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November 28, 2023

ITC update: Operation Iron Swords

Day 53
Tuesday 28.11.23

Hostage deal: Though most released from Hamas captivity appear to be in stable physical condition, some have substantial weight loss, sensitivity to light, and instinctively talk in whispers. One of the Israelis, 84-year-old Elma Avraham, is unconscious and on a respirator with her condition termed “unstable” due to lack of medicine and medical attention. She was evacuated directly from Gaza to Soroka Hospital, by helicopter.

Aviv Asher, 2.5 years old, her sister Raz Asher, 4.5 years old, and mother Doron reunited with Yoni, Raz and Aviv’s father and

Doron’s husband . (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON UNIT)

Brokering of the hostage deal has been a critical breakthrough in the war. On Friday afternoon, the first batch of 13 Israelis (12 of them from Kibbutz Nir Oz) were released along with ten Thai citizens that worked in the Kibbutzim and one hostage from the Philippines who was a carer for an elderly man on Kibbutz Nir Oz.

After several tense hours, the second batch of hostages were eventually released late Saturday night. 13 Israeli citizens and four Thai nationals were released. Of the Israelis, eight were children. 12 of the hostages were from Kibbutz Be’eri and one was kidnapped from the Nova music festival. Sunday, 14 Israeli and 4 foreign nationals were released from captivity. The Israelis included nine children, two mothers, two more women, and one man, with Russian-Israeli citizenship. Ten of those freed were from Kfar Aza.

After long delays, the latest group of hostages, all from Kibbutz Nir Oz, were freed from Gaza Monday night. 9 children, including 3-year-old twins, and 2 mothers. The fathers of all five families are still held hostage in Gaza.

Today, to help three released hostage children readjust, their family dog Rodney was brought to the Schneider Children’s Medical Center where they are being treated. “The family was aware that nothing would make them happier than to see their beloved dog, so they brought him to the department,” the hospital said.

Together with the joy of seeing reunions comes the pain of knowing so many remain captive and that so many were killed on that dreadful day. In addition, the on-going psychological warfare, including the separating of families, is devastating to the families who await word of the fate of their loved ones. They are holding onto a ray of hope and once again it’s gone.

Monday night’s release was originally slated to be the last of four scheduled groups of hostages freed as part of a deal, however up to the time of writing, a list of Israeli hostages set for release, as part of an extended truce, has been sent. The list is being reviewed and families of the hostages notified. The truce could expand the list of eligible hostages who could be released in coming days to include elderly men.

May we see more reunions soon.

Northern border: Since our last update, two homes in Kibbutz Menara in the Upper Galilee were hit by anti-tank fire after rocket alert sirens sounded in Western Galilee. Between 30 and 50 rockets were fired from Lebanon at the Upper Galilee. This is the most intense barrage of rockets fired from the north in the last few years.

ITC on the Ground
This is a reality we have never experienced. However, as trauma professionals we understand that each of the hostages, the families, and communities will experience their own road to recovery. It is a return to the unknown. They are not returning to what was, but to what will be.

ITC has 50 social workers assigned to the families of adults and experts who work and provide support and skills to the local social workers who are working with the families who are waiting. It is a period of heightened uncertainty. The difficulty here is not only for those returning from captivity, but also for their relatives. Sometimes they encounter people very different from the loved ones they knew before the trauma.

Some people may report an inability to enjoy things they used to love. They feel like their vision of the future has disappeared; they have difficulty restoring trusting relationships with people after encountering evil and may experience survivor’s guilt. This is the essence of ITC’s work in post-trauma, helping individuals, families, and communities, not to return to what was, but to what will be.

On October 7th, they asked for help, and it did not come. Now we need to do all that we can to help rebuild trust, to help them find within themselves anchors of hope and optimism going forward, points of meaning, small and large, that will generate meaning into their new lives.

Babies: The Population and Immigration Border Authority recently released a list of names of communities in the south that have been used for some of the 17,629 babies born since October 7. Since the war, 49 boys and one girl have been called Oz, 34 boys and 11 girls have been named Be’eri, eight boys and two girls have been called Erez (the name of another kibbutz near Gaza) and five boys and three girls have been named Nir. Three girls were given the name Nova, a possible reference to the Supernova music festival.

Thanks for all your support. We will keep you updated.

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