Lifelong peace activist among those kidnapped by Hamas in wave of terror

Sharon Lifschitz and Noam Sagi's parents were kidnapped from in Kibbutz Nir Oz


London-based British-Israelis, Noam Sagi (R) and Sharon Lifschitz, whose respective parents were taken hostage from the Nir Oz Kibbutz during the surprise attack on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, attend a press conference hosted by Defend Israeli Democracy UK, in London on October 12, 2023. British-based relatives of Israelis believed taken hostage by Hamas militants begged for the safe release of their loved ones during an emotional press conference in London on Thursday. (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP) (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)

Among the missing hostages kidnapped by Hamas was a lifelong peace activist in his eighties, who used to drive sick Palestinians from the Erez border crossing into Gaza to appointments at Jerusalem hospitals at least once a week.

Sharon Lifschitz, 52, a London-based filmmaker and artist, said her parents, Yocheved and Oded Lifschitz who were both abducted by the terrorists last Saturday from the home where she grew up in Kibbutz Nir Oz, were members of Another Voice, a grassroots organisation based in Israeli towns and villages close to the Gaza Strip.

But now, she went on, they had been taken as part of an “an act of such barbarity that it is coaxing us into hate, into rage, into wanting to destroy”. Nevertheless, she said, people must “see the human within each of us. We now need to act together to fight that hatred with love.”

Lifschitz was speaking at a press conference together with her childhood friend Noam Sagi, 53, who works in Britain as a psychotherapist. His mother Ada Sagi, who was equally committed to working in peace with Palestinians, was also kidnapped from Nir Oz last weekend.

They both made impassioned pleas for their return. “I shouldn't be here today, I was supposed to go to Heathrow to pick up my mum,” Sagi said. “I am here because of pure evil…Someone remind me: why is my mother a hostage? For living in her own home in Israel.”

Lifschitz said her father, 83, and her mother, 85, both needed daily medication, while according to Sagi, his mother has severe allergies, especially to dust – but when she was kidnapped, the terrorists left her emergency epipen at her home.

Of the Nir Oz population of 400, 80 are said to be currently missing, with just 150 known to be still in Israel and alive. In nearby Kibbutz Kfar Aza, where the terrorists butchered babies, up to 80 per cent of its 800 residents are thought to have been murdered, while the rest are missing.

Sagi said: “On Saturday morning, the Kibbutz where I was born and grew up, woke up to a massacre. They have been gassed, burned, butchered, slaughtered, killed and kidnapped. Mostly young kids and old elderly people. They burned the place to the ground, shot the dogs. Nothing left.”

Among the victims were Holocaust survivors: “People who survived the Holocaust found themselves facing another one. One of the hostages was on the Kindertransport.

“What keeps us going is that my son has one grandmother and I want him to be with her for his next birthday… I have no words to look at my son into his eyes and say this is why it happened. I cannot explain how we live in a world in 2023 where this is still a reason for this kind of hate.

“Our only hope is Hamas will see that they are human beings, and not use them as objects. It might be far fetched and I might be naive but I still have hope.”

Speaking of her mother’s kidnap, Lifschitz said: “You have to be a special sort of person to take an 85-year-old out of her bed.” They had, she said “taken her out and disconnected from her oxygen and loaded her on to a motorbike”.

She revealed that her father “met [the late Palestinian leader] Arafat”, and once fought a successful campaign in the Israeli courts to restore ancestral land to the Bedouin, adding: “We had relationships with many people in Gaza, we were a community that wanted to work together.”

Her father, she said, was not the only Nir Oz resident who used to take Palestinians to hospital: “Others who were slaughtered were part of that.” 

Lifschitz said that another of the Nir Oz kidnap victims was the autistic daughter of a friend: “she is not well to be in a very acute situation, I want her out.”

But for now, “of my parents’ house, there is nothing left. Our life, my life, was shattered on Saturday. They have made it impossible for these communities to go back home because of the level of atrocities committed there. There is nothing to come back to.”

She said she and her brother had recently given her father a new piano, but with the destruction of their house, “it’s now three centimetres tall”.

Sagi said Nir Oz “was just a small piece of the desert we call home, where you don’t lock your doors, you go everywhere by bike, where you give as much as you can and take what you need: the essence of a kibbutz.”

His parents – his father died a year ago – “created a dream for themselves. My mother’s mission was to build bridges through communicating: no politics, no governments, just people in communities. All their lives they fought for a better future for all of us, and they were marginalised in Israel for their beliefs.”

Their dream, he went on “was alive until Saturday morning”. He was, he said, “shaken to my core how it is possible humans could do this to other humans.”

"We need to find a way for our future,” Lifschitz said, “I think at the moment we cannot do anything until these elderly people and children are brought back.

“We are going to deal with the rest of our lives with the atrocity. This is the defining moment of our lives."

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