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Shani Goren

29

Born and raised in Kibbutz Nir Oz, Shani Goren holds dual citizenship in Israel and Uruguay as birthright. Shani, affectionately known as "Shani-ni" by the kibbutz children, has always been the community's vibrant heart. Her family and friends portray her as a funny, witty, and dearly loved individual. Renowned for her devotion to non-formal education and her role as a cherished children's counselor, Shani's boundless energy and joy have made her a beloved figure among both kids and adults, always opening her home with a warm welcome to everyone.
On a peaceful Friday evening of October 6th, Shani was on her apartment's balcony, spending quality time with friends, including her best friend, 28-year-old Arbel Yehoud, completely unaware of the terror that the next day would bring. The morning of Saturday October 7th marked a drastic turn in her life when Hamas terrorists invaded Kibbutz Nir Oz. Amidst the chaos, frozen with fear and screaming for mercy, she was forcibly taken from the safety of her home. A grenade thrown into her safe room by the terrorists, which, by fortune, did not detonate, marked the beginning of her ordeal.
Her abduction led her on a harrowing journey through the kibbutz, witnessing destruction and terror firsthand. Taken on a trailer attached to a truck, alongside the Cunio and Katz Asher families, Shani was subjected to a frightful ride. Surrounded by dozens of armed terrorists and Gazan civilians, she found herself pondering the absence of the army and the unfolding chaos.
As they were being transported to Gaza, the appearance of an air force helicopter provided a fleeting opportunity to escape. Contemplating the escape, she reflected, "I considered running away, but I just couldn't abandon the girls (Aviv and Raz Katz Asher, 4 and 2 years old). It's uncertain what might happen next. With their mother Doron injured, who would they have left to look after them?"

Transported to Gaza, her captivity involved moving from Khan Younis with Doron Katz Asher and her little daughters to another location, where she had a poignant reunion with 12-year-old Eitan Yahalomi. She recognized him immediately as they passed in the hallway; Shani was Eitan’s instructor on the kibbutz. Eitan shared that he was kidnapped without his parents and had no idea of their fate. Shani promised to stay by his side and protect him. Later, 12-year-old Erez Kalderon was also added to their group. Despite the dire circumstances, Shani's spirit and determination to care for those around her, especially the children, never waned. Known as "the children's caregiver," she exemplified selflessness and compassion, even under the most awful conditions.
Shani's ordeal lasted 55 days until a temporary ceasefire deal on November 30th brought her release. However, the joy of freedom was overshadowed by the weight of those left behind, compelling her to advocate for their release, particularly her best friend, Arbel Yehoud. "When I think about Arbel, my heart breaks” Shani shares, “I can no longer sit quietly. I promised them (the hostages who remain in the hands of Hamas) I would fight; and so, I will do everything so they too can come home, so they are not forgotten."

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