Inside Israel

Despite Delay, Hamas Releases Dozens of Hostages

After fifty days in captivity, thirteen Israeli hostages were returned to Israel late on Saturday night. The director of Safra Children’s Hospital at Sheba Medical Center reported, of the twelve who arrived at her hospital, “The days of captivity are evident on them, but none of them will need medical intervention.” One hostage had to stay at a hospital in the south to tend to her untreated injuries sustained on October 7.

On Friday, the first group of thirteen released hostages brought excitement, love, and hope to the entire country. The anticipation was palpable, and the families were overjoyed to see their loved ones emerge from the tunnels of Hamas. Their release was delayed for a few hours as Hamas claimed Israel violated the agreement for a ceasefire.

On Sunday, fourteen Israelis, including nine children, were released. Unlike the previous night, their release came in a calm and timely fashion. In a separate deal, some foreign nationals from Thailand, Nepal, the Philippines, and Russia were also released and treated in Israeli hospitals. On Monday, Hamas allowed another eleven Israeli hostages to go. According to the agreement between Hamas and Israel, more should go free this week.

Since Friday, Israel has agreed to a four-day ceasefire with Hamas to release fifty hostages (of the 240). The women and children who are slated to return to Israel are family units, elderly, or children held alone in Gaza. In exchange, Israel has agreed to release Palestinian women and minors held in jail for violent crimes. Altogether, Israel could release 150–300 convicted Palestinians.

Israel also promised to allow 200 humanitarian trucks and 4 fuel trucks into Gaza each day of the ceasefire to deliver food, fuel, and medicine. There is a backlog to enter Gaza, however, as Israel inspects the deliveries for any contraband weapons Hamas might use. On Saturday night, the ceasefire almost fell apart as Hamas accused Israel of not sending in enough trucks. Israel accused Hamas of splitting up family units by not releasing a mother with her thirteen-year-old daughter. Israel threatened to resume land, sea, and air bombardment of Gaza if Hamas did not release the hostages by midnight on Saturday. They were released minutes before the deadline.

As all Israel felt the tension, the United States, Egypt, and Qatar worked to make sure the ceasefire and hostage release kept moving forward. Currently, Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Qatar.

Praise God for this answer to prayer! Please also pray for the healing of the hearts, bodies, and minds of the hostages. Pray for their families who will walk this journey with them.

Read more about the hostage release on Saturday evening . . .

Read more about the hostages released on Sunday evening . . .

Israelis Gather in Kidnapped Square in Solidarity with Hostages

Hostages Square is outside Tel Aviv Museum of Art (Source: Wikimedia Commons/TijsB)

A central square in the heart of Tel Aviv, renamed “Kidnapped Square,” was packed on Saturday night. About 100,000 eager Israelis gathered to show love and support for the families of the 240 hostages Hamas abducted on October 7, now more than fifty days ago. Saturday’s massive crowd filled the square and spilled into the side streets long before the rally started. They did not leave until late at night, after standing in solidarity until the delayed hostages entered Israel, at which point the crowd erupted in joy.

The headquarters of the Hostage and Missing Family Forum has sprung up at Kidnapped Square since the crisis began. Located behind the Defense Ministry buildings, the square is dotted with posters of hostages and stalls with T-shirts and other merchandise saying, “Bring them home.”

There are rallies throughout the week, including speakers, messages from families of hostages, and musicians. One speaker said, “Even if the 50 . . . [hostages] are released, there will still be 180 people who are waiting, whose families are waiting.” Through the turmoil, the unity in the square gives some hope, even amid the tears of everyone in the crowd.

Please pray for the families of the hostages who have endured so much anxiety, anger, sadness, worry, and fear for their loved ones Hamas abducted.

Read more at The Jerusalem Post . . .

Families Grieve the Fate of the Hostages Still in Gaza

A hostage poster in Washington, DC (Source: Flickr/Ted Eytan)

The families of those still held hostage in Gaza are facing a horrific nightmare of watching other families receive their loved ones back but not knowing when, or if, they will ever see their loved ones again. Currently, the ceasefire arrangement prioritizes releasing elderly women, children, and mothers. There is some hope the ceasefire will be extended if Hamas releases ten more people per day, but Hamas is having a hard time locating everyone scattered in deep tunnels. Israel may not want to allow Hamas more time to regroup and rearm. Hamas leadership and infrastructure must be destroyed.

Ofri Bibas Levy, whose brother, his wife, and their two small children (ten months and four years old) were taken hostage on October 7, said, “It’s a deal that puts the families in a situation that is inhuman. Who will come out and who won’t? The children come out, but my brother and many other people stay?”

The families of the hostages who have been released say their efforts will not stop. They will continue to put pressure on global leadership to free the captives. These families will continue to stand together. Securing freedom for all the hostages will be very difficult and cost a high price. Hamas and other extremist Islamist groups will use the captives as human bargaining chips as they know Israel highly values each person.

Please pray for the softening of the hearts of Hamas to set the hostages free. Pray for the hostages’ condition—for health, food, companionship, and hope. Please pray the mighty hand of the Lord will strengthen them and give them peace.

Read more at The Times of Israel . . .

Visits Provide Hope in a Time of Struggle

Recently, our staff were delivering food parcels to elderly people and Holocaust survivors in cities south of Tel Aviv. They were so thrilled to receive the much-needed food supplies. Many rarely leave their apartments during these fearful times of war and sirens and are afraid to open their doors to strangers. Some elderly people do not even step into their building’s safe room, which is located in the basement. It is too hard for them.

During one visit, a few of our staff children came to help. Upon seeing the children, a Holocaust survivor’s face brightened up with the biggest smile. She had fun showing the children her puzzles and gave them lots of kisses. It was special for everyone. On another visit, a Russian-speaking staff member developed a relationship with the people she had previously visited. On a recent visit, she sat in multiple people’s homes, chatting and praying with them over many cups of tea. She was thrilled to be able to give them attention, love, prayer, and sustenance.

Please pray for more opportunities to encourage and brighten the days of homebound Israelis during this crisis.