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Raaya Rotem

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Raaya Rotem is a member of Kibbutz Be'eri; a strong, devoted mother to 13-year-old Hila. Raaya’s peaceful life on the kibbutz was changed forever on Saturday October 7th when she, along with her daughter and their nine-year-old neighbor Emily Hand, were kidnapped from the safety of their home.
In a harrowing recount of that fateful day, Raaya and Hila shared the chilling moments following their abduction, highlighting the terrifying ordeal of being dragged out of the house by Hamas terrorists, viewing the chaos in the kibbutz, and taken in a truck, packed with other women and children, into Gaza.
Raaya shares: "In the initial hours, we had no idea what was happening outside the house. It took six hours before the terrorists reached us, and then I heard Arabic speaking while we were in the safe room. They broke in, grabbed me by the shirt, and took the three of us outside. It struck me as odd that I saw no security forces in the area, realizing that all the noise and gunfire originated solely from the terrorists. The route to Gaza was completely unobstructed, with no Israeli forces presence in sight. I understood there was nothing we could do."
Yair Rotem, Raaya's brother, criticized women's and children's organizations for their inaction in the face of the atrocities committed in Israel on October 7th. He shared that his sister sent him a last message on Saturday around noon, simply stating that they were being kidnapped. He added, "The terrorists roamed the kibbutz, doing as they pleased. A small team (IDF soldiers) arrived in Be'eri in the morning to fight, but they were unable to assist many of the kibbutz members who were already surrounded by terrorists."
During their captivity in Gaza, Raaya, Hila and Emily experienced harrowing conditions — enduring hunger, thirst, and fear in a dark, dirty environment. Despite these challenges, Raaya's maternal instinct ensured the girls' survival, providing care and comfort even when resources were scarce.
“We were several hostages together and were moved from house to house,” Raaya recalls. “I realized that time was running out; the immediate danger from the bombings, the terrorists' patience was running out.. everything became more difficult with time. Hila and I think a lot about those who were there with us; it's crucial not to forget them, even for a moment.
Hila shared her thoughts during captivity: “I kept telling myself, if it's hard for me, it must be harder for her (Raaya). She made sure we ate, helped us with showers, hugged us when we were sad. I didn't really understand what it meant to be kidnapped. I didn't know there was an option to be released. I thought it was going to be forever.”
Amidst this despair, they found moments of comfort through the radio, learning about the widespread protests in Tel Aviv by families of the hostages and their supporters, which offered a glimmer of hope in their dire situation. After enduring 50 days in Hamas captivity, Hila was released as part of a ceasefire agreement alongside her friend Emily. Raaya, however, was kept in the hands of the Hamas terrorist organization at that point, violating the agreement. The ordeal shed light on the cruel separation of families by Hamas, igniting fear and uncertainty among the victims and their families.
Raaya was finally released four days after her daughter, and the two were reunited with their family.
Nowadays, Hila and her mother advocate for the release of all hostages. Hila, only 13 years old, took her message to the global stage, including a significant event in the UN, New York, marking a pivotal moment in her journey from captivity to championing freedom and reunion with loved ones.

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