The way the released hostage, Yocheved Lifshitz, chose to introduce herself at the press conference might sound like a mere formality, but I believe it holds significance. She stated that she was born in 1938 in this country. It’s important to remember that World War Two began a year later, and by choosing to mention her year of birth rather than her age, Yocheved placed herself in the historical context of her life: the war, the Holocaust, and her birth, not in the diaspora but in Eretz Israel (10 years prior to its independence). I suspect that up until October 7th, Yocheved has lived her life as a free and independent Israeli. But, like back then, all of a sudden everything changed, she was kidnapped by Hamas and became a victim.
After I heard her brave and humane speech at the hospital, I was curious to learn more about Yocheved Lifshitz. It appears that she and her husband Oded (who is still a hostage in Gaza) are known for their commitment to peace and justice. In addition, in brief biographical details about Yocheved I found that her family arrived in this country from Europe in 1933. They were ultra-Orthodox (Haredi Jews), and her father was a soloist in the chorus of the Gur dynasty. However, in the mid 1940s, because of the Holocaust and the murder of their family members who remained in Europe, her parents abandoned their religious beliefs and became secular socialists.
It appears that now, for the second time in her life, Yocheved is facing a crisis of faith. While the first one was initiated by her parents’ choices, it obviously had an effect on her life and her decisions. But this time, the state of Israel betrayed her trust and abandoned Yocheved and the other residents of the Western Negev. This is earth shattering, something that none of us believed possible. Without fear she told the world: “The lack of knowledge in the army and the intelligence deeply hurt us. We were the scapegoats of the regime.” She added that the army ignored the threats against them, allowing Hamas to bomb the very expensive Israeli fence, open the gates of the Kibbutzim, and enter easily. While no one could have predicted the crimes against humanity committed by Hamas, as Yocheved correctly pointed out, the rest is Israel’s responsibility.
During her speech, Yocheved mentioned that Hamas took care of them to ensure their well-being and expressed concern about the possibility of an epidemic. For the sensitive ears of some Israelis her choice of words triggers collective memories about the conditions in the concentration camps during the Holocaust . Although we didn’t personally experience the Holocaust, it remains our frame of reference. We all grew up on these stories.
Yocheved, who was kidnapped and became a hostage, succeeded to keep her spirit and humanity. I would like to believe that her resilience is due in part to being a free Israeli who has never been a victim . But sadly being a victim is closely tied to being abandoned and the loss of faith in the state and the government. It’s uncertain whether it can be ever restored.
I was relieved to learn that Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, the two hostages released by Hamas, were not severely mistreated. Let’s hope that the same holds true for the over 200 hostages who are still in Gaza.