17 relatives of American hostages in Gaza to attend Biden’s State of the Union speech

The family members will be guests of a bipartisan slate of Congress members, including Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson and Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries

Family members of US-Israeli hostages held by Hamas speak to the press outside the White House in Washington, December 13, 2023, after a meeting with US President Joe Biden. (Jim WATSON / AFP)
Family members of US-Israeli hostages held by Hamas speak to the press outside the White House in Washington, December 13, 2023, after a meeting with US President Joe Biden. (Jim WATSON / AFP)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — When US President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union speech on Thursday, the audience will include 17 relatives of Americans held captive or murdered by Hamas terrorists in Israel.

A list published Monday by the Families of the American Hostages in Gaza coalition named relatives of six hostages still held captive, two released captives and two hostages who were killed.

The family members will be guests on Thursday evening of a bipartisan slate of members of the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. Among the hosts are the speaker, Louisiana Republican Representative Mike Johnson, and the minority leader, New York Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries.

Hamas, which launched the war on October 7 when it raided Israel, brutally killing more than 1,200 people and abducting more than 250, is believed to still be holding more than 130 hostages, among them six to eight Americans. Dozens of them are thought to be dead.

The six hostages believed to still be alive and in captivity who will be represented are Edan Alexander, Itai Chen, Sagui Dekel-Chen, Omer Neutra, Hersh Goldberg-Polin and Keith Siegel. The two released hostages who will be represented are Liat Beinin Atzili and Avigail Idan, who turned 4 in captivity before being released during a truce in November. The two murdered hostages who will be represented are Judy Weinstein and Gad Haggai.

The group said it urged Congress members in a letter to “show solidarity and a firm commitment to securing the swift and total release of the hostages by wearing yellow ribbons and dog tags” during the State of the Union. Yellow ribbons and dog tags that have become a symbol of solidarity with the hostages were included in the letters.

Avigail Idan, 4, who was released from Hamas captivity in Gaza on November 26, 2023, having been taken hostage on October 7. Both her parents were murdered by the terrorists. (Courtesy)

Families of the hostages have met with top officials, including Biden, and have joined vigils calling for their release in Washington and in other major cities.

“The families also thanked Congress and the Biden administration for continuing to do everything possible to end the hostage crisis and bring their loved ones home,” the release said.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency confirmed the list with a number of congressional offices listed.

New Jersey Representative Josh Gottheimer, a Jewish Democrat, will be hosting Jonathan Dekel-Chen and Adi Alexander.

Yael Alexander, mother of hostage Edan Alexander, addresses the 2,000-strong crowd at Marching and Running for their Lives in Central Park, in New York, January 14, 2024. (Jordana Horn/Times of Israel)

“I am honored to have Adi from my district and Jonathan attend the State of the Union as my guests,” Gottheimer said in a statement to JTA. “Their presence is a strong reminder that Americans, including Adi’s son Edan and Jonathan’s son Sagui, are still being held hostage at the hands of Hamas terrorists. It’s been 150 days since they were captured. Nothing is more important than getting them home now. Period.”

More than 100 of the hostages were exchanged for Palestinian detainees during a break in the fighting in November. The Biden administration is pushing negotiations for a second temporary ceasefire to trade some of the remaining hostages for more prisoners.

Israel has agreed to the terms broadly but wants an accounting of which of the remaining hostages are alive or dead. Hamas has claimed it does not have the means for such an accounting, in part because some of the hostages were taken by or sold to other terror groups and criminal gangs.

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