As I'm writing to you from Richmond, VA, my phone is blowing up. It shows 56 alerts of incoming rockets to Israel. Each alert can represent several rockets. In other words, the truce is over. I consider it a miracle that we were able to get 110 hostages (78 Israelis) out of Gaza. Hamas had very little to gain, other than possibly a few more weeks of survival. They were under tremendous pressure from Qatar to make a deal. Without Qatar, they lose their funding.
I believe it was the prayers of people around the world that led to their release. Let's give glory to God! The videos of the reunions are so overwhelming. I watched an interview this morning of a father who woke up this morning and was able to count one wife and two children in his home again. He said the joy he had experienced upon their return was unlike anything he had ever experienced in his life.
So, rather than focus on the continuation of the war, I want to take today's e-mail and focus on some of the stories of those who have been returned. #bringthemhomenow!
The New York Times released a report yesterday that said that Israeli intelligence knew of Hamas's plans for more than a year but did not think that the terrorist group had the ability to carry it out. This goes along with other reports that both Egypt and the US warned our top leadership before October 7th. But we'll save those stories for another day. Today, we will continue to rejoice that 78 Israelis are home as 32 foreign nationals.
I am getting ready to leave for California. On Saturday night and Sunday morning, I will be bringing a message on the current situation in Israel and why believers need to stand with Israel in these crucial times. I would appreciate your prayers!
STORIES OF THE HOSTAGES
Mia is a 21-year-old Israeli-French woman who was abducted from a peace festival on Oct. 7. Mia was the first hostage featured in a propaganda video put out by Hamas nine days after the horrific attack—in the video, she looked in shock and spoke of undergoing a three-hour surgery on her arm while in Gaza. Watch the video of her emotional reunion with her family.
Amit Soussana, 40, is a lawyer from Kfar Aza. She was home sick with a fever when she was abducted.
Before she was abducted, Amit texted her family, telling them that there were terrorists “outside my window… it’s scary, it doesn’t seem real.” Around 10 a.m., she told them she was going to hide in a closet and that her cellphone battery was about to run out — it was the last they heard from her.
1. Amit Soussana (in purple), released by Hamas on November 30, 2023, is reunited with mother and sister at Wolfson Medical Center. (Courtesy: Wolfson)
2. Amit Soussana, taken captive by Hamas terrorists from her home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 7, 2023 and released on November 30, 2023. (Courtesy)
Below is a video of when Mia and Amit were exchanged in Gaza City. You can only imagine the absolute terror these women are going through as they are transferred from Hamas to the Red Cross, with hundreds of screaming Hamas supporters around them.
Aisha and Bilal Ziyadne
On Thursday, the first Arab Israelis were released from their captivity in Gaza. This sibling pair was also the only minors to be set free on Thursday. Aisha Ziyadne, 17, and Bilal Ziyadne, 18, are members of a Bedouin family from Rahat who were kidnapped from a Kibbutz while Bilal was working in a cowshed there less than a mile away from the Gaza Strip. At least five Arab Israelis are believed to remain in Gaza. Their father and brother remain in captivity.
1. Aisha Ziyadne, 17, released by Hamas on November 30, 2023, is reunited with relatives at Soroka Medical Center. (Courtesy: Soroka)
2. Bilal Ziyadne, released by Hamas on November 30, 2023, is reunited with relatives at Soroka Medical Center. (Courtesy: Soroka)
A Mexican-Israeli citizen, 30-year-old Ilana Gritzewsky Ilana Gritzewsky, was released Thursday. She was taken hostage from Nir Oz along with her boyfriend, Matan Zangauker, 24, who is still held captive. She made Aliyah from Mexico 14 years ago, and her parents and sister later joined her.
Ilana Gritzewsky was abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023. (Courtesy)
A teacher and youth counselor, 29-year-old Shani Goren, was released from captivity Thursday.
Goren was grabbed from her bed inside her safe room. 12-year-old Eitan Yahalomi, who has already been freed, said that after a couple weeks of captivity, he was brought to Goren (who had been his counselor previously), and she cared for him while being held hostage.
Shani Goren from Kibbutz Nir Oz, who was taken captive by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023. (Courtesy)
Ron Krivoi, 25, A Russian-Israeli hostage who was kidnapped by Hamas during its surprise attack on the Nova Music Festival, was able to escape his captors and hide for four days before Gazans turned him back over to the terrorists, according to his aunt.
He was reunited with his parents a few days ago.
The hostages have shared stories of enduring beatings, lice, being fed very little food, and even being branded! Innocent hostages were treated horribly; some of them were forced to watch videos of people being murdered on Oct. 7.
Compare this to Israel’s orderly transfer of prisoners, some of whom were convicted of attempted murder and who have called for the destruction of the Jewish people, to the Palestinian authority.
UPDATE ON ELANA’S MOTHER
Thank you for your prayers for Elana’s mother. She has been in a nursing home near Tel Aviv since shortly after the attack on Oct. 7. We could never afford for her to be there, but thanks to the war funds that were released to get the elderly out of the range of Hamas, she is now living in a BUILDING that is bombproof.
My daughter sent us this picture this morning while she was visiting her. Please pray for Esther—she is now blind and has a bad heart and a bad back. And yet she's completely determined to go where she wants when she wants. Being in a home is not ideal for her, but it is protecting her. It warmed our hearts to get this picture this morning. Elana will return to Israel in the next few days, and I will follow a week later.
We miss home very much!
Paul Wilbur will be joining us on the Israel Solidarity Tour!
Come and be a part of this life-changing event!
This is the Church’s hour to shine the light of Yeshua as never before to the hurting people of Israel. We will have three days of serving Israeli soldiers and those devastated by the trauma of Oct. 7 and the ongoing war. Put your deposit down for the tour! It is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Space is limited.