Bereft mother 'stunned' after grinning Londoner tears down posters of kidnapped daughters

Maayan Elyakim's daughters, aged eight and 15, were snatched from their home after witnessing their father's murder


When Maayan Elyakim saw video footage of a young man in London ripping down posters of her daughters who are being held captive by Hamas she was “stunned”. The stories her grandparents told her of the Holocaust came rushing to the surface.

Speaking to the JC about the viral video, which showed the man grinning as he peeled down a poster bearing her children’s faces and silently tossing it on the ground as he ambled away, Maayan said: “I was stunned.

“I thought about the stories of my grandparents. I cannot relate to people who do that. It startled me.”

It has been just over a month since Maayan’s daughters Dafna,15, and Ela, eight, were snatched by the terror group from their home at the Nahal Oz kibbutz in southern Israel having just witnessed their father’s murder.

“They are just regular children,” Maayan, 50, explained from the apartment where she is staying in Qiryat Ono in Tel Aviv following the October 7 massacres that saw more than 1,400 murdered. Dafna and Ela are among around 240 people still being held hostage in Gaza.

Maayan, is able to hold herself together during the day, to an extent, when she focuses all her energy on galvanising the public to demand the hostages’ release. At night, though, she said, “alone in the darkness,  I think about what is happening to them I melt down”.

She is desperate for news but information is almost non-existent, though she does know from footage that Hamas uploaded to social media that Ela has sustained an injury to arm.

Although she is barely sleeping or eating, she smiles and laughs when she talks about her daughters: “They have lots of fights like sisters do and they resolve them. They have a great bond,” she said.

The girls “love doing TikTok videos together, and Dafna is into boys and make up”.

Ela, who is seven years Dafna’s junior “loves to impress her older sister” while Dafna is a “protective big sister, always sticking up for Ela”.

Maayan said: “If Ela comes home from school complaining that a teacher told her off Dafna says ‘how dare the teacher say that about her’.

“Ela looks up to her sister and is always taking her make up and saying she knows how to put it on better than her sister.”

Maayan does not understand why people around the world are ripping down pictures of Israeli hostages: “How can people do that? I don’t understand this kind of person.” 

Reflecting on the anti-Israel demonstrations that have taken place in numerous countries, and which in many cases began before the Jewish state responded to the Hamas attacks, she said they “showed the extent to which the whole world needs to deal with this problem”.

“World leaders are not doing enough to apply pressure and bring the hostages home,” she continued.

“All I think about is them coming back,” she said.

“I don’t know what state they will come back in, but I think about being together again. I want to do normal things like go to the shops and spend time together.”

Of Ela, who still sleeps in her mother’s bed, Maayan added: “I just want her to come home and get into bed with me. I want her back there.”

She is determined to stay strong for her children despite her anguish.

“When they return, I need to be there for them and if I break down now, I won’t be strong to deal with whatever state they come back in,” Maayan said.

When she imagines her daughters in Gaza and how they are being kept she envisions her girls at the end of a long corridor.

“I don’t know why but this is the image I have in my mind. I hope that they are together. I see Ela at the end of the hall and she is running around and playing.

“I don’t know if they are held together with other hostages, or if they are being kept with another family.

“I hope they are helping other children. I hope they are finding moments of small humour. I hope that they have that.”

Maayan’s thoughts constantly flip between “maybe they are alive, maybe they are not”.

But, she said: “I can’t think about the not.”

She is fearful the world will lose interest soon: “I don’t want people to forget about them. I want them to remember them and help bring them home.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive