ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Released from captivity, Noam Avigdori won’t let her father out of her sight

Father Hen Avigdori describes loved ones’ small, cramped quarters in captivity, but says the fact that family members were kept together was key to their survival

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Sharon Avigdori and her daughter Noam are reunited with husband and father Hen Avigdori and their son Omer Avigdori after Sharon and Noam were released by Hamas from captivity in Gaza on Saturday, November 25, 2023. (Courtesy Avigdori family)
Sharon Avigdori and her daughter Noam are reunited with husband and father Hen Avigdori and their son Omer Avigdori after Sharon and Noam were released by Hamas from captivity in Gaza on Saturday, November 25, 2023. (Courtesy Avigdori family)

Ever since Noam Avigdori, 12, was released from Hamas captivity and brought home to Israel, she hasn’t wanted to let her father, Hen Avigdori, out of her sight.

“Noam, my 12-year-old daughter, doesn’t allow me to leave the house,” said Avigdori. “I just asked her if I could take the trash out, and she wouldn’t permit it, so she’s hanging on to me very closely.

“She sometimes wakes up screaming at night,” he said, but is “generally in good shape. She’s processing everything. She’s a very smart, bright young lady.”

Avigdori, along with Moran Aloni, spoke Monday in a press conference about how children are faring since their release from Gaza. Aloni’s two sisters, Danielle Aloni and Sharon Aloni Cunio, were also recently released, along with Danielle’s daughter Emilia, 6, and Sharon’s 3-year-old twins, Emma and Yuli. Sharon’s husband, David, is still held hostage in Gaza.

“My sister Danielle’s daughter, Emilia, does not let her [go anywhere] without her, nowhere, even if it’s to the bathroom or just a room upstairs in my parents’ home,” said Aloni.

Avigdori and Aloni each offered a few details about the conditions the hostages endured in captivity, including many people crammed together into small rooms, children forced to keep quiet and arguments among hostages over water.

Danielle Aloni laughs next to her daughter Emilia Aloni, unseen, as they meet family members at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center, Israel, following their release from captivity in the Gaza Strip, November 25, 2023. (Schneider Children’s Medical Center Spokesperson via AP)

“My sister Sharon still speaks in a soft voice,” said Aloni. “She’s not sure why she can’t stop.”

Avigdori, a well-known TV comedy writer, said that while his daughter sometimes wakes up at night screaming, “she’s in an okay place, she’s processing everything, she tells me little stories here and there.”

The six members of his extended family were kept in the same room, a fact that “was significant for them and their survival,” said Avigdori.

Noam, 12, acted as an older sister to her young cousins, whom she and her mother were visiting in Kibbutz Be’eri on the weekend of October 7.

“That’s what she did for all those days in captivity,” says Avigdori. “She was the big cousin.”

Yahel Shoham, 3, is seen with grandmother Shoshan Haran, 67, upon their return to Israel after 50 days in Hamas captivity in Gaza, where they were held with Yahel’s mother Adi and her son Naveh, 8, on November 25, 2023. (Courtesy)

By midday on October 7, Sharon Avigdori’s brother, Avshalom Haran, had been killed, although his family didn’t find that out until ten days later.

The rest of the family was taken hostage from the safe room, after terrorists shot at the door and then brought a tractor to rip off the window. They pulled the family out of the window, separated the men from the women and children, and then put Sharon and Noam Avigdori, along with Sharon’s sister-in-law, daughter and grandchildren, into a van and drove them to Gaza.

For the first two weeks of his wife and daughter’s captivity, Avigdori and his 16-year-old son, Omer, didn’t know if they were dead or kidnapped.

“The gap between what you know and the reality is enormous and it’s a gaping pain,” he said.

Sharon Avigdori is reunited with her husband Hen Avigdori, after Sharon and their daughter Noam were released by Hamas from captivity in Gaza on Saturday, November 25, 2023. (Courtesy Avigdori family)

Now his wife and daughter, along with his sister-in-law, niece and her two children, are back home after weeks of agonizing worry. Tal Shoham, his niece’s husband, is still held hostage in Gaza.

“They’re fine, physically and emotionally,” said Avigdori.

Noam Avigdori is seeing her friends, and “they’re holding her in a tight, loving hug,” said her father.

The family’s reunion on November 25 at Sheba Hospital took place at 4 a.m., “the happiest moment of my life,” more than the birth of a child, said Avigdori

Sharon Avigdori is reunited with her son Omer after being released by Hamas from captivity in Gaza on Saturday, November 25, 2023. (Courtesy Avigdori family)

“It was the rebirth of my family. The emotion was overwhelming,” he said.

He wants that kind of happiness for every family with someone held hostage in Gaza.

“I know what it feels like to be the father and husband of a missing person,” said Avigdori. “You have to fight for them and I know there can be a happy ending. I want every one of my brothers and sisters in the hostage families to feel what I have felt.

“They should hug their loved ones as soon as possible.”

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