Hope and Silence: Hostages Return Home; Feminists Ignore Hamas Rape

This content is developed by The Focus Project in partnership with Mercaz USA. The Focus Project distributes weekly news and talking points on timely issues concerning Israel and the Jewish people, including antisemitism, anti-Zionism and the delegitimization of Israel. It represents a consensus view across a spectrum of major American Jewish organizations. Mercaz USA recognizes and respects the diversity of views on these issues among its readers and the community at large.



The Israeli mission to return home all the hostages – Operation Heaven’s Doors – shows the great lengths the Jewish state will go to, including releasing convicted terrorists in exchange for innocent civilians. In Judaism, the redemption of captives – pidyon shvuyim – is an important commandment. While hostages live in a constant fear of death in captivity, during the vicious attacks on October 7 women were often subjected to brutal sexual violence. Hamas terrorists admitted their leaders encouraged them to rape Israeli girls and women. Incredulously, many groups and indviduals worldwide – including feminists – are ignoring the atrocities committed by Hamas and are even condoning their actions.

The Qatari government is helping to facilitate negotiations between Hamas and Israel. The Israeli government has agreed to suspend its military campaign against Hamas terrorists as long as hostages continue to be released. The price the Jewish state is being forced to pay is three Palestinian terrorists for every one Israeli civilian, and time to rebuild and rearm Hamas fighters.

Reuniting Families: ‘Emily has come back to us!’

Israelis are experiencing a respite of joy as dozens of Israeli women and children are being returned home. One example that personifies the unspeakable torment of the families, the deprivation of the terrorists and the absence of outrage is Israeli Irish child, Emily Hand.

Emily’s dad, Tom, became one of the most recognized faces during his daughter’s captivity. He described how she “is broken and lost a lot of weight from her face and body.” Now, his family “can’t find the words to describe our emotions after 50 challenging and complicated days. We are overjoyed to embrace Emily again.”

Emily ‘celebrated’ her 9th birthday under Hamas imprisonment. Her dad was haunted by this idea: “She won’t know it’s her birthday. She won’t even know if it’s day or night. There’s no light down there. No party. No friends. She’s in terror every day. My daughter, she doesn’t know if I was killed or kidnapped or somewhere else.”

Emily was at a sleepover with a friend in Kibbutz Be’eri. Tom originally thought his daughter was murdered on Oct. 7. He later learned that she was seized in her Disney pajamas, along with her friend Hila Rotem and her mother, Raya, and taken to the Hamas tunnels beneath Gaza. Hila and Raya weren’t confirmed as hostages by Hamas until Oct. 29.

Shattered Homes and Lives: ‘Hila returned without her mother’

Both daughters were released but not Raya. The mother and Hila were held in captivity together by Hamas until two days before Hila’s release. Raya’s brother Yair Rotem: “You don’t separate a girl from her mother. They were separated two days before the release. She managed to give her mother a hug. Raya cried. It breaks your heart.” Upon their release, every child hostage is being assigned a social worker, pediatrician and child psychologist.

Emily Hand (second from right) reunites with her father, Tom Hand (right) while Hila Rotem (second from left), whose mother is still held hostage, reunites with family members in the early hours of November 26.

An Israeli doctor who treated some of the victims detailed the harsh realities faced by elderly women held by Hamas terrorists: “They were beaten with sticks when they were captured and held five floors underground. They lacked medication and proper nutrition. An elderly woman lost 26 pounds. They all tried to eat as little as possible because the food caused constipation. They were afraid to get sick and couldn’t care for themselves. Sleeping conditions were poor. They slept in beds pushed together, and it was crowded. They didn’t bathe for 50 days and were only given light for two hours a day.”

Released sisters Ela and Dafna Elyakim, ages 8 and 15, were visiting their father at Kibbutz Nahal Oz the weekend of the attack. Noam Elyakim lived with his partner, Dikla Arava, and her son, Tomer Arava. The Hamas terrorists who entered their home filmed their attack on Facebook Live. The sisters witnessed the murder of their father and his girlfriend.

Ma’ayan Zin hugged her two daughters, Dafna Elyakim, 15, and 8-year-old Ela Elyakim after they were released by Hamas on November 26.

Released Palestinian Prisoner’s Praised: ‘We will redeem you Hamas’

Palestinians in the West Bank cheered the prisoners released by Israel. In contrast to the release of innocent hostages, the Palestinian prisoners included women and teenagers who had been convicted or awaiting trial on terrorism charges. Crowds waved Hamas flags and carried the freed prisoners on their shoulders. News footage showed the terrorists waving green Hamas flags and wearing Hamas headbands.

A mother hugged her son and led the Palestinian crowd in chants: “With our soul and our blood, we will redeem you, Hamas.” ‘Resistance’ is a euphemism for terrorism. A senior official from the Palestinian president’s Fatah party justified the 10/7 massacres as “an act in the context of the defensive war our people are waging.”

The Palestinian Authority’s ‘Pay for Slay’ program will pay an average of about $600 a month to nine of the first 78 released terrorists; the PA currently pays more than $300 million a year in monthly salaries to terrorists or the families of dead terrorists. The terrorists who will receive a monthly salary for life include a then 16-year-old convicted of attempted murder. Two Israeli terror victims, who were shot and seriously wounded at point-blank range by a 16-year-old Palestinian, requested that their attacker be taken off the prisoner release list.


Twins Yuli and Emma Cunio, 3, seen being released, in propaganda footage issued by the Hamas terror group that abducted them, on November 27.

Psychological Terrorism: ‘Spoils of war’

The most well-known, viral faces from the 10/7 attacks have not been released by Hamas. Noa Argamani was seen on the back of a motorbike being taken into Gaza after being kidnapped from the Nova music festival. She was seen desperately pleading for her life: “Don’t kill me!” Her mom has stage four brain cancer and does not have any hope of recovery. She stated: “My one wish would be to hug and see Noa before something happens to me due to my medical condition, which would mean I won’t be able to.”

Another iconic image from October 7 was Shiri Bibas holding in her arms her red-headed kids, 10- month-old baby Kfir and 4-year-old Ariel. Their father also was kidnapped. The IDF recently reported that they are not being held by Hamas terrorists. Hamas leaders chose to “treat them like loot” and transfer them to another Palestinian terrorist group as “spoils of war.” They are reportedly being held in southern Gaza. About 40 Israelis are being held captive by Palestinian terrorist factions other than Hamas.

The aunt of the two youngest hostages still held in Gaza, confirmed that the psychological warfare is “working really well because the days since the start of the truce have been a big nightmare, and I hope they’re not holding them as a trophy.”

Shiri Bibas holding in her arms her red-headed kids – then 9-month-old baby Kfir and 4-year-old Ariel as they are led away by Hamas terrorists on October 7.

Me Too – Unless You’re a Jew

The silence by women’s rights and sexual assault advocates and organizations is deafening. Israeli feminists launched the #MeToo_Unless_Ur_A_Jew campaign slamming the victim blaming, the denials and whitewashing of Hamas crimes and the outright support for the Hamas atrocities. Physicians for Human Rights recently shared a report summarizing and including descriptions of sexual and gender-based crimes from the October 7 atrocities.

UN Silence

The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Girls claimed the evidence against Hamas was “not solid” enough to warrant a statement. Claire Waxman, London’s first Victims’ Commissioner, responded in disbelief: “How can we talk about eliminating violence against women and girls if we are tacitly saying it’s acceptable to rape Jewish ones?”

The United Nations Women’s Agency for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment and its president waited nearly two months before meeting with Israeli feminist groups. UN Women finally issued a statement on Instagram condemning Hamas and calling for the release of the hostages before deleting the post; its new post removed the condemnation of Hamas. The UN agency touts itself as “a global champion for women and girls.” This includes fighting for gender equality and “a woman’s right to live free from violence.” Apparently this does not apply to victims of rape – when the victims are Jews.

“It is unbelievable that groups like the Red Cross and UN Women are doing nothing to help our people,” explains Keren Sharf Shem in disbelief, whose 21-year-old French Israeli daughter, Mia, was kidnapped from the Nova music festival. The National Council of Jewish Women condemned UN Women’s “unconscionable silence that demands immediate rectification.” Hadassah “strongly implores UN Women – and all other human rights agencies – to gravely condemn the brutal attack and atrocities committed by Hamas.”

Feminists Supporting Hamas

Too many have ignored the rape and violence against girls and women, including feminists. Global women’s rights groups are silent as Israeli women testify about rapes by Hamas terrorists. The executive director of a Tel Aviv crisis center stated that “champions of human rights, feminism, and social justice have been bending over backwards to justify atrocities and rationalize rape.”

The now-fired director of the University of Alberta’s Sexual Assault Center signed an open letter denying women were raped by Hamas terrorists. Across the Atlantic, the UK’s Sisters Uncut claimed that reports of sexual assaults against Israelis were “Islamophobic and racist weaponization of sexual violence.”

America’s National Women’s Studies Association waited until October 13 to release a statement, but made no mention of the vicious sexual crimes committed against Israelis. The feminist group did condemn gender violence in war but only in the context of the usual slanders directed at Israelis. It reaffirmed its commitment to the anti-Jewish Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and implicitly referred to Hamas as a ‘resistance’ movement.

WARNING: Stories in the next section, Testimonies, include graphic depictions of sexual assaults and may be difficult to read.


Israeli Special Forces Combat Medic First Responder

“I see two girls lying, one on a bed, one on the floor in their own bedroom, and the girl, a 14-15 year-old teenager, she is lying on her bed, on her stomach, her pants are pulled down, and she is half-naked, her legs are spread out wide open and there are remains of sperm on her back. Someone executed her right after he brutally, brutally raped her, while just shooting her in the head. She was left there to lie in her pile of blood.” – Israeli special forces combat medic testimony to the horrors he saw upon entering a kid’s bedroom at Kibbutz Be’eri.

Hamas in Their Own Words

The Israeli Police report that extreme sexual violence and rape by Hamas terrorists was systematic. A Hamas member of an elite force that was captured at Kibbutz Alumim testified that terrorists were given permission to rape the dead body of a girl. Even when Hamas terrorists admit to their heinous crimes that they filmed, Hamas sympathizers falsely discredit these statements as propaganda.

There were many instances of gang rape, mutilation and sexual torture of women. Little girls were found with their pants pulled down in their bedrooms. Many of the female victims were then shot in the head. Pregnant women had their bellies sliced open so terrorists could decapitate their unborn children. Hamas GoPro footage shows naked women being dragged through the streets of Gaza City as war trophies.

More Testimonies

An Israeli forensic volunteer described the evidence of rape she witnessed while examining remains: “Women – including children and the elderly – were raped, forcible entry to the point where bones were broken.” A survivor from the Nova festival illustrated the brutality of the Hamas terrorists: “I saw the terrorists bending her down, raping her and simply passing her on to the next. She was alive when they raped her. She was on her feet and bleeding from her back. He pulled her hair. He shot her in the head while raping her, didn’t even lift his pants. They cut her breast off and played with it.”

Ukrainian Israeli Nachman Dyksztejna is a ZAKA volunteer first responder. He was sent to several scenes of the massacre and provided statement: “In Kibbutz Be’eri, I witnessed bodies of two women with their hands and legs tied to a bed. One of these bodies we found was sexually terrorized with a knife stuck in her vagina and all her internal organs removed. After brutally violating these women, Hamas detonated the house on them, so we found them beneath a pile of stones.

Israeli Peace Activist Covered in Blood

In one of the most widely-viewed videos at the start of the 10/7 attacks, 19-year-old Israeli peace activist Na’ama Levy is dragged out of the back of a jeep in handcuffs. Her pants are covered in blood – which could be the result of sexual assault. Na’ama participated in the Hands of Peace program in the U.S. Young Americans, Israelis and Palestinians meet to advance peaceful coexistence. Na’ama explained why she joined the program: “I wanted to hear the other side. We live so close to each other but we never actually get to talk to one another.”


1. The war against Hamas will not end until all hostages are released AND Hamas is destroyed

Iran’s foreign minister: “I met in Lebanon with Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas leaders, and they have reassured me that 90% of the Palestinian capabilities, forces and weapons are still held by them and have not been used so far. Therefore, they are in a good place.”

Israelis are clear that they are not willing to live in fear that Palestinian terrorists could launch more 10/7 attacks – a repeated aim voiced by Hamas. The return of all hostages is only one half of Israel’s stated goals. Video evidence continues to show the willingness of Hamas terrorists to store and launch attacks from hospitals, schools and mosques. Terrorists even hid weapons in the rooms of their children. Hamas also has a history of diverting humanitarian aid from their Gaza citizens – food, water and fuel – and into their war machine. Israel is being pressured to allow more aid in despite the repeated manipulation by Hamas.  Advocating for the dismantling of Hamas is rooted in the pursuit of stability and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. The violence against women and children during the attacks underscores Hamas barbarity and the necessity to neutralize it.

2.  There is NO moral equivalency between Palestinian terrorists and Israeli civilians

Many news media and politicians are conflating the released Palestinian terrorist criminals with abducted Israeli civilians. Terrorists are able to earn degrees from Israeli universities while in prison and are granted access to the International Red Cross. Israelis do not even know if their relatives are alive in Gaza and the hostages are denied access to the Red Cross. Israeli hostages are returning to shattered homes and lives, while Palestinian terrorists are being celebrated and paid rewards for attacking Jews. Hamas does not share our moral values. Israel is a democracy committed to protecting the lives and well-being of its citizens. Hamas terrorists deliberately target civilians and endanger innocent lives – Israeli and Palestinian. The Israeli Defense Forces – in its efforts to defend its people – adheres to strict ethical standards, emphasizing the importance of minimizing civilian casualties. Hamas maximizes death and destruction and terrorists sacrifice their own citizens to protect their fighters. This false moral equivalency must be rejected.

3.  Double standards only exist for Israelis

The Jewish state is often held to a different set of standards in international affairs, facing disproportionate scrutiny and condemnation. Israel navigates complex security challenges and strives for peace, while international organizations like the United Nations and Human Rights Watch (HRW) obsess over alleged Israeli actions. The UN routinely and falsely condemns Israel while turning a blind eye to serial human rights abusers Iran, China and Russia. An HRW staffer recently resigned, condemning the group for “shattering professionalism, abandoning principles of accuracy and fairness and surrendering its duty to stand for the human rights of all.” Israel is committed to democratic values, human rights and international law.

4.  Silence allows hate to perpetuate

It is frightening to witness the lack of condemnation by so-called feminist organizations for the heinous acts committed by Hamas terrorists on October 7, including the sexual assault of Israeli girls and women. By failing to stand up for the rights of the Jewish women and children who suffer, feminist groups worldwide are perpetuating a shocking double standard and displays unconscionable discrimination. We must speak out against such atrocities, acknowledging the rights and dignity of all people, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity and religion. Shedding light on the plight of Israeli victims is not just a moral imperative but a vital step toward justice and a more humane world.


A.  REPORT, REPORT, REPORT: all anti-Jewish attacks must be reported

Don’t be reluctant to report an attack; it is vital to accurately measure the magnitude of increased incidents. The ADL is reporting an alarming 315% surge in antisemitic incidents across America – 25 reported incidents per day. This includes assaults, vandalism, harassment and anti-Jewish rhetoric at pro-Hamas rallies, but not all incidents are reported. Report any incidents promptly to local authorities, ensuring that incidents are documented and investigated. Reporting holds perpetrators accountable and also helps raise awareness about the persistence of these issues. Don’t underestimate the power of your voice in fostering change and standing up against hate.

B.  Make your voice heard: sign petitions in support of the hostages

The National Council of Jewish Women’s #VoicesForHostages campaign is at the forefront of urging international women’s leaders to raise their voices. NCJW is calling for international pressure for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas; humanitarian aid and medical care to be provided until the hostages are released; and the enforcement of international humanitarian law. The NCJW site also has forms for emailing your lawmakers and emailing ambassadors to demand the release of all hostages. A testimonial event on sexually-based violence will be held at the UN headquarters on Monday, December 4.

C. Make your voice heard: sign petitions against UN Women’s response to sexual assaults against Israeli girls and women

Hadassah – America’s largest Jewish women’s organization – is leading the fight against the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. Hadassah is calling for women’s rights and victims’ organizations to sign their names to a statement for the UN to take urgent action to protect Israeli girls and women. Also, the Israeli #MeToo_Unless_Ur_A_Jew campaign calls for signatures from those who believe that every woman’s life is valuable.

This testimonial event on sexually-based violence will be held at the UN headquarters on Monday, December 4. Click here to register.



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