How a 9-Year-Old Israeli Girl Is Recovering From Hamas Captivity

Emily explains that she has code words for her time in captivity because ‘it’s unpleasant for me to say certain words.’

Anav Silverman Peretz
The home from which 9-year-old Emily Hand was kidnapped in Kibbutz Beeri by Hamas terrorists on October 7. Anav Silverman Peretz

When Emily Hand turned nine in Hamas captivity, the young girl from Kibbutz Beeri did not know if she would ever return to Israel again. After 50 days in confinement in Gaza, Emily was released by the Hamas terror regime on November 25 along with 17 other hostages during the temporary ceasefire. 

Now in a recent interview with Israel’s Channel 12 earlier this week, Emily and her father, Thomas, shed some light about the aftermath following her kidnapping. 

“Everything is sorting itself out slowly,” said Thomas Hand, 63, who moved to Israel from Ireland over 30 years ago. “It’s still very difficult though.”

Mr. Hand noted that Emily was making progress and recovering from her ordeal. “Emily has healed extremely fast; that is the resilience of children.”

But on the other hand, the nine-year-old still feels insecure. She constantly asks if the doors are locked and the shutters are down. She refuses to shower unless her father stands guard outside the bathroom.  “She’s still afraid,” said her father. 

Emily, who lost her Israeli-born mother to cancer several years ago, does not speak very much about her time in Gaza. But she developed code words for her time in captivity, using a special language of her own to address the brutal reality she experienced. She refers to terrorists as olives, for example, or murder as cottage cheese. Hostages are also referred to as cheese. 

“She has lots and lots of code words,” said her father. “Any food or item that Emily doesn’t like is transferred over and used instead of the original term.” 

Emily explained in the interview that she has code words because “it’s unpleasant for me to say certain words.”

Mr. Hand also said that the Hamas terrorists would threaten Emily with a knife if she did not keep quiet during her captivity. She was only allowed to draw or play with a deck of cards during the two months she was held captive. 

When asked if he has any advice for the families of the Israeli hostages still being held in Gaza for more than 120 days, Mr. Hand said not to lose hope. “Stay strong, stay positive, I know that this is very hard but this is proof that it is possible. They [the hostages] can come back. I had given up all hope,” he said.

Initially, Mr. Hand was told that his daughter had been murdered by Hamas terrorists in the October 7 massacre that left 1,200 Israelis dead, including over 100 residents from Mr. Hand’s home community of Kibbutz Beeri. Only later, did Mr. Hand find out that his then eight-year-old daughter was alive and had been abducted and taken to Gaza. Emily herself did not know what had happened to her father. She was spending the night at a friend’s house in Kibbutz Beeri when she was kidnapped by the Hamas terrorists.

“She thought I had been killed or kidnapped. On the way out of the kibbutz, Emily saw people that she knew lying dead on the ground, while others were being taken away [by the terrorists],” recalled Mr. Hand. 

As for Hamas, Hand believes that the Iranian-backed regime who has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 must be destroyed. “We have to completely destroy Hamas from the top. And not allow them back into Gaza,” he said.

The New York Sun

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