The anguish of the relatives of missing Israelis: “The worst thing is not knowing what they did to my daughter” | International

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A family arrives at the Family Information Center of the largest hospital near Gaza, Barzilai, in the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Eyes red, nerves on edge, and without leaving their cell phone, they give a sister's ID number to find out if she is admitted there. It does not appear in the database. It is the same response that they have received in three other hospitals since Saturday, when the Gaza militias killed 900 people - mainly civilians - in the deadliest day in the 75-year history of Israel, which has since massively bombed the Strip. , already causing 788 deaths. “We haven't heard from her since Saturday. Nothing. There is no phone number that we have not called and no one gives us an answer,” says one of them, David. The missing person was at the Nova festival, near the Reim kibbutz and it turned into a massacre: 260 dead and dozens kidnapped, today presumably held underground in Gaza. “We have spoken to everyone who went with her to the festival and no one knows anything about her. “They all split up when she started the thing,” she says before getting on the elevator. Nor have they seen it in the videos and photos of the place that circulate through the media and social networks.

Still in a state of shock and licking its wounds, Israel has not finished collecting bodies or identifying all its dead and kidnapped people. The spokesman for the Israeli Armed Forces, Daniel Hagari, indicated this Tuesday that the families of 50 kidnapped people have already received the news. There are at least 130. Every day, in addition, the authorities add names to the list of fatalities, only after offering condolences to their families. The rest live in the anguishing uncertainty of not knowing if their loved ones are alive or dead.

Ahuva Mayzel, 54, has not heard from her daughter Adi, 21, since she hurriedly told her over the phone that a group of armed men had broken into the festival and started opening fire. The only clue to her is a photo in which she sees her car. She doesn't appear. Yes a good friend she went with, hanging from the driver's seat with the door open, apparently dead. When security forces cleared the area and reached the car, they did not find Adi, she explains.

Adi Mayzel, missing Israeli, in an undated photo.Courtesy of Ahuva Mayzel

Ahuva talks about her anguish because, she says, it helps her “not go crazy” and deal with helplessness: “It makes me feel like I'm doing something more for my daughter than crying all day.” “No one has seen her, she is not in the hospitals, nor on the list of dead or kidnapped. I don't even know if or when they will find her. Israel is at war. It's not that we don't receive answers because they don't want to give them to us. It's just that we don't receive answers because there aren't any. The worst thing is the uncertainty. Not knowing what they did to my daughter, what they didn't do…” she says.

He is plagued by the thought that the more time passes, the less likely he will appear alive in Israel. As the identification of bodies progresses, it becomes more plausible every hour that she is kidnapped in Gaza, in the hands of Hamas or the Islamic Jihad, amid massive air and naval bombardments, and after the announcement this Monday by the Islamist militia that it will execute a captive civilian for every Israeli bombing without prior warning.

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Their tragedy is shared. The authorities have converted a police telephone number into a help switchboard for relatives of missing persons, who can also receive psychological care. And established a center on the grounds of Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv, where hundreds of police and volunteers collect details and photos of the missing, and take DNA samples, preferably from first-degree relatives. In turn, a group that coordinated the protests against Netanyahu's judicial reform that have been going on since January has put aside the controversy to set up a center at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds to help locate missing Israelis. Several relatives organized a press conference on Sunday in a town near Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, in which one of them, Uri David, with two missing daughters, asked the Government for answers, "even if they are not happy."

Entrance to the center for missing and kidnapped people set up near the Israeli Ben Gurion airport, this Monday.
Entrance to the center for missing and kidnapped people set up near the Israeli Ben Gurion airport, this Monday.ABIR SULTAN (EFE)

The search against the clock also moves in other ways. The open microphone of Galei Tsahal, the Army radio station, is, for example, a succession of people recounting their cases in search of some clue. Like a young man who identifies himself as Udi, who has “a bad feeling,” but clings (“or I prefer to cling,” he clarifies) to the idea that his aunt has her phone turned off because there are power outages in the kibbutz near Gaza where he lives. Or a soldier in charge of guarding the observation posts, who says that her mission colleagues in the attack zone have not responded since Saturday at dawn to the questions of “Are you okay?” in the WhatsApp group they share. Family and friends are also spreading descriptions, prayers and photos of their loved ones on social media. They are taken from the missing person's profile on Instagram and Facebook, they are screenshots of videos on TikTok or they were taken by a family member or close friend with their mobile phone. The smiles with which they pose today seem from another era, even if they are only weeks or months old.

This is what is conveyed by the photos of Rotem Neumann and his father, Mickey, receiving the Portuguese passport (he has both nationalities) and which is shared by his niece Shira. Rotem, 25, was also at the festival. He phoned his parents when he saw the massive volley of rockets in the sky that began the attack, shortly before the militants sneaked into Israel from Gaza. He fled in a group by car and took shelter in a protective structure, from which he sent a message to a friend who was also at the party: “They are shooting.” “From Saturday at seven in the morning until now, that's all we know,” summarizes Shira, four years younger. “The whole family is devastated. We spent the whole day at home.” Hours later, this Tuesday, authorities identified Rotem's body. She will be buried tonight.

Rotem Neumann, missing Israeli.
Rotem Neumann, missing Israeli.Courtesy of Shira Neumann

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