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Hamas hostage survivor is reunited with her Australian family

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3 February 2024, The Australian, by Cameron Stewart

For Melbourne man Dan Monheit it was the warmest hug of his life. He had been desperate to fly to Israel and wrap his arms around his family matriarch, 78-year-old Margalit Moses, ever since the former hostage was freed by Hamas.

For 48 dark days last year, Mr Monheit and his family feared they would never see his father’s cousin alive again after she was kidnapped by terrorists at Nir Oz kibbutz in southern Israel on ­October 7.

But in late November when the mother of three and grandmother of 10 was released unexpectedly as part of a prisoner exchange, Mr Monheit booked his flight to Tel Aviv, and this week in southern Israel the ­reunion he dreamt of came true.

“Margalit gave me the warmest, most heartfelt embrace I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t ­believe that I was actually standing there, holding her and she was free,” he says.

The son of an Israeli hostage has revealed his mother, who has since been released by Hamas, slept for just… minutes at a time while being imprisoned. Yair Moses’ parents, Gadi and Margalit were taken by Hamas during the terrorist group’s horrific attack on October 7. Margalit was freed during More

He had almost forgotten that Ms Moses was a real person who shared his DNA because “since October 7 she was mainly a face I’d seen a million times on Israeli TV segments and in news articles online”.

“She was a poster I’d plastered all over Melbourne and held for a photograph that accompanied an article about her in The Australian,” he says. “She was an icon of the depravity of Hamas. A grandmother in her 70s thrown on to a golf cart, ferried to Gaza and held underground for weeks. I had no idea what state she would be in or how she was readjusting.”

Mr Monheit, a 42-year-old ­father of two, says he drove with Ms Moses back to Nir Oz, where 100 of the kibbutz’s 400 residents were murdered or taken hostage.

Along the way he says he talked to her about her experience as a hostage.

“She was in the underground tunnels and she had no idea she was being released until moments before she was,” he says.

“So she decided that the best way to spend her time was to keep as busy as she could, looking after the other women she was held with and conversing with the guards in Arabic about who ­needed medical care, blankets and food.”

Mr Monheit says she told him she was thankful to be free but deeply concerned about the remaining hostages, especially her ex-husband Gadi, who is still being held.

Until her release, the last thing the family knew about Ms Moses’ fate was a photograph of the ­retired teacher being bundled, terrified, into a golf cart and ­driven into Gaza.

Mr Monheit says he was shown through the remains of her largely destroyed kibbutz by a family friend and he could not ­believe the scale of the devastation. Several hundred Hamas terrorists had stormed the kibbutz at 7am on October 7 and killed, raped and kidnapped people at will until the first Israeli soldiers arrived at 2.30pm. The destruction of that day remains.

“Just six houses were left untouched. The rest are somewhere between ransacked and completely obliterated. The communal dining hall and many other common areas are riddled with bullets and charred black from fire and explosions,’ Mr Monheit says.

He visited the scene of many of the “gut-wrenching stories” he had heard about which had unfolded in Nir Oz. “It was so ­depraved, so disturbing, that my brain seemed convinced that I was simply walking through a movie set,“ he says.

His nine days in Israel, during which he also visited the scene of the Nova music festival massacre, made him realise that “the entire country is suffering from a level of grief and heartbreak that is ­unfathomable”.

“Israel is a tiny country with an incredibly tight-knit population. Everybody knows somebody who’s been killed or captured and most people I spoke with knew many,” he says.

On his last day in Israel, he says he was forced to race into the bunker of a museum in Tel Aviv when rocket sirens rang out.

“As we waited for the sound of Iron Dome to shoot the rockets out of the sky and the ‘all clear’ siren to sound, a group of young girls in the bunker started singing a song: “The main thing is to recall, is to have no fear, is to have no fear at all.’

Reflecting on his visit, he says “the Israeli people are without a doubt the toughest in the world. They’d never tell you directly that they need us over there right now, but they’ll certainly make it feel worthwhile if you go.”

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Article source: The Australian/Cameron Stewart/3.2.2024

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000