A few weeks ago, at my synagogue, we were offered laminated posters of hostages held by Hamas. There are really no words to express my feelings about this heartbreaking and cruel captivity. Two-hundred-and-forty Israelis and other foreign nationals, the vast majority of whom are civilians, are being held captive in the Gaza Strip. Thirty-six of these are children, including a 10-month-old baby. It’s truly unimaginable. But the world has seemed to move on. No daily outcry is being heard, and the focus now is on the growing civilian death count in Gaza itself, as well as on the demonization of Israel for causing this human tragedy brought about exclusively by Hamas.
“Bring them home now” is still the chant of those of us—mostly Jews and Israelis—who are trying to keep hope alive and ensure that these innocent captives remain on the global front burner. If their captivity doesn’t qualify as a war crime, I honestly don’t know what does. Their families already fear they are being abandoned.
The poster I randomly selected was that of Ada Sagi, a 75-year-old mother and grandmother from Kibbutz Nir Oz—a woman roughly my age. Nir Oz was a community of 400 souls who lost 100 of its members on Oct. 7, either through murder or kidnapping. I taped the poster on the front door of my home in Brookline to remind anyone coming by (and myself) of the terrible plight of the hostages. But then it occurred to me that Ada is not a mere symbol or representative of the larger group. Indeed, she is an individual with her own life story. So, I decided to explore that story so that she would not remain a statistic—one out of 240.
Much to my surprise, there has actually been a fair amount written about Ada. I’d like to share what I have learned. Born in 1948, the same year that Israel was established, Ada is the daughter of Polish Holocaust survivors. At age 18, Ada decided to join Kibbutz Nir Oz along the border with Gaza. Her son Noam, a 53-year-old psychotherapist in London, said she joined the communal farm since it aligned with her ideological commitment to the values of equality and humanity. That would have been in 1966. I assume she was living there on the southern border at the time of the Six-Day War, which had to have been a very frightening experience. The first year I spent in Israel studying on a junior year abroad program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem was 1968. Ada and I could have been friends or even fellow students. Who knows? I remember how mesmerized I felt every time we students took a tiyul, or trip, to the Negev. Coming from New England, I had never experienced a vast desert terrain. It was awe-inspiring. I even had the opportunity to camp in the Sinai Peninsula, stopping in Gaza to do so. This was Ada’s habitat. Maybe our paths crossed on an Egged bus one time. I’ll bet she camped in the Sinai desert as well.
Ada married and had three children. She is the grandmother to six, so she’s a bit ahead of me in this regard. Sadly, her husband died of cancer this past year, and Ada has been coping with that painful loss as she and her late husband were extremely close. Her son Noam has written about Ada and has been interviewed on television as well. He and his wife are understandably bereft and are doing all they can to draw international attention to Ada’s predicament. Ada was about to travel to London to celebrate her 75th birthday right before the Oct. 7 pogrom.
Much has been said about how the majority of the hostages were in the Israeli peace camp and reached out in so many ways to their Palestinian neighbors to build bridges. Many drove sick Gazan children suffering from life-threatening diseases on a regular basis to Israeli hospitals through a program called “Road to Recovery.” Ada was herself a peacenik. She studied Arabic and taught it to her neighbors in order to enable them to communicate as equals with their Palestinian neighbors. This practice was very rare overall in Israel. Ada was looking to find common ground with her Arab neighbors. In the words of her son Noam: “These are peace-loving people who fought all their lives for good neighboring relationships.” As of now, Noam has received no official information about Ada.
The ironies of Ada’s life circumstances abound: Born in 1948 to parents who managed to survive Nazi persecution, she decided in her late teens to dwell in Israel on the southern border, which was always a risky choice. She lived a life dedicated to peaceful co-existence with her Arab neighbors, and is now being held captive by genocidal terrorists committed to murdering Jews and eradicating the only safe harbor of the Jewish people, created in the ashes of World War II.
It is my fervent prayer that Ada, who has health issues, is returned speedily to her children and grandchildren. This is not the ending that she could ever have anticipated in her wildest nightmare. And I hope to meet Ada one day soon living securely in a rebuilt Kibbutz Nir Oz.
So, I will continue to chant “Bring Them Home Now,” but in particular bring Ada Sagi home because now I feel connected to her life story, and she doesn’t deserve to be forgotten. Every hostage has a name and a unique identity, so I urge you to “adopt” a hostage, get to know them and hold them close. If possible, find a way to communicate with their family members. I sought out Ada’s son Noam, and though I have not communicated with him personally, I did find his LinkedIn page and left him a message, as did several others. Another hostage mom I heard speak recently said that every single message she gets comforts her.
To its credit, The Times of Israel and the Associated Press have been gathering information to the extent possible on every hostage. The Times of Israel series is called “Those We Are Missing.” The Associated Press has compiled “Portraits of those held hostage by Hamas after attack on Israel.”
Let’s hope we will hug each and every one of our captive brothers and sisters very soon. Don’t abandon them and remember that each one has a name and a unique life story.
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