Interview'I can't say, See you guys, it's your problem now'

With wife and daughter freed from Gaza, TV writer continues fight for other hostages

Comedy veteran Hen Avigdori remains part of the struggle to bring the remaining abductees home

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

TV writer Hen Avigdori at the Knesset on February 26, 2024 (Courtesy)
TV writer Hen Avigdori at the Knesset on February 26, 2024 (Courtesy)

Comedy writer Hen Avigdori has written for at least a dozen Israeli comedy shows, including “Ad Kan,” “The Jews are Coming,” and “Tzomet Miller.” But he hasn’t written a word since October 7, when his wife and 12-year-old daughter, Sharon and Noam Avigdori, were taken hostage by Hamas terrorists during a family visit to Kibbutz Be’eri.

Sharon and Noam Avigdori were released on November 25, after 50 days in captivity, along with four of their family members. Sharon’s brother, Avshalom Haran, was killed on October 7.

“My personal story ended, and it ended well,” Avigdori told The Times of Israel in an interview. “I have my nuclear family together… They’re doing fine, and that’s good.”

His wife and daughter are back to their usual routines. Sharon Avigdori is working and daughter Noam is at school. “We’re all in therapy,” said Avigdori of the family of four that includes eldest son, Omer, 16.

But Avigdori won’t say goodbye to his new “family,” the hostage family members he met during those torturous weeks after October 7, waiting “shoulder to shoulder,” he said.

“I can’t say to them, ‘See you guys, it’s your problem now,'” said Avigdori. “This is my code of morality. We’re in the same struggle.”

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)

He’s deeply committed to bringing back the remaining hostages taken on October 7 and sees it as a national issue, a commitment that the government must fulfill in order to uphold its Zionist ideals.

Avigdori points to the Israeli flag that always hangs from his Hod Hasharon balcony as he held his morning coffee and cigarette while speaking on Zoom to The Times of Israel.

Since his wife and daughter came home, Avigdori has devoted all his time to the hostages forum that supported him and his family, working primarily in public relations.

He speaks regularly to teen groups and visiting solidarity missions at Tel Aviv’s Hostages Square, meets with Israeli companies to get them involved in the struggle, and heads to the Knesset every week to speak with lawmakers and press the message of the hostage families.

“I was always good with words,” said Avigdori, describing himself as a news hound from a young age, and someone who wanted to make people laugh.

TV writer Hen Avigdori speaking on the Knesset TV channel about the hostages, February 2024 (Screen capture: Knesset channel, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

As a writer who has worked in television for years, he isn’t star-struck when he meets with ministers. “They’re all just people,” he said. “I can look at them in the whites of their eyes and can talk to them. I’m always respectful, but I’m not in awe of them. They’re elected officials and it’s their job to serve us.”

He acknowledged that not everyone agrees that the hostage cause is primary. He said he has attended Knesset committee meetings that hosted war widows and bereaved parents whose soldier sons were killed in battle in Gaza. Some of them believe that the military effort to remove the threat posed by Hamas should not be paused, even for a hostage deal, and that pressure will work to release the hostages.

TV writer Hen Avigdori rallying outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem home in support of the hostages’ families, January 2024 (Courtesy)

Avigdori engages patiently with those who hold these views. “Patience is a word that you can’t use with the hostage families. It’s like using an inappropriate word to describe a person’s race, there are words you just can’t say,” he said. “The army can’t save all 134 hostages and the hostages are out of time. When you explain that equation to them, then people understand why we advocate for the deal now.”

Right now, said Avigdori, all his efforts are about supporting and pushing for a hostage deal.”There’s a window right now that we don’t know when it will open again. So you seize what you can get with both hands, and that’s what I’m working toward.”

TV writer Hen Avigdori speaking on a podcast with fellow comedy writers in December 2023 (Screen capture: Galgalatz, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

He closely watched the four-day march this past week, as hostage family members and supporters walked to Jerusalem from Kibbutz Re’im, where hundreds were killed and taken hostage by Hamas terrorists on October 7 during the Supernova desert rave.

Avigdori and his family participated in the march as well, on Friday.

“The last march brought about a significant change,” said Avigdori, referring to a march held in November about 10 days before the weeklong ceasefire during which his wife, daughter and 103 others were released.

While some foreign leaders have expressed optimism that a second hostage deal can be reached before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts next week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday accused Hamas of stonewalling rather than making a good faith effort at compromise.

Still, Avigdori is hopeful about the Israeli government’s support for the hostage-truce deal.

“After the last march, three cabinet members changed their mind and then two days later, the prime minister came around,” he said. “So we know that deals bring hostages home.”

As for work, Avigdori said he has some ideas but isn’t working on them, even though he could use the money and misses the creative process. He also thinks there is a very real need for comedy and satire, even during a war.

TV writer Hen Avigdori directing an episode of comedy show ‘Ad Kan!’ (Courtesy)

“There’s no such thing as it being too soon to laugh at these things,” said Avigdori, adding that when he teaches his writing course at Ariel University, he tells a lot of jokes, including his opening gambit each semester about a joke that two Jewish girls told on the train to Auschwitz. “It’s not so successful when I tell it, but if two Jewish girls could tell that joke then, there’s no place that humor doesn’t belong.”

He’ll tell that story again when the new semester begins in mid-April, even with the country in the midst of a war and the hostage crisis.

Humor, said Avigdori, “offers a protective layer. My wife has it, my son and daughter have it, I’m sure it helps them, and I’m not a prude who says, ‘It’s not time yet.’ This is the time.”

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