The family of an 84-year-old Israeli great-grandmother snatched by terrorists from her home in Kibbutz Nir Oz are “helpless and torn with worry”.
Neta Heiman told the JC that she and her three siblings had been speaking to their mother, Ditza Heiman, on Saturday morning as soon as they heard news that “something was going on”, but lost contact at 10 am.
“We are used to it,” Heiman, who grew up on the kibbutz which is close to the border with Gaza, and moved to Haifa after attending university. “Every time there is a problem in the south, we call her and say ‘Ima, are you in the safe room? Don’t go out.’ We were talking to her to see that everything was OK. And she stopped answering.”
They assumed that the Internet and connection must be down, but when Heiman's sister got through a few hours later, someone from Hamas answered the phone and said in an Arabic accent: “it’s Hamas, it’s Hamas”. The response was the same when Neta’s niece called afterwards. “My sister called me crying,” Neta said.
A neighbour, who is nearly 80, told the family that he had heard Ditza calling for help, and came out from his safety room with a gun to shoot a terrorist, but there were too many terrorists outside and they had already started to shoot at him. “He went down to the floor and crawled back to the safety room,” Heiman said. “It was a good decision because if not, they will kill you.” The neighbour and his wife were rescued.
“I talked with him this morning,” said Heiman. “He told me that he saw her, and they took her by walking - she was on her feet, not injured. She looked good.” A video the family saw on Facebook confirmed that she was uninjured and walking to a car.
When IDF soldiers later entered her house, it was reportedly empty and there was no blood nor signs of struggle. While a lot of the houses on the kibbutz were burnt, Ditza’s was not.
From Nir Oz, around 50 people have been kidnapped, Heiman said. While some of the people who were kidnapped were young, including children, the majority were elderly. “We don't know where they are. And we assume they are very old people who need their medicines. Neta was concerned that, while they asked for help to transfer medicine, and while a Gaza hospital has the list of the required medication with the kidnapped people’s names, it is unknown whether that list has been transferred.
Two-and-a-half days later, Heiman said, the family were still waiting for official contact from the Israeli government. “Nobody has contacted us formally,” she said. “Talk with us. Tell us something.”
Heiman, who does social media for the family’s ice-cream business, described her mother as a “very strong woman”.
Born in Rishon LeTsiyon, she joined Nir Oz aged 18 and was a carer for babies on the kibbutz until she was 40, when she became a social worker. Until she was 80 years old she was a welfare officer and founded the welfare unit for the family court in Be'er Sheva. Ditza has 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, the youngest of which is three, as well as more grandchildren through her second partner, who had come over to the UK on the Kindertransport.
“She loves children and babies,” said Heiman. “She was making contact with her family all the time. We are talking now with the grandchildren of her cousin, and all they all know who she is and they are all very worried for her. We are worried, we are sad and we are angry. We are helpless and can do nothing to help her.”
Heiman pleaded: “Help us. With medicine, and to bring her back. We need the help of the world community.”