Last night, November 24th, the people of Israel experienced, for the first time since October 7th, some moments of joy: Twenty-four hostages: thirteen Israelis women and children, ten Thai nationals nine men and a woman, and a man from the Philippines were released by Hamas as part of the cease fire hostages deal.
The return of the first group of hostages was delayed by a day, and I wasn’t the only one who suspended any feelings of happiness until they arrived safely in Israel late in the evening. Even as feelings of joy and excitement emerges, they are sadly mixed with dread over those who are still hostages in Gaza. Hamas released several videos, one of them documents their bus ride toward Israel. I kept watching it over and over again, they appeared okay but subdued. But as we know, pictures seldom tell the whole story.
Yesterday morning, I learned that, among others, Ditza Heiman (84), the mother of my friend from Women Wage Peace, wasn’t on the first released list, it was a big disappointment. In an interview with Ha’aretz, her daughter Neta described the ordeal, which the families endured in the past few days, as “psychological terrorism”. Nonetheless, she felt relief that at least some of the hostages were finally coming home.
It seems that last night, after the safe return of the first group of hostages, our entire country was finally able to sleep a little better. I have a feeling that it might hold true for quite a few sympathetic individuals overseas as well. On Facebook, many friends posted photos of the freed hostages. It was such a relief to see the photos of the individuals, who moments ago were featured in the red and black posters with the label “kidnapped,” free at last. By now many of us are familiar with their names and their faces, as though they were our long-lost family members who reappeared, which in a way they are.
Yoni Asher, a father whose wife and two daughters returned yesterday, announced that he won’t celebrate until all the hostages are back. While this message is noble and important, I sincerely hope that he can allow himself some happiness after suffering through hell in the last 49 days.
Later today, we anticipate the release of the next group, keeping my fingers crossed for their safe return.