Eytan Stibbe

Children Cannot be Prisoners of War

The kids that were kidnapped by Hamas
Children, women, men and eldery hostages held by Hamas. Image by

“Our lives stopped on October 7 and have been on hold ever since,” Renana Jacob said, whose two children, Or (16) and Yagel (12), were kidnapped from their beds in Kibbutz Nir Oz. Or and Yagel are only two of the 38 children who were kidnapped by Hamas – 16 of which were from the same Kibbutz.

Renana described the moment when Yagel, her youngest, whispered on the phone, “They’re coming in now,” as Or desperately tried to hold the safe room door shut. She recounted the heartbreaking plea from Yagel, “Don’t take me, I’m too young.” No mother should be subjected to hearing her child’s plea for their life, and no child should endure such a traumatic experience.

This story is just one of many tragedies that happened on October 7, tearing families and our nation apart. Bat-Sheva Yahalomi was kidnapped with her three children from Kibbutz Nahal-Oz. They were thrown on two motorcycles  –  driving at high-speed to Gaza. Near the border, Bat-Sheva’s motorcycle swerved and allowed Bat-Sheva and her two daughters, Yael (10), and her 18-month baby girl,  to escape. Her son, Eitan (12) was carried off into Gaza by the other bike.  With her two daughters, Bat-Sheva trudged through the battlefield, between tanks and fleeing terrorists, barefoot and still in their pajamas. After more than three hours of dodging death, they found refuge. There, she was able to get into contact with her husband, Ohad, only then did she allow herself to burst into tears.

The kids that were kidnapped by Hamas image from

International Efforts and Negotiations

International efforts have been facilitated by the mourning parents. Avichai Brodetz, a resident of Kfar Aza, whose three children – Ofir (10), Yuval (8), and Uriah (4) – alongside his wife Hagar,  are among the kidnapped.  In an effort to secure their release, Avichai traveled to Washington DC, engaging with the Qatari Ambassador, Meshal bin Hamad al Thani. These talks are the first contact between Qatar and Israeli civilians seeking the return of their kidnapped family members.

Bat-Sheva and Renana traveled to London to meet the Qatari Ambassador to the UK, Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah.  A few days later, both Bat-Sheva and Avichai, turned their attention to the  Qatari Ambassador to Germany, Sheikh Abdulla Bin Mohammed bin Saud Al-Thani,  and urged for Qatari intervention.

The families were also able to meet members of the governments of each country – the United States, the UK, and Germany – who expressed their sympathy and pledged to do everything in their power to facilitate the release of the children.

Families are deeply concerned about the well-being of their loved ones and are “worried sick”, as quoted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC has consistently asked for permission to visit the hostages, expressing the urgent need to assess and ensure their welfare; but were denied. The trauma that the children endure daily, confined to an unknown and hostile environment, is a stark violation of their basic human rights. At least three war crimes towards children (of the “Six Grave Violations” dictated by the Special Representative and Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflicts of the UN) were committed on October 7: the abduction of children, denial of humanitarian access for children, and the killing and maiming of innocent young lives.

The international community must unite against the abduction of children, recognizing it as an intolerable violation and breach of international law. The 38 children, ranging from a newborn to 17 years old, are not soldiers; they bear no connection to any political or ideological conflict. Children should never be a part of any war game or used as bargaining chips. Their place is at home, with their families.

Unity in Adversity

Israel finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with a tragedy that transcends political boundaries and challenges the very essence of its identity. The land that was intended to be a safe haven now witnesses the suffering of its most vulnerable citizens—the children. These innocent lives, entangled in a brutal war game, demand not only our attention but our unwavering advocacy for their safe return and rehabilitation.

Since October 7, the lives of Israelis have come to a sudden halt, frozen in a moment of unimaginable pain and distress. Our home, the land of Israel, was built on the foundation: “Never again”. Never again will we endure the suffering that our families have for centuries. Never again will we stand helpless. Never again will we fall victim to the hands of others.

In the face of this adversity, we find our strength embedded within the fabric of our society. Our citizens adhere to a fundamental social code, fortified by the principles of our Tzva Ha-Am (People’s Army): a commitment to defend one another, in weakness and in strength. The true resilience of a nation lies not only in its capacity to protect but also in its ability to heal, rebuild, and stand united against the forces that threaten its core values.

The call for the return of the kidnapped children is not just a national plea; it should also be a global cry for justice and humanity. It is a call to uphold the principles that bind us as a civilized society and to ensure that the innocent do not become victims of senseless conflicts. As we navigate through this dark chapter in our history, let us stand united, drawing strength from our resilience, as we look towards a future where the dream of regional peace becomes reality.

About the Author
Impact investor, philanthropist and pilot, Eytan Stibbe was the second Israeli astronaut to ever go to space. As a crew member of the Ax-1 mission, in April 2022, Eytan spent 17 days on the International Space Station. Together with the Ramon foundation and the Israeli Space Agency, a work plan was assembled and called the RAKIA mission. It included experiments in medicine, earth observation, production in space as well as educational programs and art, all under the banner “There is no dream beyond reach”.
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