'I was terrified of being raped... It was my biggest fear'

Freed hostage Mia Schem: ‘I experienced hell. There are no innocent civilians in Gaza’

French-Israeli says she was instructed on what to say in videos; was held by a family that played mind games, withheld food, taunted her; man who operated on her arm told her ‘You’re not going home alive’

Released hostage Mia Schem speaks to Channel 13 about her time in captivity in Gaza, December 28, 2023. (Screenshot, Channel 13, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Released hostage Mia Schem speaks to Channel 13 about her time in captivity in Gaza, December 28, 2023. (Screenshot, Channel 13, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Released hostage Mia Schem, 21, described going through “hell” while in the Gaza Strip in a pair of televised interviews that both aired on Friday evening.

Schem was shot in the arm and taken hostage from the Supernova music festival on October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst into southern Israel, killing more than 1,200 people and dragging around 240 into Gaza. Some 360 partygoers were killed during the assault on the music festival, and another 36 were taken hostage.

She was released on November 30 after 54 days in captivity, reuniting with her family and loved ones, and undergoing extensive surgery and rehabilitation on her wounded arm.

Her family said she has since developed epilepsy, from the trauma and the lack of sleep during her eight weeks as a hostage in Gaza.

Schem spoke in depth for the first time about the experience to both Channel 12 and 13 news, recounting the moments she was taken hostage, the suffering and mental torture she endured in captivity, and the experience of coming back home.

“It’s important to me to reveal the real situation about the people who live in Gaza, who they really are, and what I went through there,” she told Channel 13 news. “I experienced hell. Everyone there are terrorists… there are no innocent civilians, not one,” she said. “[Innocent civilians] don’t exist.”

Schem recounted the first moments of her abduction on October 7. She said when the rockets started, she and her friend fled and got in her car. While she was driving, her friend screamed, “they’re shooting,” she recalled. “I hit the gas to try and pass them but they shot the tires and the car stopped.”

Then, she told Channel 12, a truck full of armed terrorists drove by, “and one of the Hamas members looked at me, and just shot me in the arm, at a very, very close range.”

After she was shot in the arm, she said, “I was on the floor, covered in blood, and I screamed, ‘I lost my hand, I lost my hand.'”

In front of her eyes, Hamas took her friend, Elia Toledano, captive to Gaza with his arms tied behind his back; his body was recovered by the IDF earlier this month and brought back to Israel.

Schem said she saw Hamas terrorists shooting any of the wounded who still appeared alive, so she tried to play dead, but her friend’s car was burning around her. She saw a man walking amid the cars, and thinking he was Israeli, shouted: “Help!” But he was a Hamas terrorist, who told her to get up.

He “started to touch me, in the upper part of my body,” gesturing toward her chest. “And I started to scream, to go crazy, amid the burning cars, the bodies.” Then the terrorist, she said, saw the situation with her arm and “recoiled, and stopped for a moment.”

“And then out of nowhere somebody grabbed me by my hair, pulled me into a car and drove me to Gaza,” she told Channel 12. She said she felt like “an animal at the zoo” and was held for some time by a family with young children who would open the door to the room where she was held just to stare at her.

Mia Schem alongside her family at Sheba Medical Center after being released from captivity, December 1, 2023. (Courtesy)

Journey to captivity

During the journey to Gaza, she told Channel 13, she was “half-conscious. I didn’t understand what was going on. I just told myself that I didn’t want to die.”

She said when they arrived in Gaza, “they pulled me by my hair from the car, they threw me in some back room of some hospital.” There, she said, they “stretched out my arm, tied it up on a piece of plastic, and that’s how I was for three days.” She said she was “sure that they were going to amputate my arm.”

After three days, she said, she was told to get dressed in a hijab and she was taken to a surgery room, where she was operated on “without anesthesia, nothing,” she told Channel 12 news, although she said to Channel 13 that they “put me under,” without elaborating on how.

Schem said she didn’t see the face of the person who operated on her, but “he looked at me and he said, ‘You’re not going home alive.'”

A day after the surgery, she told Channel 13, she was forced to film a propaganda video which Hamas released a few days later: “They told me to say that they were taking care of me and treating me… You do what you’re told. You’re afraid to die.”

It was the first video of a live hostage in Gaza.

Schem said that during her time in captivity she changed her own bandages, cleaned her wounds and did physiotherapy on herself.

A screenshot from a clip published by the Hamas terror group on October 16, 2023, showing Mia Schem, an Israeli woman abducted by terrorists from a music festival during a massacre by Hamas gunmen on October 7, 2023. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Then she was brought to be held in a family home, Schem told Channel 13, saying that the whole family was involved with Hamas, including the woman and children. “I began asking myself questions: Why am I in a family home? Why are there children here? Why is there a woman here?” she said.

She was kept in a room and was told she couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, couldn’t cry, couldn’t be seen, she recounted: “There’s a terrorist, who is watching you 24/7, who is raping you with his eyes… an evil stare. I was afraid of being raped. It was my biggest fear there.”

She said she did not shower the entire period in captivity, didn’t receive any medications or painkillers, and would receive food “sometimes.”

She told Channel 12 that as a hostage she feared “that at any moment something could happen suddenly, that they would touch me.”

She described a moment when one of the youngest children of the family entered her room, “opened a bag of sweets, closed it, came up next to me, opened the bag, closed it and then left.”

Released hostage Mia Schem speaks to Channel 12 about her captivity in Gaza in a preview clip from an interview scheduled to air on December 29, 2023. (Screenshot, Channel 12, used in accordance with clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Schem said she felt only “pure hatred. There are no innocent citizens there. They’re families controlled by Hamas. They’re children who from the moment they are born, they teach them that Israel is Palestine and just to hate Jews.”

Schem said she believes the only reason her captor did not rape her is that “his wife and children were in the next room. His wife hated the fact that he was alone in the room with me. Hated it. So she would play games with me.”

His wife would bring her husband food, “and not bring me food,” she recounted. “A day, two days, three days, I wouldn’t eat… She was so terrible, she had mean eyes. She was a very evil woman.”

On one occasion, she said, “I was choking back tears,” and her captor looked at her and said “‘Enough, or I’ll send you to the tunnel.'”

Schem told Channel 13 that there was a television in the house, and at one point she saw her mother appear on TV, “and I saw my mother being strong, and I said ‘who am I to break?'”

Keren, mother of Mia Schem, at a press conference following the release of a video by Hamas, in which the 21-year-old Israeli woman is seen, in Tel Aviv, Oct. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Schem said the IDF airstrikes in Gaza were very close by where she was being held, shattering the windows. She said she experienced blast shock and “I couldn’t hear for three days.”

She continued to hope, however, that the army would rescue her, even waving her hands — with their distinctive tattoos — out of the bathroom window when she had a chance. But she said she was not afraid of the blasts, and “they made me feel good… that they didn’t forget me.”

At one point, she recounted to Channel 12, her captor was angry, upset, crying and told her that his two friends had been killed in Israeli airstrikes: “I was very satisfied” by the news, she said, “but I acted sad, I comforted him, I played the game.”

Schem said she was later moved from home to home — via ambulance — and once even cooked a meal for the four Hamas terrorists who were holding her hostage, “and I made them see me in a different light. To respect me. They appreciate women who cook, who clean.”

She said that four or five days before she was released — at the start of the weeklong truce — she was sent to the Hamas tunnels: “No air, no food, with an open wound.”

There, for the first time since she was abducted, she met a handful of other Israeli hostages. On the one hand, she told Channel 13, she was happy to see them, but she also felt that some of them “had already lost hope… it was hard to be optimistic.”

Repeatedly, she said, her captors would taunt her and lie that she was going to be released tomorrow, “to break you emotionally.” The next day, she said, instead of releasing her “they would say to me ‘you’re like Gilad Schalit, a year, two years, three years,” a reference to the IDF soldier captured in 2006 and released five years later, in 2011.

She told Channel 13 that she didn’t really believe she would be freed “until I got in the IDF vehicle, until I crossed the border into Israel.”

Right before she was handed over to the Red Cross, they “stuck a camera in my face and said ‘Say that we treated you nicely, that people in Gaza are nice and good.’ What else was I supposed to do?”

Schem told Channel 12 news that when she was released, leaving other hostages behind was “the hardest thing in the world.”

“They said to me, ‘Mia, please, make sure they don’t forget us.’ And I apologized that I was leaving,” she said. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Israelis march to call for the release of hostages abducted by Hamas to Gaza during the October 7 onslaught, in Jerusalem on December 28, 2023. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Schem, who is a French-Israeli dual national, was one of the 105 hostages freed during a Qatar-negotiated temporary ceasefire last month. An additional 129 people are believed to remain in Hamas captivity, including 23 bodies. Four hostages were released prior to that, and one was rescued by troops.

The bodies of 11 hostages have also been recovered, including three hostages who were mistakenly shot dead by IDF troops. Hamas is also holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Most Popular
read more: