Her husband and daughter were murdered in the October 7 invasion. Hen Almog Goldstein was found a few hours later captive with her three other children in a tunnel in Gaza. Today, six months after her release, she is asking the Israeli government to release the hostages from their torture

By Athanasios Katsikidis

The phone rings, the weak voice of Hen Almog Goldstein on the other line. "Please give me another 20 minutes." Stand by.

On October 7, Hamas terrorists stormed the Kfar Aza kibbutz and executed her husband, Nadav, and her eldest daughter, Yam, while the terrorists kidnapped her and her three children in Gaza. They were held captive for 51 days. Six months after her release from the 'nightmare', Hen gave an exclusive interview to 'K'.

The telephone connection to Israel begins. Hen asked that our conversation be limited to 30 minutes. She is still so charged that she needs to stop her narration several times. As she tells us, on October 7 her family had woken up 5 hours before the Hamas attack on Kfar Azza. "We had been to the shelter from a very early age," he recounts. "Rockets had fallen and already at 6.30 in the morning we had received a "red alert" message. So we hid in the shelter, as we did every time".

The attack

“That morning,” he recounts, “we heard very loud gunshots at a very long distance, so we knew something important had happened. Of course, our minds did not go that such a great evil would happen. We heard on the news that terrorists entered Israel and that we had to defend our home.

"We came out of the shelter and my husband and my eldest daughter, Yam, went around the house to see what was going on. We opened the windows and saw some people in khaki clothes walking around our house and went back to the shelter. At first we thought they were Israeli soldiers, but we quickly realized they were not our own forces. A little later we heard noise again, a big "bang".

"The explosion happened near our house and even near our shelter. A part of the bathroom was destroyed and we realized that an explosive device had been planted intended to hit our house. At that time we were all hiding in the bunker and we could hear the shots being fired at other houses. The terrorists entered our house and shouted, "Jews, Jews!"

Nadav and Yam

"The hit to our house happened around 11.30-12.00. I remember the terrorists shooting at the bunker we were in and sitting outside the door until they got inside. Nadav was sitting by the shelter door with a broom. He tried to defend us and they killed him…

"My daughter and I were in an alcove between the clothes closet. Four terrorists entered, we were in our pajamas, and they asked us to come out with our hands up. We changed clothes and were taken out of the shelter. The kids went out first and I followed. They took us out of the house from where they had entered.

"On our way out we passed my husband. I couldn't check his condition. I thought that after a while the army would come to help us. Outside the house, in the pergola area, there were about ten other terrorists. They saw Yam's army shirt spread out and realized she was a soldier. They asked her something in Arabic, I guess they asked if we have weapons inside the house and we said no.

Yam passed out in her panic, Agam and I took her into the bathroom to give her some water and I ran out to see where the rest of my children had gone.

"The terrorists had taken them into the house to put on shoes and I went back to the bathroom where Yam was. I go inside and see that she has been shot in the face. Blood was pouring from her head… I was unable to help her… Agam goes out, I go out to find the rest of my children. The kibbutz was quiet.

» The terrorists then find Nadav's car keys. But because the car is a hybrid, when they put it in front they didn't hear the noise of the engine and thought it had broken down. They leave and take my car and drive out of the garage. With the children, they put us in the car and drive us to Gaza.

»Within 7 minutes we were in Gaza. They stop the car at the border and load some corpses into the trunk. Agam, who is 18 years old, tells her brothers, "don't look, don't look."

You must understand the shock we were experiencing. After what we had seen at home I didn't know what to tell my children. We are now in Gaza, it's crazy!'

The captivity

Then, "as soon as we crossed the border, they stopped the car and put us in another car," says Hen. "I remember we saw a Red Cross ambulance next to us." They looked at us, I tried to call for help and the person in the ambulance didn't seem to understand what I was saying. He did not answer.

"From the border they led us to a tunnel, they put us inside and we sat for two days. We did not know if the soldiers in the tunnel were from Hamas or some other organization. Two days later we were taken from the tunnel and taken to an apartment. There were other terrorists there, while we were constantly being moved to other apartments. Sure enough, there was a central apartment in which we stayed for five weeks.

»The living conditions were very hard. In the tunnels there was a lot of dust that got into our mouths, very high humidity and almost no air. In the tunnels there were some machines to renew the air and when these were not working the oxygen was limited. There was no electricity in the apartments where we were kept. I must add that only in the first days we saw other hostages, we were separated.

"The terrorists told us their names but they turned out to be fake, pseudonyms. In the apartments there was one terrorist who spoke Hebrew and another who spoke broken English. When we asked them, they told us that they are from the "Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades" (Hamas' military arm).

Before the events of October 7, Hen worked as a social worker. Having handled dozens of cases, Hen understood the terror and anxiety experienced by terrorists. "They were not prepared to be killed," he underlines, "they were also in anxiety and tension and of course they were afraid of the Israeli forces. When the bombs fell on the neighboring apartments, we were afraid that we would be killed. Some apartments were hit by the rockets and we had to be moved. I remember it was night, it was pitch dark and we went out into the street and they took us. One night they decided to take us to stay in a supermarket and another night we spent inside a school and inside a mosque."

Despite being held hostage for 51 days, Hen did not come into direct contact with the residents of Gaza. "When they took us to the streets, it was through specific streets. In those moments we did not look and did not see the inhabitants. When they took us to the school there were some Palestinians living in it. They saw children and women and went to our guards and asked them if they could offer anything or help.

»During the time we stayed at the mosque and the school we were close to the residents, but they never let us come into contact with them. They only told us to stay at the entrance of the school, to sleep, they covered us with sheets up to our heads and forbade us to have any contact."

Days of agony

Hen states that she was trying not to have a mental breakdown. Her children were her support. "All these hostage days I kept talking to my children, I encouraged them, I gave them courage and they gave me courage. We always tried to keep our hope alive. We were asking the terrorists what will happen to us, if they will kill us. We understood that it was a cog in the whole and they were telling us, "no, the most that can happen is that we all die together." They never told us they were going to kill us."

The men of Hamas and the "al-Qassam Brigades" moved Hen Goldstein's family around constantly. At the same time, the Israeli army launched a bombing campaign against Hamas. "A week before we went to the last tunnel we were moved to an unfinished building," Hen recalls. "There was the ground from the explosions. I stayed awake all week. To endure I had to calm my soul and body. I cannot describe the damage the bombings did to our souls. All the time we were afraid that we were going to die."

The exchange

During the last days of the hostage situation, Hen and her three children remained in a tunnel. The terrorists informed them that they were in negotiations and that there would be an exchange of prisoners in the next few days. “Waiting for the exchange of prisoners was something that irritated me a lot,” he says, “it took a long time. They kept telling us, "we will release you tomorrow", tomorrow was the day after tomorrow, the day after tomorrow was Sunday and on Sunday they told us, "not yet because we haven't found them, but we will find them". This was really torture."

On November 24, at 07.00:26, a four-day ceasefire came into effect. Hen and her family are on Hamas' list of hostages for exchange. On November XNUMX, the terrorists boarded them in a Red Cross vehicle and crossed the border.

Eight months after Hamas invaded Israel, Israeli authorities estimate that 121 hostages remain in Hamas' hands. Today, Hen is leading protests against the Israeli government and sending a message to the international community. "The hostages must be released as quickly as possible. The conditions in Gaza are dire and they must do everything to free them. Being over there is inhumane and a living "nightmare".

The discussion took place with an interpreter, Miguel Capuano.

Source: DAILY, 10.6.2024