Rabbi Meir Hecht of Evanston, Illinois, told Fox News on Monday that the jihadist terror group Hamas is holding two Jewish women from Chicago, Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie, hostage since its unprecedented attack on Israeli civilians.
The Raanans were in Israel to celebrate the 85th birthday of Judith’s mother when Hamas launched its horrifying sneak attack on October 7, murdering thousands of Israeli civilians and dragging dozens of hostages back to lairs in Gaza.
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“It has been confirmed to the family that both Judith and Natalie are alive and are hostages in Gaza. The Israeli government and the State Department confirmed that information with the family,” Rabbi Hecht said on Monday, continuing:
It’s a painful and devastating situation, and it’s important to realize that this is a war against outright evil, savage murderers that killed babies in their homes and took hostages, civilians, out of their homes in their towns where they lived peacefully, and whenever there’s such utter darkness, we know that we have to bring more light and goodness to the world, and goodness will prevail.
NBC News in Chicago reported on Friday that contact with Judith and Natalie was lost soon after the Hamas attack began. Judith’s sister Sarai Cohen told NBC it was clear “they were taken hostage by cruel Hamas terrorists.”
“We fear for her. Pray for her. Hope she’s with her mom, we’re not certain of that. Judith, Natalie. Keep faith strong. We will welcome you back when the day comes,” Natalie’s father added.
“It’s one thing to hear about the news, what’s happening collectively, but to know an individual makes it so personal,” Judith’s friend Ahuvah Coates told NBC three days after the Hamas attack.
Coates said she received a cheerful voice message from Judith before the attack began: “I love Israel. I love the South. I’m in the kibbutz close to my mom. Nothing like Israel, my love, just nothing.”
“I kept calling as if she’d answer the phone. Of course, she didn’t answer her phone,” Coates said sadly.
The kibbutz — or small collective town — Judith and Natalie Raanan were visiting is called Nahal Oz. The town had about 400 residents before the Hamas murder squads arrived. Nahal Oz is located so close to the border that its residents could see their Gazan neighbors through the security fence, about a quarter of a mile away.
Survivors of the Hamas atrocity said entire families in Nahal Oz were killed and kidnapped by dozens of heavily armed terrorist attackers, who shot people in the streets and set fire to the houses, hoping to force residents out of their safe rooms.
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The town has its own group on the social media platform WhatsApp. On the day of the attack, it was filled with messages such as “Please save us,” “They are killing us,” and farewells from people who thought they were about to die. One survivor said the terrorists sent messages from the cell phones of their murdered victims to everyone on their contact list, hoping to lure them out of hiding by telling them it was safe to emerge.
Natalie Raanan’s brother Ben said on Sunday that the family’s last communication with the missing woman was a text from Natalie saying that she heard bombs and gunfire. He said the Hamas kidnappers had provided “no proof of life” at the time.
The far-left New York Times on Monday profiled Judith Raanan as a 59-year-old who “spent her early life in Israel before setting [sic] in Chicago” and retains a strong sense of her Israeli heritage. Among other activities, she is a cook and painter and founded her own line of skin-care products named after her mother, Tamar.
Natalie Ranaan is a recent high school graduate “taking a gap year to travel and explore her interests in fashion and interior design.” Her Facebook page includes “messages supporting the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.”