma’ with ‘tragedy.’ They have been abandoned for 67 days now, and we do not know what their fate will be. A tragedy is waiting another day, as they wait there, until they’ll return in coffins. What is the significance of my identification card in this country if this is not the top priority? A deal brought people back alive, with an opportunity to rehabilitate their lives.”

Zailer told the MKs, “You work every day for the country’s future. Kfir [Shiri’s 10-month-old son] is the country’s future. You are a part of it, not just us. You are lucky that you do not have a family member in Gaza. You should go to sleep and wake up in the morning thinking about how to bring them home. The dream of every male and female soldier is to see two ginger faces and bring them back, but it is not unrealistic. I do not sleep because they do not sleep. What will become of this country’s future if these children do not return home alive? What will happen then?”

Noam Alon, a friend of hostage Inbar Haiman, said, “We have not received any signs of life. The army does not know what happened to her. We don’t know if she is alive; we don’t know what would be better for her. I am scared to death of what she is going through there. I feel that with each day that passes, the chances of her returning alive become slimmer. In a deal, we will pay a very heavy price, but the sooner we pay it, the greater the likelihood of getting them out alive.”

Alon told the MKs: “I hope that the moment when you will have to make a decision about this or that deal will come, you will decide to accept it and not abandon Inbar and all the other hostages there.”

Committee Chairman Rabbi Gafni said, “I don’t think any of the MKs disputes what you have all said. We are of the same opinion, and we all express it differently. You have attended faction meetings, including a meeting of our faction. Our path is clear, and we all express it to those who decide, from the Prime Minister to the defense minister, we will raise this issue, and we will not let up. We will do everything in our power. For us, pikuach nefesh and the pidyon shevuyim take precedence over everything else, and I say this on behalf of all the committee members and all the MKs. The things that you say penetrate our hearts. I pray along with all of you that the hostages will return.”

Linor Dan, a relative of hostage Ofer Calderon, who was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz along with two of his children, addressed the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee: “The two children were brought back to us as part of an [exchange] deal. They were not returned to us in some heroic rescue mission, they were not returned from Entebbe. They were returned in a deal in which both sides did not fight, both sides talked, and people returned alive. We are told to be polite; we are told not to defy; we are told to remain quiet when we come to the Knesset. We want to be heard. We are not trying to arouse any [negative sentiment]. When we say ‘we,’ is it not just us, it is all of us. It is only by chance that you are not Ofer. It is only by chance that your children are not Shiri’s children. It is only by chance that you were not kidnapped, that your grandmothers are not dead there, that your sons are not being beaten.” Dan asked the MKs to make “bold decisions,” and added, “Today is not the 11th of December, it is the 66th of October. The hostages’ time is running out.”

The mother of Yagev Buchshtav, who was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nirim, said, “Yagev’s wife, Rimon, was released in a [hostage] deal, and we are happy about all those who returned, but ache for all those who are still there. I have been a resident of the Gaza border region for more than 40 years. I live in Nirim, and I never evacuated. I understand the need to deal with the security situation, and I want to live safely in the kibbutz, but today I understand that the return of the hostages is the most important thing. We will all manage being away from home a few more months, but they do not have time. Their time is running out.”

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