Penny S. Tee
May You Live in Peace, שלום and سلام.

Will The Hostages Be Free Before Passover?

PEACE with Penny

On CNN they reported that Israel believes there are 99 hostages alive, and six are American. Hamas is holding the bodies of 31 who have died.1 When will the hostages be freed from Hamas’ tentacles? On the list of wrongdoings to refrain from during Ramadan is sinful behavior. It doesn’t seem that Hamas cares any more about religious beliefs than they value the lives of their people whom they’ve used as human shields.

Passover is approaching soon, and it is a celebration of freedom from bondage, the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Let’s hope that by Passover we will also have welcomed the return of the hostages; God forbid that the four questions are still:

  1. When will the hostages be freed?
  2. Why is Netanyahu risking more harm to hostages with military actions?
  3. Why is the world not providing more help to release the hostages, or insuring they are not abandoned as a distant memory?
  4. Once the hostages are released, who will help them and their families recover from the torture they’ve seen and endured throughout these painful months?

As with everything else in this war, predictions catapult into the ether, and the public is left to wonder which will come to fruition. President Biden was wrong when he predicted the hostages would be freed by Ramadan. Israel says Hamas is not negotiating in good faith and won’t even deliver a valid list of survivors being held. Is anyone surprised at Hamas’ callous refusal? But then again, informed speculation by “Washington diplomats” say that they can’t provide a list of hostages because “it could reflect problems of communication between Hamas units inside and outside Gaza, that some hostages could be held by other groups including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or that elements of Hamas were withholding the information as a way of obstructing a deal.” 2 Therefore, Israel said there is no need to send an Israeli delegation to Cairo.3

The situation is very fluid. Both sets of negotiators are square dancing with a Pass Thru, Separate and Go Home move while engaging in the talks, one day the Israelis won’t show up, and next Hamas refuses to attend, and each goes home and then returns. However, this dance is not fun, and lives are dangling in the wind in the meantime.4

The families of the hostages held a 4-Day March, culminating in Jerusalem. Each stop along the way tore at my heart. Unfortunately, they had twenty different civilian crime scenes to choose from.5 From the music festival at Kibbutz Re’im, where 360 of the next generation were slaughtered by Hamas terrorists at the Supernova music festival to the Sderot police station where 35 of the first responders were murdered, and the moving stop under the Chord’s Bridge, the protesters marched toward Jerusalem.

At 5:00 pm Israel Time Saturday night, I received several audio messages, pictures and videos from Phil Saunders, the Peace advocate mentioned in my two recent Times of Israel Blogs, “Peace Exists Today Between Israelis and Palestinians? Yes!” and “As Ramadan Approaches Will Peace Hold?”  For Phil Saunders’ PEACE with Penny interview which was updated on October 10, 2023, just after the horrific massacre on October 7th, click here.

Phil Saunders and Ziad Sabateen are incredibly hard-working Peace advocates and they slog through challenging situations. In my opinion, they are both superheroes sans the tights and capes. Well, before we move on, sorry guys, I can’t resist your superhero actions nor the opportunity in retrospect, to have a little fun during these harsh times.

Phil Saunders and Ziad Sabateen of Path of Hope and Peace

Phil is like the Ever-ready Bunny and he never quits working on Peace. But then, how can he? He lives this cliffhanger wondering if the Peace they’ve worked so hard to build between Tzur Hadassah, Beitar Illit and Husan, can stand the current challenges. I wondered what adventure was unwinding as the sun was setting on Shabbat.

Phil Saunders of Path of Hope and Peace
Credit Mrs. Saunders

It turns out that he and his wife were waiting for the marchers demanding the return of the hostages to arrive in Jerusalem, where they intended to walk in solidarity with them until the end of the march. This time Phil was working on Peace of mind for the hostage families and his country.

I was excited to receive a blow-by-blow description and videos of their experience. Check out the attached video above.

First, he could see the policemen preparing for the massive crowds. It’s been reported that

Police Preparing for the 4-Day Free Hostages Marchers
Credit Phil Saunders

15,000-20,000 attended.6 While I waited for more updates, I wondered if the government protesters would show up here. The Israeli police had been riding on horseback and using water cannons on them at some of the demonstrations. I remembered reading that some of the hostage families had been amongst those who were having their anger “cooled down” by this display of force against their own Israeli citizens.7

4-Day Marchers to Free the Hostages
Credit Phil Saunders

Next came several cars, and then the protesters holding placards with pictures of the hostages, shouting various chants in Hebrew such as Leshachrer Achshav! (Release Now!).

Chords Bridge Credit Getty Images

At one point in their trek, they stopped beneath the Chords Bridge, an architectural wonder that Times Magazine named, “Jerusalem’s first shrine of modern design.”8   It was a poignant pause as each of the hostages’ names were read. Some have suggested that the cables look like the strings of a harp and that perhaps the bridge symbolizes King David’s harp.9 While learning this about the Chords Bridge, my mind wandered to the soft soothing music of a harp and I imagined angels playing for the lost victims of October 7th. As I followed this gentle trail, I wished that the hostages were able at times to find some Peace from their fear, though in reality, I suspected this would only be a fantasy that I wanted to be true. May They Be Comforted.

4-Day Marchers to Free the Hostages 2
Credit Phil Saunders

Phil and his wife, walked for about 1 ½  hours to get to the Finish Line.

4-Day Marchers to Free the Hostages at Finish Line Credit Phil Saunders

Sigi Cohen, mother of Eliya Cohen, spoke at the end of the march.10 Her son is a 26-year-old hostage who was at the music festival and tried to hide near dead bodies with his girlfriend. He was found by the terrorists, dragged to a pickup truck and taken away. His girlfriend miraculously escaped.11 Ms. Cohen praised the soldiers fighting to get the hostages back.12

The mental anguish for a parent must be unbearable. Reading about others like his girlfriend who had escaped, or those who had been released, seemed like a cruel game in which she had chosen the shortest straw.

I couldn’t help but think of the interview I had done that morning as I spoke with a mother whose sons had been fighting in Gaza, and only one had come home thus far. She stalwartly said she was proud of them, but I wondered at what cost she was able to keep a stiff upper lip? She acknowledged that this kind of life wasn’t for everyone. I admitted to her that I knew for a fact after our taste of war in 2014, that I was raised on too much chicken soup to deal with the continual terror attacks, and now war.

Once again, I was reminded that as humans we have been too slow to learn that violence merely begets violence. It’s barbaric and ineffective.

And it probably won’t surprise you by now, but Phil also has another NGO that he works with called Challenge, and he is the President of the Board of Directors, Mario Schejtman is the Executive Director and Founder of Challenge. Challenge envisions a thriving shared society embracing the full diversity of identities and opportunities in the entire land that Israelis and Palestinians call home. Established in 2010, they provide conflict transformation training to Peacebuilders, including their flagship Path of Hope and Peace project with a pioneering new paradigm for Peaceful coexistence in the Holy Land: the Husan, Beitar Illit, and Tzur Hadassah Model. Additionally, they established the Federal Forum, embracing numerous creative federation and confederation alternatives to the 2-State Peace Proposal.

As far as Peace proposals, I was honored when Challenge asked me to interview the authors of the six solutions, to hear their ideas of what a plan for after the conflict would look like. I completed two interviews last year. The first with Yoel Oz, of the Abrahamic Movement, and the second with Emanuel Shahaf of the Federation Movement. I have others on the schedule this year.

Thankfully, it’s not my job to evaluate the ideas as to which would work best, I’ll leave that to the experts. However, I’m always interested in people who work on Peace regardless of the path they take.

One positive of this horrific war is that the world is talking again about the day after the war and visions for Peace. Most people don’t know about these proposed choices of Peaceful co-existence. The 2-state solution never was able to get anywhere but it is what people know. The way I look at it is if you keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different answer, well that’s just, fill in the blank __________. Why not look at other options too?

You are welcome to join us when I interview Natalie Sopinsky of another terrific Peace organization of both Israelis and Palestinians called, Rescuers Without Borders in short, they save lives in both Israel and around the world. They are often first on the scene of all types of medical emergencies including on October 7th. They help whenever there are the unfortunate terrorist attacks that occur consistently throughout Israel as well as worldwide emergencies such as the earthquake in Turkey in 2/23. We’ll hear about how busy they were on October 7th and since. They are also a Peace organization, yet they often have to keep their efforts quiet from the communities they both help and train. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict gets complicated even when trying to save lives. Oy.  They serve and train both Israeli and Palestinian volunteers to provide life-saving techniques arriving first on the scene while the injured await transportation to hospitals that can be more than half an hour away.

After looking closely at what’s happening in the world, I need to do something to make me feel better. As I’ve said many times, Michael Hunter Och’s song, “A Song for Healing (Refuah Shlema),” comforts me. I’ve put it at the end of the attached video at 18:51. I hope it helps comfort you too.

Enjoy and I hope you continue to Join Me on My Journey.

May You Live in Peace, שלום and سلام



1 “Biden pledges to bring American hostages home,” CNN, CNN staff, March 7, 2024.

2 “Hamas negotiators under pressure to produce list of hostages to be released,” The Guardian, Julian Borger in Washington and Bethan McKernan in Jerusalem, March 4, 2024

3 “Hamas Refuses to Provide List of Surviving Captives and Israel Withdraws from Hostage Talks,” United with Israel, March 4, 2024, by JNS.

4 “Hope fades for Israeli-Hamas cease-fire as holy month of Ramadan nears: Live updates,” USA TODAY, by John Bacon, January March 7, 2024

5 “Interview: Building the Evidence for Crimes Committed in Israel on October 7,” Human Rights Watch, Birgit Swarz and Belkis Wille, January 31, 2024

6 “Thousands rally in Jerusalem after four-day march for hostages’ return” The Times of Israel, Story by Charlie Summers, March 3, 2024.

7 “As hope for deal fills Hostages Square, chaos erupts at nearby anti-Netanyahu rally,”

Canaan Ldor, Iddo Schejter and Charle Summers,25 February 2024, 2:07 am

8 “Chords Bridge,” Wikipedia,

9 Ibid., Wikipedia.

6  “Thousands rally in Jerusalem after four-day march for hostages’ return” The Times of Israel, Story by Charlie Summers, March 3, 2024

7 “Taken captive: Eliya Cohen, dragged from a pile of dead bodies,” TOI Staff, The Times of Israel, October 22, 2023


8 “Thousands rally in Jerusalem after four-day march for hostages’ return,” The Times of Israel, Story by Charlie Summers, March 3, 2024


9 Ibid., The Times of Israel.

10 Ibid., The Times of Israel.

11 Ibid., The Times of Israel.

12 Ibid., The Times of Israel.

About the Author
Penny S. Tee is a vodcaster, speaker, author, and educator. She interviews Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, together forging a better future. Why? Read her book, “BLASTED from COMPLACENCY: A Journey from Terror to Transformation in Israel,” which describes her 2014 family vacation in Israel—daily touring sacred places, and cowering in bomb shelters at night. The missiles blew up her comfortable world—today she devotes her life to Peace.
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