On Wednesday evening, residents of Ramat Rachel – a kibbutz enclave inside Jerusalem – gathered to await the release of Ofir Engel, 18, whose name was on the list of hostages to be freed by Hamas on the sixth day of the truce agreement with the terror group.
Plastic chairs were spread out in rows, filling the kibbutz’s community center to capacity, as if a soccer match were about to be screened and not the transfer of a teenager from the hands of an Islamic terrorist organization to the Red Cross.
With about 500 residents, there was hardly a soul on the kibbutz who did not know Ofir personally.
However, hours passed without any news about Ofir; the delay was attributed to “logistical issues,” as videos emerged of hundreds of Gazans blocking the way of the vehicles carrying the hostages.
Viewers of all ages, some still in diapers and others in wheelchairs, grew restless. The arrival of supplies at the kibbutz’s mini-market reenergized the crowd, and the line at the register began to snake around the aisles. “You haven’t been to a kibbutz if you haven’t seen supplies arriving at the mini-market at 10 p.m.,” a local woman remarked.
At 10:40 p.m., as attendance began to dwindle, an organizer of the event asked everyone to stay strong and not leave until Ofir’s return could be confirmed.
“We have all been brought into this struggle for 54 days. We see the kibbutzim Nir Oz and Be’eri, each of which has dozens of abductees. We have only one in total – Ofir. He wasn’t supposed to be there, he just got caught up in the situation when he went to visit his girlfriend,” they said.
Engel was visiting his girlfriend, Yuval Sharabi, in Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7. There, he was taken by Hamas terrorists alongside his girlfriend’s father, Yossi, and another teen, Amit Shani, into a black vehicle.
At 11:14 p.m., Ofir’s release was officially announced alongside nine other Israeli hostages.
Cheers erupted throughout the room, followed by a round of “Happy Birthday” for Ofir’s father, Yoav, who finally had a reason to celebrate.