ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Freed from ‘hell,’ Kfar Aza’s Aviva Siegel shifts focus to still-captive husband

Abducted to Gaza with spouse Keith in their own car, 62-year-old weakened and not ready to detail what she went through after release last week, twin sister says

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

Fiona Wax, left, twin sister to Aviva Siegel (second from right), with Wax's daughter Tal (second from left) and Siegel's youngest daughter Shir (far right) on December 2, 2023 at a Tel Aviv rally to free the hostages (Courtesy)
Fiona Wax, left, twin sister to Aviva Siegel (second from right), with Wax's daughter Tal (second from left) and Siegel's youngest daughter Shir (far right) on December 2, 2023 at a Tel Aviv rally to free the hostages (Courtesy)

It’s been many years since Fiona Wax and her twin sister, Aviva Siegel, both 62, have spent this much time in the same space, but that’s what Siegel needs right now as she readjusts to life after 51 days in captivity in Gaza.

“She is staying with her family and we are all with her,” said Wax, who lives in Tel Aviv.

Siegel was released on November 26, but her husband, Keith Siegel, is still being held hostage. Both were abducted from their Kibbutz Kfar Aza home on October 7, during the raid by Hamas terrorists when some 60 people were slaughtered and another estimated 17 were taken hostage.

Even now, as Siegel reunites with her four children and grandchildren, her sisters and other family, her priority is her husband of 43 years.

On October 7, terrorists drove the couple into Gaza in their own car, along with another neighbor and her two children. Beyond that detail, there’s little that Wax can share about her sister’s time in captivity.

“She’s not prepared to talk about it,” said Wax. “She went through hell.”

Keith Siegel, taken captive by Hamas terrorists from his home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 7, 2023 (Courtesy)

Her sister is weak and nervous, and needs to regain her strength, said Wax. She also wants to do “as much as she can” to get Keith and the other hostages home.

Siegel was released on the night of Sunday, November 26, amid a truce deal with Hamas that saw dozens of Israeli hostages — almost exclusively women and children — released over several days in exchange for Palestinians prisoners held in Israel. By Saturday night she was at a massive rally at the newly named Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, holding up a placard with Keith’s picture.

“We’re all motivated to get him out, that’s the priority,” said Wax. “We’re heartbroken, worried.”

It’s not the first time that the Siegels have been faced trauma due to living near Gaza. Some 15 years ago, their neighbor was killed in a missile attack that the Siegels witnessed.

Then, five years ago, one of their daughters came to visit and, during a sudden missile attack, Aviva Siegel found herself in the open air, trying to protect two of her young grandchildren with her own body.

“From that day, her daughter hasn’t set foot in Kfar Aza,” said Wax.

But they still loved the kibbutz, she added, describing it as a “peaceful, green” place. They also believed in its location, a mere two kilometers (about 1.3 miles) from Gaza, as an engine for peace, communication and finding solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“They always befriend people,” said Wax. “Arabs, Jews, Black or white, they look at the person, not the issues.”

Keith and Aviva Siegel, taken captive by Hamas terrorists from their home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 7, 2023 (Courtesy)

Aviva works as a kindergarten teacher in the center of Israel during the week, while Keith is a promoter for a medical company and the two reunite on weekends.

On October 7, as Aviva and Keith were being abducted to Gaza, they didn’t know if their eldest son had survived in his home on Kfar Aza. “They went through hell,” said Wax.

Having Aviva back has motivated the family to push harder for Keith’s release. But with the end of the truce on Friday and the resumption of fighting in Gaza, postponing the possibility of freeing more hostages, “We’re very worried about Keith and the rest of the hostages,” she said.

They’ve found the US support very helpful and hope it will help free Keith, an American citizen, from Gaza.

As for Wax, she’s emotional about having her sister back.

“Twins have a special connection; we have always been very close,” she said. “We feel each other.”

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