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Parents of hostage still fighting to bring their son home from Gaza

Sunday will mark six months since Israelis were snatched away by armed Hamas terrorists and taken as hostages and human shields.
Parents of hostage still fighting to bring their son home from Gaza
Posted at 7:18 PM, Apr 05, 2024

“Right now I’m speaking to you. It’s like there’s a branding iron on my back,” Rachel Goldberg told Scripps News.

It’s been nearly six months since she and her husband, Jon Polin, became some of the most prominent voices of hostage families.

It’s been six months since their son Hersh Goldberg-Polin was brutally kidnapped from the Nova Music Festival in Israel.

They are not counting in months. They are counting in days, displayed across their chests. They are counting in the moments and in the the breaths they’ve taken since their 23-year-old son was stolen as the sun rose.

“We put on these costumes to look like people so that we can go out in the world and try to save our son,” Goldberg said.

They still know almost nothing about where Goldberg-Polin is or what his condition is like. They say the Red Cross has done nothing to find out. Part of Goldberg-Polin’s left arm was blown off during the initial attack and they have pleaded for medical attention.

“I speak to Hersh all day long saying I love you, stay strong, survive,” Goldberg said. “Sometimes I turn it on myself and I say stay strong, survive, stay strong, survive.”

For Goldberg, surviving means getting her son’s story out. She told Scripps News of his kind, curious nature, his love of family and travel. She’s traveled the world, too, speaking to every leader imaginable about Goldberg-Polin. It’s not just her son’s story she tells us about, it’s the collective story of the roughly 100 hostages remaining still in Gaza. They’re made up of different religions, nationalities, and viewpoints. For so many held from the music festival, and those who lived on the kibbutzim, it’s the desire for peace that put them in those places that day.

“He grew up in an environment that really promoted those values,” Goldberg told Scripps News.

They posted a video on their Instagram page Bring Hersh Home, showing his bedroom. It’s full of art he made, preaching coexistence. 

SEE MORE: Families of US hostages in Gaza hold out hope for imminent release

“He’s someone who has Palestinian friends who had been in touch with us since October 7, you know, these are the things that kind of get lost in this very bifurcated kind of attempt of the world to make this a black and white issue,” Goldberg said. “And I think it does an injustice to the hostages, and to the whole region and to the population that was so active in trying to create an alternative to what, what was happening.”

But tensions in and out of Israel are rising. Earlier this week, Israel’s Knesset recessed until late May.

“It just feels like such a slap in the face for hostage families,” Polin explained.

Israelis, including some family members of the hostages, are protesting in the streets and begging their government to bring their loved ones home.

“We understand the torment that every family goes through. And we would not point a finger at any family for the path that they choose after 181 days of inaction, and no results. Our personal view is we don’t want to make this anything political, it should not be political,” Polin added. “We want a result. If Prime Minister Netanyahu can bring us that result today, amazing. Please do it. If it requires a different direction and a different leader, then that’s what has to be. We just want a result.”

There’s only one result that will do, and for these families, they’re not stopping until they get it.

“In the last 181 days, we could count on one hand the number of times that we’ve smiled. Each one of those times was on a day when hostages came back home,” Polin said.

“We say every day hope is mandatory. Hope is mandatory,” Goldberg added.

She suggests including women in the negotiations. Until now, the main faces during this process, she says, have been men.

The parents say they don’t know anything about where Hersh is right now, but they believe he is alive. 

“Our point person has explained that no news is good news. And so we just try to stay as optimistic and hopeful,” she said.

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