Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Back to Opinion

Our relatives are held hostage in Gaza. We are begging American Jews to pressure Netanyahu to make a deal now

Instead of doing everything he can to bring our families home, Israel’s prime minister is attacking us

The word “hostages” typically elicits a sense of urgency — an understanding that lives are at stake, that human beings have been violently kidnapped by people who could at any moment end their lives. Somehow, when it comes to those taken by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, this sense of urgency doesn’t seem to apply.

It has been 259 days since that horrific morning’s attack that was so gruesome that the raw footage has not been released for public consumption. Now 120 souls — some confirmed dead, some still believed to be alive — remain captive, held at the mercy of the men who slaughtered and raped their families, friends and neighbors. The same men who torched their homes and towns.

How can this be, that nearly nine months have passed for them in this hell? Surely Israel would have secured their release by now. The government is meant to keep its citizens safe. Why, then, has no hostage deal been reached?

The answer is simple. There is one man preventing 120 families from being reunited and from bringing their loved ones home to proper burial. That man is indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We need the leadership of American Jewish institutions, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and UJA Federation of New York, to pressure him directly and forcefully to make a deal.

Since Day 1 of this war, Netanyahu has done everything in his power to torpedo any chance of a hostage deal. From limiting the mandate given to his own negotiating team, to flat-out pulling a 180-degree flip on matters agreed upon in his own war cabinet and authorizing brutal attacks on the Gaza Strip resulting in many thousands of Palestinian civilian deaths.

Netanyahu is in the midst of an ongoing corruption trial. He is charged with multiple counts of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The man is terrified of what he will personally face when this war ends. He knows that as soon as the hostages are released the war will inevitably cease, and his reign will be over.

We are stuck between two villainous leaders, neither of whom act in the interest of the people they are meant to represent. One is a bitter enemy from whom we have no expectations — Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The other we will hold accountable when this is all over. He knows that the longer this war drags on, the weaker Israel’s national resilience becomes. He just doesn’t care.

We, the families of the hostages, want a hostage release deal. We know full well that a deal — and a cessation of military hostilities — is the only way to get everyone back home. Every moment in captivity is a game of Russian roulette with the odds stacked against you.

Yet instead of doing everything possible to bring home our family members who were kidnapped on his watch, Netanyahu has resorted to using what we Israelis have dubbed his “poison machine” against us, the families and even against returned hostages.

For months we’ve been disrespected and attacked in the media and at Knesset Committee meetings by Netanyahu’s bulldogs.

During one meeting, a hostage family member criticized Netanyahu, saying, “At a time of war one should not be receiving funds to redo a pool,” alluding to the funds the prime minister received for pool renovations at his private residence. The head of Israel’s National Security Council, Tzachi Hanegbi, responded by saying: “He can build 10 pools with his money. These are despicable comments, you have no place to hate and hurt like that,” after which the hostage family member stormed out in tears. When another woman got up to check on her, Hanegbi continued, “Are you gonna cause more drama and slam the door behind you?“

Likud member of Knesset Tali Gottlieb had the audacity to scream at Einav Zangauker, whose son Matan is held captive by Hamas, saying the protests demanding the government accept the hostage deal are destroying the state of Israel. Another Likud member, Hanoch Milwidsky, accused Dani Elgarat, whose brother Itzhak is held captive in Gaza, of “taking advantage of his brother’s situation for political gain.” Ministers and Knesset members are making public personal attacks against relatives of hostages.

Our social media is flooded with cruel messages from Netanyahu’s propagandists and supporters wishing us death. The police force controlled by Netanyahu’s most extreme and violent partner, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is eager to please. Zahiro Shahar Mor, whose uncle Avraham Munder is held captive in Gaza, was arrested without cause seven times. We are repeatedly met with police brutality at our nonviolent legal protests demanding a deal.

We never imagined that such venomous vitriol and violence would be used against families of hostages abducted by Israel’s sworn enemies. We never imagined that our own government would abandon us on Oct. 7 and every day after, that our prime minister who is supposed to lead and protect us would instead sic his rabid hate-filled trolls on us.

We are being attacked for demanding a deal and an end to the war, in exchange for the return of our loved ones. We are being attacked because a deal does not serve Netanyahu’s personal interests. It’s as simple as that. But Netanyahu’s political survival does not take precedence over the lives and well-being of our families.

There is a hostage release deal on the table. Netanyahu won’t take it unless there is massive pressure placed on him which would leave him no choice.

For that, we need your help. Let go of the notion that supporting Israel means supporting Netanyahu. That’s a despicable lie he sold you. Supporting Israel means doing right by its people, and that above all means rescuing hostages.

ADL, AJC, UJA Federation of New York — you are some of the biggest Jewish American institutions. We’re calling on you to help us get our families back. They are suffering unspeakable torture at the hands of monsters. Help us save them by publicly supporting this deal. Pressure your elected officials to directly call out Netanyahu’s sacrifice of our loved ones for his political future, and pressure him to take this deal.

Our families can’t be allowed to die in captivity while being used as pawns by an indicted defendant.

– Einav Zangauker
mother of hostage Matan Zangauker, 24

– Zahiro Shahar Mor
nephew of hostage Avraham Munder, 79

– Osnat Meiri
niece of hostage Avraham Munder, 79

– Dani Elgarat
brother of hostage Itzik Elgarat, 69

– Yehuda Cohen
father of hostage Nimrod Cohen, 19

– Shai Mozes
nephew of hostage Gadi Mozes, 80

– Efrat Machikawa
niece of hostage Gadi Mozes, 80

– Ifat Kalderon
cousin of hostage Ofer Kalderon, 53

– Ayala Metzger
daughter-in-law of deceased hostage Yoram Metzger, 80, who was killed in Hamas captivity

– Yael Or Ofek
cousin of deceased hostage Dror Or, 48, who was murdered by Hamas on Oct. 7 and whose body is held in Gaza

– Maayan Sherman
mother of deceased hostage Ron Sherman, 19, who was killed in Hamas captivity

– Naama Weinberg
cousin of deceased hostage Itai Svirsky, 38, who was killed in Hamas captivity

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.