Orphans in Captivity

UPDATE- November 30 AM.  All children have been released EXCEPT Ariel and Kefir Bibas. Hopefully, they are alive and will soon be released to their families. What lessons can we learn to cope with such pain?

10 min

Rachel Avrahami

Posted on 21.05.24

Release of the Hostage Children

Breslev Israel and Rabbi Shalom Arush join the entire world in celebrating the release of women, children, the elderly, and also Thai foreign workers held against international law and in direct violation of their human rights by the terror organization Hamas. 
Our opinion on the hostage deal and cease-fire is not pertinent at this point – this is what Hashem chose to do, and we are certainly thanking Hashem for every life returned. Captivity is worse than death – and someone who saves a life, saves an entire world. 
As we see from the crisis of Saturday night 11/25/23 with the delay of the second group of hostages – the psychological war being fought by Hamas is serious business. We see once again their cruelty, acting in true psychopathic behavior to milk the situation, break the deal by separating children from their own living direct relative, and remain at the center of attention by staging a crisis in order to defame Israel.
The reality when dealing with such people and organizations is that anything you care about will be used against you, and giving them anything creates incredible danger because it inflates their ego even more. The situation is dangerous and volatile and requires doubling down on prayers. 
This is not a time to let up! Please join all good people in the world to pray for these captives, to pray for the IDF and security forces, and to pray for the safety of the Jewish people around the world! 
A hidden tzaddik recently said: This is the most dangerous time for the Jewish people in history. And we have quite a history!
But be strong! Hashem is with us, and with all moral and upright humans and Noahides who align with Hashem. Hashem is doing outright miracles and fighting our battles – or we would not be here right now. Ein od milvado – there is nothing besides Hashem!
(If you’re struggling with fear and anxiety in the wake of the war and rising antisemitism, check out my article with advice from Rabbi Arush – Not Just Another War)

Lessons in the Pain 

Hostage stories are not meant to be read, cried over, and then forgotten. Hashem shows us what tremendous hashgachah pratit (Divine Providence) is at play for every individual at every moment. 


The most significant lesson of the Idan family is the precise Divine Providence that played out during every moment of those long hours. There were five people in the family, but each member experienced a different course of events and outcome. Who was killed, who was rescued, and who was kidnapped – all according to Hashem’s direct involvement in each one’s life, surely based on their soul rectification. 


The hard and fast rule of emuna is that while the events of October 7, 2023 and continued captivity of children are not good, they ultimately serve a good spiritual purpose.


Anyone who says that what happened is good is surely a terrorist! A vile antisemite! It was shocking, horrific, and truly beyond words to capture just how evil it was. Absolute, pure evil. If we all cried nonstop for the rest of our lives, it would not be enough. This massacre will have longstanding effects for generations, besides completely changing the course of history … 


But with emuna we can understand that incredible good has come out of that pitch blackness of evil. All of the Jews saying Psalms, all of their good deeds, kindness, mercy, and giving and most importantly the incredible unity that has sprouted in the Jewish people instead of the internal strife we were crumbling under – is in the merit of those who were killed! And surely there are many more aspects of great goodness that our limited minds simply cannot fathom.


Another significant lesson is how critical emuna is to be able to deal with suffering that knows no end. Turning to the UN to file War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity lawsuits will not ease their pain nor bring back the dead. Blaming Intel, IDF, the political echelon, and even Hamas for the massacre might be logically correct, but it will not bring closure for the death of loved ones or for trauma suffered by the captives. Forget about the survivors who are in such severe psychological states that some might never recover, r”l. 


Rabbi Arush calls emuna “the power to cope.” Without emuna, how will these families be able to bear this horrific trauma? How will they be able to rebuild their lives? Certainly, this is also true in our individual lives, as each of us tries to cope with the trauma just of knowing what happened, and the raging antisemitism that is being spawned by the ongoing war.  


There is no choice – as Rabbi Arush quips, “Or emuna – or Hell.” The Shabbat of Oct. 7 was surely hell on earth. But that does not negate the real the hell of anxiety, depression, and gripping fear that just about every Jew around the world is feeling right now. And that, we can fight only with emuna! 


There are 138 known living hostages that were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists from Gaza on Oct 7 (Shabbat-Shemini Atzeret-Simchat Torah). The excruciating suffering that they and their families are undergoing cannot be measured.  


The following information and pictures of children under 18 who were/are in Gaza come from Children Kidnapped to Gaza. If the name of the child’s mother is known, it is given in parentheses.


Ladies, to take on the mitzvah of tzniut (modesty) for the merit of these children, see JustOneInch.com.


Captive Children – and a Nation Behind Them

Back from the dead, literally – I am joined by Am Yisrael in a collective sigh of relief that the suffering of Thomas Hand is finally over. He said that his daughter, Emily, would come home broken and would need to be fixed. The same is clearly true for him as well. Mixed joy and continued prayers.

Hila Rotem Shoshani and a few other children were released without their mothers. They were supposed to be released with their children since they are now the sole living parent.

I cannot imagine what Hila is going through right now – triple hell. The hell of starting the lifelong process of healing the trauma of being a captive. She’s also been thrown into the hell of the other families, not knowing when or if her mother will come home alive. And the third hell of mourning her father who is still missing and presumed dead. And she’s only 13… She was met at the hospital by her aunt and uncle. 
Late night on 27-November, Hamas released eight children and two mothers. Each and every one of these children has a father who is still held hostage by Hamas. Many of these children went through hell in a dungeon with no parent by their side!
Let us pray that everyone comes home without a hitch and that Hashem protects and saves every IDF soldier, Israeli, and Jew around the world!
The daughter of one of the hostages, Yocheved Lifshitz, said in an interview: “There are no textbooks that explain how to deal with this trauma. It is off the scale.” 
I want to emphasize  that the hostage release, G-d willing, in no way whitewashes the atrocities of Hamas or marks an end to the horror. That is besides being against international law to abduct innocent civilians and to hold them hostage in return for concessions of terrorists with blood on their hands.
These children will bear the hell of what they went through for the rest of their lives, no different than a Holocaust survivor. Modern medicine and psychology offer no cure for the broken state they will inevitably be in when they are returned to the Jewish people. 
As is widely known, scars to the soul burn deeper and resist healing much more than physical scars on the body itself. The world will go back to its business, but for these children and their families, life will never, ever be the same. They will need our continued support and prayers – for the rest of their lives…

Avigail’s Story 

Perhaps the most heartbreaking hostage story is the story of little Avigail Idan and her entire family. The following information comes from an interview with Avigail’s uncle in a podcast on Bring Them Home Now on X (formerly Twitter).

Avigail is still alone
Avigail Idan (Avigail bat Smadar) RELEASED 26-NOV


Roi Idan was a photographer for Ynet and Yediot Acharonot news agencies. He filmed the terrorist para-gliders as they infiltrated his kibbutz. His wife Smadar and their three children were at home when terrorists broke in. Smadar was murdered. Roy and Avigail were outside the house. He was murdered by the terrorists and Avigail was miraculously able to run to her neighbor’s house (Brodetz family). A while later, Avigail and the Brodetz family were taken into captivity. 


The Idan children, Michael (9) and Amelia (6), were in the Safe Room with their dead mother for about 14 hours. Michael had the presence of mind to call the police to ask them what they should do. By that time, the emergency lines were overloaded, and Michael was transferred to MDA (Magen David Adom – paramedics). MDA told them to hide in a cupboard in the Safe Room.  


During those 14 long hours, Michael and Amelia would tell each other that soon they would be rescued and not to worry. Rescuers came, but the children weren’t sure to trust them – perhaps it was a ruse from Hamas. An uncle spoke to the children by cellphone and convinced them to go out to the rescuers. 


Imagine – two children sausaged in a small linen cupboard with nothing to drink or eat, with just enough air to breath, standing/squatting for 14 hours straight, and afraid for their lives. They could not move or speak lest the terrorists find their hiding place. It was literally a story right out of a Holocaust horror film… 


At that point, Michael and Amelia knew that their parents had been killed, and they thought that Avigail had been killed as well. They did not yet know that miraculously she had not been wounded, that she had left her dead father’s arms and ran to the neighbor’s house. Nor did they yet know that she was taken into captivity with the neighbor’s mother and her three kids. I marvel at the heroism of Avigail’s father, who surely played a role in saving her, even in his final moments. 


Imagine – a three-year-old little girl in captivity. It is only a tiny comfort to know that at least she is hopefully being held with her neighbor whom she knows well. How is she managing to eat? Who is helping her manage the terror of what she is living through, and the trauma of witnessing her father’s death? 


Dafna and Ella Elikim’s Story

Dafna Elikim (Dafna bat Maayan)         RELEASED 26-NOV     
Ella Elikim (Ella bat Maayan)          RELEASED 26-NOV             


Dafna is 15 years old and a 10th grade student. She was kidnapped from Nachal Oz with Ella, her 8 year old sister. Their father was murdered on Oct 7. 


These two beautiful sisters have only themselves in captivity. Their mother, Maayan Zin, wrote in #Bringthemhomenow:

There’s this bit with a lollipop that leaves color on your tongue, and we take a picture of their colorful tongues. If there’s a woman, a mother, next to my daughters, I would want to know that she is hugging them.

I am addressing you, mother-to-mother. Help me bring back my daughters, Dafna and Ella.


Emily Hand’s Story

Emily is a beautiful eight year old (she had her ninth birthday in captivity) with Irish-Israeli citizenship. Her mother passed away when she was two from cancer, r”l, and her father raised her. Emily was in Kibbutz Be’eri for a sleepover with a friend that fateful morning and is now in Gaza.

Emily’s situation might actually be the worst situation of all. Avigail Idan, 3 years old, is too small to understand much of anything, although she certainly understands being in a scary and foreign place. Daphna and Ella Elikim at least have each other. But Emily is big enough to be scared. There is a small possibility that Emily was kidnapped with the family she stayed with, but we really don’t know. She already knows the pain of growing up without a mother – and now she’s a captive in Gaza.

Emily’s father, Thomas, was famously quoted by the New York Post: “She was either dead or in Gaza, and if you know anything about what they do to people in Gaza, that is worse than death, that is worse than death,” the grieving father said.

Thomas Hand was originally told that Emily was dead. As tragic as it is to lose a child, Thomas was enormously relieved that she was not taken to Gaza. Then he received the news he dreaded – the IDF believes that Emily is really a captive. Emily’s father said during a recent interview with CNN:

You know, she is not going to come back, none of them are going to come back the way they went in… They are going to be mentally and physically and emotionally broken.

The unknown is awful, the waiting is awful,” he said. “That is what we have got to do now, just pray and hope that she comes back in some broken state that we can fix her. We will fix her somehow.

Hand’s thoughts are now on the possibility of an emotional reunion with the daughter he had believed was dead.

In my head, I can see her running to me, and me running to her, picking her up, never letting her go,” he said.


Yigil and Ohr Yaakov’s Story

Yigil Yaakov (Yagil ben Renana) RELEASED 27-NOV
Ohr Yaakov (Ohr ben Renana)     RELEASED 27-NOV 


Sixteen year old Ohr Yaakov and his twelve year old brother Yagil slept alone in their mother’s house in Kibbutz Nir Oz. As soon as the siren began on Saturday October 7th, their mother Renana called them to make sure they were in the safe room. At about 2:30 PM, the boys called their mother, whispering that they heard voices in Arabic in the house and that the door was broken. Renana heard Yagil begging the terrorists, “I am too young, don’t take me away”, and that was the last she heard from them.



Aviv Katz Asher (Aviv bat Doron)  RELEASED 24-NOV