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He watched his family get taken by Hamas fighters. Now he wants Israel to fight back

Margit Silverman and her husband Yossi Silverman; and Shiri Bibes and her husband Yarden Bibes
Yosi Shnaidel
Margit Silverman and her husband Yossi Silverman; and Shiri Bibes and her husband Yarden Bibes

When Yosi Shnaider saw the video of a woman being led away by Hamas fighters, he knew it was his cousin.

The tell-tale sign? The two young red-headed boys she was clutching to her chest, wrapped in a blanket.

Shnaider, 45, hasn't heard from Shiri Bibes since the surprise attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7th.

That day started unlike any other.

Shnaider, who runs a real estate business in Holon, heard so many air raid sirens that he assumed the system had broken.

When he heard that Hamas fighters had crossed into Israel from Gaza, he tried to reach Bibes and her husband, Yarden Bibes, who live near the border in Kibbutz Nir Oz.

He got no reply.

Shnaider also couldn't get in touch with his aunt, Margit Silverman and her husband, Yossi Silverman.

Frantically searching social media for any pictures or videos from the village, that's when he found the video of Bibes and her children, 4-year-old Ariel and 9-month-old Kfir.

He'd later find a picture of Yarden Bibes, bleeding from the head, sandwiched between two Hamas fighters on a motorcycle.

Now, Shnaider believes the family is being held captive in Gaza.

He doesn't know if his aunt or uncle are alive.

"It took me almost two days just to wake up. To understand that it's not a dream. It's not a nightmare. It's something that really happened" Shnaider told NPR's Morning Edition.

Now, he wants Israel to end Hamas as a threat to Israel.

"It's time to finish with Hamas once and for all," he said.

Amidst the raw pain he was feeling, Shnaider didn't have much room to think about similarly innocent people in Gaza being caught up in Israel's bombing campaign in response.

"We are sorry for all the babies and children that are suffering over there," he said. "But there is only one blame on this, it's on Hamas."

The opposite was true for Yonatan Zeigen, whose mother is missing following the attack.

"It's just a terrible tragedy for everybody," Zeigen told NPR.

He was on the phone with his mother, Vivian Silver, when Hamas arrived in her village, Kibbutz Beeri.

Yonatan Zeigen's mother Vivian Silver is missing following the attack in Israel.
/ Yonatan Zeigen
/
Yonatan Zeigen
Yonatan Zeigen's mother Vivian Silver is missing following the attack in Israel.

As he heard gunshots outside the 74-year-old's window, he told her to hang up so she could stay quiet.

They began to text one other on WhatsApp.

"She told me that they're inside the house, and we expressed our love for each other, and that was it," Zeigen said.

Zeigen, 35, hasn't heard from her since. But he is optimistic that he'll see her again, if she's now a hostage inside Gaza.

"If she's being held there, I think it's a situation that has to be resolved," he said. "And I trust that the militant organizations in Gaza won't hurt her. Because of her status as an elderly woman and their religious ethics."

Silver has spent her life pursuing peace in the region, Zeigen said.

"Since she retired, she was very much involved in an organization called Women Wage Peace. Since 2015, she also volunteered with an organization called The Road to Recovery," noted Zeigen.

"She would drive sick Palestinians from Gaza to Israeli hospitals. So apart from being a wonderful mother and grandmother, that was her essence," he added.

Despite their different views on how Israel should approach their campaign against Hamas, Zeigen and Shnaider were both waiting for the same thing - news from Israel's government that they're negotiating for the release of their loved ones.

The radio version of this story was edited by Adam Bearne and Jan Johnson and produced by David West. The digital version was edited by Treye Green.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: October 9, 2023 at 11:00 PM CDT
A previous version of this story misspelled Yosi Shnaider as Yosi Shnaidel.
Adam Bearne
Adam Bearne is an editor for Morning Edition who joined the team in August 2022.