Emily Hand, 9, was released on November 25 as part of a temporary cease-fire deal brokered by Qatar and the United States between Hamas and Israel. This is the story of her capture and how her family initially thought she was killed:
Emily Hand, a 9-year-old girl from Kibbutz Be’eri who was reported killed in the Hamas assault on October 7, was then found to be alive and among those held hostage in Gaza.
Natalie Hand said in a Channel 12 interview that the family had cried for Emily when they were informed she had been killed. “We were told that she had been murdered. We were in mourning,” she said. Then, “on October 31, they told us that it was highly likely that she had been abducted.”
Emily was at a sleepover at a friend’s house on the kibbutz on the night of October 6-7, Natalie said, and her friend and her friend’s mother were also apparently abducted. Their family was also initially told they had been killed, Natalie said.
She noted that Emily also has Irish citizenship. She said the Irish authorities have promised to do what they can to help, though they have made clear that their capacity to do so is limited, she said.
In the Channel 12 studio, Natalie asked to speak directly to Emily, looked into the camera, and said: “I want to tell you that we are doing everything to get you home. We know you are being held hostage. We love you so much and miss you.”
Emily is the daughter of Irish native Thomas Hand, who moved to Israel more than 30 years ago, and Israeli-born Liat, who died several years ago of cancer.
“They just said, ‘We found Emily, she’s dead,’ and I went, ‘Yes’ and smiled, because that was the best news of the possibilities that I knew,” Thomas recounted tearfully. “She was either dead or in Gaza, and if you know anything about what they do to people in Gaza, that is worse than death… so death was a blessing.”
In an interview with The Irish Times, Thomas described his little girl: “She was a little angel and she actually looked like an angel. She was very, very sociable and she loved music,” he said. “She would sing in the house all day long and she loved dancing. She would watch videos of Beyoncé; she was her favorite and would pick up the moves really quickly.”
Thomas said that Emily “was always chosen for the dance routines on the stage for the kibbutz for the holidays – always front and center, so if the other kids forgot the steps they could just look at Emily. She was exceptional.”