Editor’s note: A previous version of this story had Yocheved Lifshitz saying she spoke with Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar. Her son has since said it has become clear she did not meet Sinwar but another Hamas official she mistook for him.
Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, who was released from Hamas captivity last month, revealed in an interview released Wednesday that she met a Hamas official in a tunnel during her time in Gaza — and was not afraid to tell him what she thought.
Lifshitz identified the person as Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza. However, her son Yizhar Lifshitz later told Channel 12 that following a debrief with security officials, it became clear the individual was not Sinwar, but another Hamas official who spoke Hebrew (as Sinwar does) and whom Lifshitz mistook for him.
The official “was with us three-four days after we got there,” Lifshitz told the Davar news outlet. “I asked him how he wasn’t ashamed of himself, to do such a thing to people who for years supported peace. He didn’t answer. He was quiet.”
Lifshitz turned out on Tuesday evening at a rally outside Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, calling for the release of her husband, Oded Lifshitz, 83, who is still held hostage in Gaza.
“I’m here to protest. To bring my Oded home,” Lifshitz told Davar. “We will keep protesting until all of the hostages are back.”
Lifshitz, who was released on October 23 alongside Nurit Cooper, was a longtime peace activist who, alongside her husband, used to volunteer to transport patients from Gaza to receive medical treatment in hospitals across Israel.
On Tuesday evening, Hebrew media outlets reported that Sinwar, believed to be the mastermind of Hamas’s October 7 attack, spoke with some Israeli hostages in the tunnels and promised them they would not be harmed.
At a press conference a day after she was released, Lifshitz recounted that her abductors beat her with sticks as they kidnapped her to Gaza on the back of a motorcycle. Once there, she said, she and others were taken through “a spiderweb” of tunnels, and forced to walk through them “on wet ground, with damp all the time.” Once in captivity, she said the kidnappers treated her well.
Tales and signs of bravery from some of the women who have been released have offered glimpses of hope that the spirits of those held captive remained strong despite their ordeals.
Health Minister Uriel Busso said that he visited Adina Moshe, 72, in the hospital after her release, and she revealed something which shocked him.
“Adina told me about an argument she had with a terrorist as she was being released — she asked him to instead led another woman go, who was older and in worse condition,” wrote Busso on X.
“This is the essence of the bravery of these rare people,” he added.
On Tuesday evening, Rimon Kirsht Buchshtav was among those released from Hamas captivity after 53 days.
She too was celebrated for refusing to cower before her captors, staring one of them in the eye as she exited the van and holding her head up high during her transfer to the Red Cross.
בכל פעם שאני צופה בזה שוב, היא יותר מלכה. רימון קירשטpic.twitter.com/KrcEqOMKJp
— Raz Shechnik (@RazShechnik) November 29, 2023
Her husband, Yagev Buchshtav, is still held captive in Gaza. Yagev’s father told Kan public radio on Wednesday that he wasn’t surprised by her behavior.
“She’s a strong woman, assertive, she knows how to put people in their place,” said Oren Buchshtav.