Rescued hostage’s mother urges deal with Hamas, says ‘I am one of the lucky ones’

Almog Meir Jan’s mom asks government to approve deal, international community to pressure Hamas to accept it; says bond with fellow rescued captives sustained her son in Gaza

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Orit Meir, mother of rescued hostage Almog Meir Jan, give a statement at a press conference at Sheba Medical Center, June 10, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Orit Meir, mother of rescued hostage Almog Meir Jan, give a statement at a press conference at Sheba Medical Center, June 10, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Rescued hostage Almog Meir Jan’s mother Orit Meir and uncle Aviram Meir on Monday urged the government to reach a deal with the Hamas terror group to bring the remaining 120 abductees home to Israel.

“Last night I had my first full night’s sleep in eight months… I am one of the lucky ones. There are 120 families who are waiting without being able to breathe or sleep without thinking about their loved ones in Gaza,” Orit Meir said.

“The remaining hostages need a deal to get home safely. There is a deal on the table. We ask the Israeli government to move forward with the deal, and the international community to continue to put pressure on Hamas to accept this deal and free the remaining 120 hostages now,” she continued.

Jan was referring to a proposal from Israel outlined by US President Joe Biden on May 31, which included a three-phase plan that envisions an eventual permanent end to hostilities, the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian security prisoners, and the reconstruction of Gaza.

Calling on Hamas to accept the deal, Biden laid out a number of the Israeli offer’s key elements in a speech that triggered shockwaves in Jerusalem, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners threatened to bring down the government if the premier advanced the proposal.

According to Biden, the deal would see the remaining living female, elderly, and sick hostages abducted during the Hamas-led October 7 onslaught released during a six-week first phase. The potential second phase of the deal would see a permanent end to the war, and Biden said Hamas would not remain in power in Gaza but did not detail how that would come about.

Rescued hostages Andrey Kozlov (white shirt) and Almog Meir Jan (black shirt), freed by the IDF from Hamas captivity in Gaza, are escorted from an IDF helicopter on arrival at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, June 8, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Meir and her brother appeared at a press conference at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, where Almog Meir Jan has been hospitalized since his rescue on Saturday from eight months of Hamas captivity in Gaza in a heroic operation by Israeli forces. Meir Jan was rescued along with Andrey Kozlov, Shlomi Ziv, and Noa Argamani.

Chief Insp. Arnon Zmora, 36, from the elite Yamam counter-terrorism unit, was killed during the operation.

According to Meir, the close connection her son established with Kozlov and Ziv, with whom he was held, sustained him.

“They were held together for more than half a year [of the eight months they were hostages]… The connection they had with each other strengthened them. They did not give up hope until the moment they were rescued. They kept each other’s spirits up. Almog never gave up his belief that he would make it through the experience of captivity,” Meir said.

Meir reported that her son had learned Arabic while in Gaza and picked up a bit of news by occasionally being able to listen to, but not watch, Al Jazeera. He returned without a full picture of the war or information about the hostages, and his family and hospital staff have been filling him in on the details slowly.

“He also learned Russian because Andrey speaks the language. The three of them had a lot of time to talk among themselves. They are talking together in the hospital and appear to have developed their own language with particular signs,” Meir said.

Meir said she was relieved that her son had returned feeling physically well but acknowledged that his full recovery will take time.

“It will not be easy. Think about it as though he did not have an identity for those eight months. They took away his freedom. We are giving him the space and power to make decisions for himself. This is extremely crucial. I am sure he has a ways to go but he is starting from a good place,” Meir said.

“And don’t forget what we went through yesterday. My son is sitting shiva,” she added, referring to the death and burial of Almog Meir Jan’s father Yossi Jan, who died just hours before he was to be told that his son had been rescued.

Aviram Meir (left) and Orit Meir, uncle and mother of rescued hostage Almog Meir Jan, give statements at a press conference at Sheba Medical Center, June 10, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Referring to his sister’s birthday Sunday, Aviram Meir said: “Orit received the best possible gift. We are exceedingly happy.”

Meir thanked all those involved in planning and executing the rescue operation and reported that his nephew was in “okay” condition while still undergoing tests and treatment at Sheba.

“We were expecting him to be in worse shape, so we are relieved,” he said. “We only wish for the other hostages’ families to finally be able to breathe as we can now.”

It is believed that 116 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — though dozens of them are thought dead — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Seven hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 19 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 41 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding two Israeli civilians who entered the Strip in 2014 and 2015, as well as the bodies of two IDF soldiers who were killed in 2014. This brings the number held in Gaza to 120.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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