ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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‘So happy you’re here’: President Herzog meets IDF soldier rescued from Gaza

In uniform, Pvt. Ori Megidish speaks with president and his wife at official residence in Jerusalem

Israeli President Isaac Herzog meets with soldier Ori Megidish, who was taken hostage by Hamas on October 7 and freed in an Israeli military operation in Gaza in late October, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, January 11, 2024. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Israeli President Isaac Herzog meets with soldier Ori Megidish, who was taken hostage by Hamas on October 7 and freed in an Israeli military operation in Gaza in late October, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, January 11, 2024. (Haim Zach/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog on Thursday hosted Pvt. Ori Megidish, who was rescued in late October by Israeli troops from Gaza after being abducted on October 7.

The two met at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, along with Herzog’s wife Michal and Megidish’s parents.

A short video from the meeting showed the president and his wife hugging the family and welcoming them to the official residence.

“Thank God you were rescued… we’re so happy you’re here,” Herzog told Megidish, who revealed that she was wearing her Israel Defense Forces uniform for the first time since Hamas’s murderous onslaught across southern Israel on October 7.

“I think your story is really impressive and moving, true heroism,” Herzog said.

Megidish, 18, is a field observation soldier who was taken hostage after Hamas-led terrorists stormed the IDF’s Nahal Oz Base during the October 7 attack, when some 3,000 terrorists overran bases and communities across southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking another 240 hostage to Gaza.

She was rescued by the IDF and the Shin Bet on October 30, days after Israel launched its ground operation in the Gaza Strip, aimed at dislodging Hamas from power in the Palestinian enclave and destroying the terror group’s military capabilities.

President Isaac Herzog goes in for a hug with Pvt. Ori Megidish, who was taken hostage by Hamas on October 7 and freed in an Israeli military operation in Gaza in late October, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, January 11, 2024. (Haim Zach/GPO)

She remains so far the only hostage to have been freed through a military operation.

In her meeting with Herzog, she presented the president with sealed fragments from a grenade lobbed by the terrorists who overran the base that were removed from her head and chest following her rescue.

Megidish also showed him a notebook she kept at the base which was recovered intact, with operational notes, messages from members of her unit, photos and other information she collected, and pointed to the name of Cpl. Hadar Cohen, an observation soldier in the Border Defense Corps’s 414th unit, who was killed in the October 7 attacks.

She told the president and his wife of the weeks since her rescue and the embrace of her family, including her little brother who got a tattoo of a butterfly in her honor.

“I have a story from when I was there. I asked God for signs, I asked him to show me a butterfly and then one of the people there pulled out this toy in the shape of a butterfly, and I understood that as a sign,” she recounted.

Herzog then read a note from the notebook about Megidish that described her as “funny, supportive, a loving person who gives her all, calm… helps all of us, responsible.”

“That’s wonderful,” Herzog told Megidish. “It’s very you.”

The IDF has offered few details on Megidish’s rescue.

Megidish was held alone in Gaza, though other members of her unit were also captured by Hamas on October 7. The rescue operation was planned several days in advance and included exchanges of fire with Hamas gunmen. No troops were injured.

IDF soldier Pvt. Ori Megidish (center) with her family after being rescued from Gaza, October 30, 2023. (Shin Bet)

Widespread celebrations were held in Megidish’s hometown of Kiryat Gat following the news that she had been freed, with video footage from the southern city showing her family celebrating at home and supporters gathered outside the building.

Last month, Megidish met with Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling her she was eager to return to her military service.

“I won’t let anyone defeat me. Even when I was there, I wasn’t afraid of them,” she told Netanyahu, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

In a video a month after the rescue, Megidish said of the remaining hostages: “I hope everyone comes back, and they will come back, God willing. I’m okay, and I’m at home with my family, and I’m having fun, and I’m happy I got my life back.”

It is believed that 132 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November.

Four hostages were released prior to that. The bodies of eight hostages have also been recovered and three hostages were mistakenly killed by the military in a tragic incident last month.

The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 25 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

Hamas has also been holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

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