Naama Barak
November 26, 2023, Updated December 4, 2023

In the last few days, Israel collectively held its breath as the first hostages to be returned from Hamas captivity began making their way back home. 

Yoni Asher is reunited with his wife, Doron, and daughters Raz and Aviv, on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of Schneider Children’s Hospital
Yoni Asher is reunited with his wife, Doron, and daughters Raz and Aviv, on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of Schneider Children’s Hospital
Raz, 4.5, and Aviv, 2.5, return home from the Gaza Strip with their mother Doron. They reunited with their father and husband, Yoni, at an Israeli hospital, on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of Schneider Children’s Hospital
Raz, 4.5, and Aviv, 2.5, return home from the Gaza Strip with their mother Doron. They reunited with their father and husband, Yoni, at an Israeli hospital, on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of Schneider Children’s Hospital

As photos and videos of children held in captivity for 50 days being reunited with their parents began making rounds, a huge sigh of relief could be heard around the country.

Ehud Munder, 9, was released from captivity with his mother and grandmother. They were reunited with his father and brother after 50 days apart on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of Schneider Children’s Hospital
Ohad Munder, 9, was released from captivity with his mother and grandmother. They were reunited with his father and brother after 50 days apart on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of Schneider Children’s Hospital
Six-year-old Emilia Aloni, and her mother, Daniel, arrive back in Israel on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of Schneider Children’s Hospital
Six-year-old Emilia Aloni, and her mother, Daniel, arrive back in Israel on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of Schneider Children’s Hospital
Six-year-old Emilia Aloni is greeted by family upon her release back to Israel on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of Schneider Children’s Hospital
Six-year-old Emilia Aloni is greeted by family upon her release back to Israel on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of Schneider Children’s Hospital

The hostages now being released are returning home as part of a deal reached between Israel and Hamas, which was brokered by the United States, Qatar and Egypt. In return for their release, Israel is freeing Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel – three for every one Israeli hostage, halting its operation in the Gaza Strip for a number of days and allowing humanitarian aid into the area.

Emily Hand and her father are reunited upon her release from Hamas captivity on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit
Emily Hand and her father are reunited upon her release from Hamas captivity on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit
Emily Hand and her father are reunited upon her release from Hamas captivity on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit
Emily Hand and her father are reunited upon her release from Hamas captivity on November 25, 2023. Photo courtesy of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit

The returning hostages include some of the women and children held by Hamas. Men and soldiers – both male and female – are not part of this exchange.

Hila Rotem is embraced by her uncle upon her return to Israel. Her mother, Raya, is still being held captive in the Gaza Strip. Photo courtesy of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit
Hila Rotem is embraced by her uncle upon her return to Israel. Her mother, Raya, is still being held captive in the Gaza Strip. Photo courtesy of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit
Yafa Adar, 85, is escorted back to Israel after spending nearly 50 days in Hamas captivity, on November 24, 2023. Photo courtesy of the Adar family
Yafa Adar, 85, is escorted back to Israel after spending nearly 50 days in Hamas captivity, on November 24, 2023. Photo courtesy of the Adar family
Great-grandmother Yafa Adar, 85, is surrounded by family upon her return to Israel on November 24, 2023. Photo courtesy of the Adar family
Great-grandmother Yafa Adar, 85, is surrounded by family upon her return to Israel on November 24, 2023. Photo courtesy of the Adar family

Separately, Thai nationals who were kidnapped by Hamas in Israel’s southern communities, where they were working in agriculture, are also being returned by Hamas. Their release is being orchestrated separately by the Thai government, reportedly with the aid of Iran.

Among the hostages returned so far are Emily Hand, who was documented running excitedly to her emotional father. 

In another video, Ohad Munder, who marked his ninth birthday in Hamas captivity, can be seen spotting his father for the first time. For many Israelis, the image of his face lighting up upon seeing his dad was a wonderful, heartwarming respite from an otherwise endlessly bleak news cycle.

Similarly, a photo of Yoni Asher being reunited with his wife, Doron, and daughters Raz and Aviv, melted the hearts of many, as did images of grandmothers released from captivity being surrounded by their children and grandchildren.

Ruti Munder, 78, is accompanied by a soldier upon her return to Israel together with her daughter, Keren, and grandson, Ohad. Her husband, Avraham, is still in Hamas captivity. Photo courtesy of the Munder family
Ruti Munder, 78, is accompanied by a soldier upon her return to Israel together with her daughter, Keren, and grandson, Ohad. Her husband, Avraham, is still in Hamas captivity. Photo courtesy of the Munder family
Keren Munder, left, was released from captivity with her mother, Ruti, and son, Ohad. Her father, Avraham, is still held captive in Gaza. Photo courtesy of the Munder family
Keren Munder, left, was released from captivity with her mother, Ruti, and son, Ohad. Her father, Avraham, is still held captive in Gaza. Photo courtesy of the Munder family

Among the hostages released on Sunday were the Haran-Shoham family. The photos shared by the Prime Minister’s Office show Shoshan Haran, 67, her daughter Adi Shoham, 38, and her two children Naveh Shoham, 9, and Yahel Hosham, 3, arriving back in Israel.

Adi’s husband, Tal Shoham, is still being held captive in Gaza. 

Upon their arrival, the family was greeted by soldiers, who provided emotional support for the adults and toys and games for the children. 

Yahel Hosham being greeted by soldiers upon her arrival in Israel. Photo courtesy of Prime Minister’s Office
Yahel Hosham being greeted by soldiers upon her arrival in Israel. Photo courtesy of Prime Minister’s Office

Shoshan is a world-renowned agronomist, who in the past worked in Ethiopia and Tanzania, helping the locals develop advanced agriculture methods. She founded the non-profit Fair Planet, which works to prevent hunger among children around the world.

Shoshan Haran being consoled by a soldier upon her arrival in Israel. Photo courtesy of Prime Minister’s Office
Shoshan Haran being consoled by a soldier upon her arrival in Israel. Photo courtesy of Prime Minister’s Office

Another child who was freed is an Israeli American toddler, Abigail Edan. She turned four in captivity in Gaza. Abigail’s grandfather, Carmel, 75, greeted the child on arrival. 

Both of Abigail’s parents — Roi and Smadar — were murdered by Hamas on October 7 in their home in Kfar Aza in front of her eyes. Abigail’s siblings, Michael, 9, and Amalia, 6, hid in a closet and survived. Roi was a longtime photographer for Israel’s biggest news site, Ynet. 

In a televised address, US President Joe Biden welcomed the return of Abigail, one of several American citizens taken hostage to Gaza on October 7. 

“What she endured is unthinkable,” Biden said. “Thank God she’s home. I just can’t imagine the enjoyment. I wish I were there to hold her.”

An additional group of hostages released by Hamas on November 27 included nine children. Among them were Sahar Kalderon, 16, and Erez Kalderon, 12, from Kibbutz Nir Oz. The children’s father, Ofer, is still being held hostage by Hamas.

Their mother, Hadas Kalderon, has organized events calling for their release and given countless interviews to media outlets. The children were in their father’s house on October 7 and it was entirely burned down by the terrorists. 

Twelve-year-old Eitan Yahalomi was also freed. He was taken hostage by Hamas along with his entire family, who also have French citizenship, from their home in Nir Oz. 

His mother, Bat Sheva, in a miraculous escape, managed to jump off the motorcycle that was carrying her and two younger daughters. 

Eitan Yahalomi before the capture. Photo courtesy of the family
Eitan Yahalomi before the capture. Photo courtesy of the family

The mother took off running with the girls, barefoot, until she encountered Israeli soldiers and was saved. Eitan and his father, Ohad, were taken on a different motorcycle that reached Gaza. The father is still being held hostage. 

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the family’s release, saying France will fight to free all French citizens being held hostage by Hamas.

Another nine women and children were released on the first day of the extension of the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas on November 28th. The majority of the freed hostages were elderly women, including Ditza Heiman, 84, Tamar Metzger, 78, Noralin Babadila Agojo, 60, Ada Sagi, 75, Ofelia Roitman, 77 and Clara Marman 63.

Marman’s relatives, Gabriela Lemberg, 59, and her daughter, Mia, 17. were also freed. Mia’s release initially caused confusion when the Arab media outlets broadcasting from Gaza, caught the teenager walking out of captivity with a dog in her arms. 

It turns out Mia was taken hostage with her mother and her dog, Bella. The relatives of the family said they had spent a month looking for the dog, believing it ran away and was maybe even adopted by someone. 

Gabriela and Mia were visiting Marman and her family in Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7 when the terrorists broke into the family home. Despite their attempts to hide in the safe room, the entire family was kidnapped and taken to Gaza. Clara’s brother, Fernando, and partner, Louis Har, remain captive in Gaza. 

Two Thai workers were also freed by the terrorists on the same day.

Sixteen more hostages were released on the second day of the 48-hour extension of the truce, including 12 Israeli women and children, and four Thai workers. 

Among the freed women were Irena Tati, 73, and Yelena Trupanov, 50, who hold dual Israeli-Russian citizenship. Hamas said the two were released as a “gesture of goodwill” toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Irena Tat and Yelena Trupanov being led by Hamas terrorists into a Red Cross van. Photo via Twitter
Irena Tat and Yelena Trupanov being led by Hamas terrorists into a Red Cross van. Photo via Twitter

Among the released women was also Raya Rotem, 54. She was taken captive with her daughter, Hila, on October 7 from their home in Kibbutz Be’eri. Hila was freed several days ago, with Hamas claiming they couldn’t locate Raya. 

Hila, however, told Israeli authorities upon release that she had been held together with her mother since October 7 and the terrorists only separated them 48 hours before freeing the daughter. 

Yarden Roman, 36, was freed after she was taken hostage from Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7. The terrorists initially took the entire family, but Yarden’s husband, Alon, managed to escape. Yarden handed their baby, Geffen, to Alon because she knew he could run faster than her, and had more chances of escaping and saving the child.

Thirteen-year-old Gali Tarshansky was also freed. She was taken captive from the home of her father, Ilya, in Kibbutz Be’eri, where she was staying along with her brother, Lior, on October 7. 

Fifteen-year-old Lior was killed by the terrorists along with Gali’s dog, Moka. Ilya and Gali jumped out of the safe room’s window, but the teen was captured and taken to Gaza. Ilya survived.

On the last day of the deal for the release of Israeli women and children from Hamas captivity, the terror group freed another eight hostages. The terror group also released the bodies of three hostages, which the terror group claims died in captivity. 

Among those who were released are Aisha and Bilal Ziyadne, aged 17 and 18, respectively. The two siblings are from the Bedouin city of Rahat, near Beer Sheva. 

Israel welcomes returning hostages, awaits further releases

The siblings were abducted along with their father Youssef, 53, and older brother Hamza, 22. The family was working at a cowshed in Kibbutz Holit, where the father has been employed as a farmer for over 17 years, when Hamas terrorists took them as hostages on October 7. 

Youssef and Hamza remain in captivity, along with two other Bedouin men — Samer Fouad Talalka, 22, and Farhan al-Qadi, 52 — who were also abducted on October 7. 

The Ziyadne family has been appealing to Egypt and Qatar to help free the remaining family members, emphasizing that they are Muslims.  

The other six hostages who were released are all women: Mia Schem, 21; Amit Soussana, 40; Ilana Gritzewsky, 30; Nili Margalit, 41; Sapir Cohen, 29; and Shani Goren, 29

ISRAEL21c joins everyone here in Israel in welcoming back the hostages, wishing them a full recovery and much happiness with their loved ones. 

We anxiously await the return of all of the 240 people kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, and very much hope to bring you further good news.  

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