The Clock Is Ticking. Our Hostages Must Come Home.


By Adi Shachar

Simchat Torah was supposed to be a joyful celebration where the Haran, Avigdori, Shoham and Kipnis families came together in Kibbutz Be’eri.

Instead, it ended in terror and bloodshed. Eviatar Kipnis, his caretaker Paul Castelvi, Lilach Kipnis and Avshalom Haran were killed. Their bodies were identified by the IDF, like so many other people who left us far too soon on that fateful day. Meanwhile, Shoshan Haran; their daughter Adi Shoham and her two children Yahel Neri and Naveh; Avshalom Haran’s sister Sharon Avigdori and her daughter Noam were all taken captive by Hamas.
After 50 painstaking days of uncertainty, they were finally released by Hamas — except for Adi’s husband Tal Shoham who, after more than 160 days, is still held by the terrorist organization.

As Sharon’s Avigdori’s sister-in-law, I’ve been telling the stories of these families as I know their pain, anxiety and suffering firsthand. There are 134 souls still held captive in Gaza. While my sister-in-law’s story is just one of the many others whose hearts are shattered and whose lives are on pause, in many ways I feel like these hostage families are also speaking for the Jewish nation — both in Israel and the Diaspora. So many of us will never feel truly safe until everyone comes home.

I can’t say that public advocacy comes naturally to me. I’m a kibbutznikit who feels like a stranger in a strange land while speaking with politicians and activists all in the hope that our hostages can come home. I certainly didn’t expect to be invited to speak at synagogues and address politicians in Washington, D.C., like I’ve recently done. I would have much preferred to come to Washington on vacation, where I could enjoy the city as a curious tourist, marvel in awe of the cherry blossoms set to bloom soon and not be someone fighting for their families to have their lives back again.

Instead, we have this ongoing nightmare where every day ends in disappointment.
The most common phrase I hear from people is admiration in how strong we are as a community of hostage families, but as we pass 160 days of war and captivity, I can tell you that our resolve is beginning to crack. We feel like we’re running out of time.

This is why I’m so grateful to have found another community to support me when I feel like my feet can no longer carry my body, my voice can no longer mouth the right words and my heart can no longer muster enough hope for better days ahead.

That community is the network of women who I first met in 2018 through Momentum. The organization, in partnership with Israel’s Ministry for Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism, brings mothers from all over the world to Israel, invites other Israelis on their missions so women in the Diaspora can see the country through the lens of the women who live there. I was told it would be a life-changing, deeply moving and a life-affirming experience. Yet the cynic in me asked: How could spending a few days with a bunch of moms change my life? I’m so glad I was proven wrong.

As a third-generation Israeli, with no family members who made aliyah, I always saw Diaspora Jews as well-intentioned people who want to help Israel, but aren’t actually invested in the country on a personal level beyond contributing financially. My Momentum journey taught me that these Jewish women in the Diaspora each feel responsible for us, and we’re profoundly inexorably linked.

When they asked me to come back again in January and tell my family’s story, it felt like coming home again. In the early days of the war, the organization launched its Momentum Mobilizes Campaign, a multi-pronged initiative aiming to create a connection to what’s happening in Israel and inspire communities to take action. Momentum took the Jewish concept of “hineni” (here I am) and showed up when Israel needed it the most. And the organization is continuing to bring mothers to Israel with missions planned for this month, May and July.

Women approached me and said that they came because they wanted their feet to touch the same ground as Israelis who suffered so much, that they wanted to bear witness and make us feel a little less alone.

Meanwhile, anti-Israel agitators worldwide tore down posters of our hostages — of Tal, of Hersch Goldberg, of Kfir Bibas. With every flick of their wrist, these hateful people struck a blow to the souls of Israelis and Jews everywhere.

But it is organizations like Momentum who demonstrate that we’re stronger when we’re together. And while we may be in the middle of the most critical war since 1948, it is a sense of community where every Jew being responsible for one another will help us get through this and emerge triumphant. This is the most important humanitarian issue for the Jewish people today and time is not on our side.

As the Jewish people approach the joyful holiday of Purim and they don their costumes, drink wine and revel in our freedom from persecution, it’s important to understand we’re not truly free unless these 134 other souls are back home where they belong.

Tal is a hostage. And so are we.

Adi Shachar is a relative of Tal Shoham who is being held hostage in Gaza.

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