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'I've Been Through Hell': Freed Israeli Recounts Abuse, Care As Hamas Hostage

An 85-year-old Israeli woman who was taken hostage by Hamas has spoken out about her harrowing two-week ordeal, recalling how she was initially beaten and thrown on a motorbike but later cared for and treated kindly by her abductors.

“I’ve been through hell,” Yocheved Lifshitz told reporters while seated outside of a Tel Aviv hospital, with her daughter translating, after her release late Monday with fellow prisoner Nurit Cooper, 79. The two women’s husbands, who were among more than 200 people Israel said were taken hostage during Hamas’ Oct. 7 raid on the country, remained missing as of Monday.

Yocheved Lifshitz speaks to the media outside a hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel, after she was released by Hamas on Monday night.
Yocheved Lifshitz speaks to the media outside a hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel, after she was released by Hamas on Monday night.

Alexi J. Rosenfeld via Getty Images

Lifshitz was filmed shaking a Hamas gunman’s hand while leaving custody, an act that generated some public controversy. Lifshitz did this, she told reporters, because they treated her “very nicely.”

She said that she and other hostages were given food, medical attention, shampoo and conditioner, and mattresses to sleep on. The militants promised the hostages that they wouldn’t be harmed, she added.

That’s not to say that her experience started out this way.

“They stormed into our homes. They beat people. They kidnapped others, the old and the young without distinction,” she said, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

“The young men hit me on the way. They didn’t break my ribs but it was painful and I had difficulty breathing,” she said of her abductors, who stole her watch and jewelry and put her on a motorbike — with her legs and head on opposite sides. She was driven from her Nir Oz kibbutz to the neighboring Gaza territory, where she traveled on foot through what she described as a “spiderweb” of tunnels.

Lifshitz's daughter helps translate her mother's comments to reporters gathered outside the hospital Monday.
Lifshitz’s daughter helps translate her mother’s comments to reporters gathered outside the hospital Monday.

Alexi J. Rosenfeld via Getty Images

Lifshitz blamed Israel’s leadership for effectively allowing Hamas’ attack to occur.

Authorities didn’t take early warnings seriously, she said, and Israel’s security barrier along the Gaza border did nothing to stop Hamas’ ground invasion.

“It cost NIS 2 billion ($493 million) and it didn’t help, not even a little bit,” she said of the barrier, according to The Times of Israel. She called those victimized by Hamas “the scapegoats for the leadership.”

Lifshitz’s daughter told the BBC in a separate interview that her 83-year-old father, Oded Lifshitz, had long campaigned for coexistence with the Palestinians. She’s holding on to hope that he’s doing well.

“He was very involved in rights for Palestinians and working towards peace with our neighbors,” the daughter said. “He speaks good Arabic, so can communicate very well with the people there. He knows many people in Gaza. … I want to think he’s going to be OK.”

Hamas on Friday also freed two Israeli American women, a mother and her daughter. Lifshitz was the first of the four former prisoners to speak out publicly about her experience.


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