At 6:30 a.m on October 7, 2023, Renana Gomeh’s life changed forever when Iran-backed Hamas terrorists stormed her home in Kibbutz Nir Oz and took her two sons, Yagil and Or Yaakov, ages 12 and 16, hostage. She has not heard from them since, knows nothing about the conditions they're held in, or whether they're still alive. Listen to Renana’s painful account, how she is coping, and her mission to bring them home. 

American Jewish Committee (AJC) and more than 110 Jewish organizations have urged the United Nations and all governments to secure the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages. 

Update: This conversation was recorded on October 19. On November 27, Yagil and Or Yaakov were released as part of a temporary pause in fighting. Take action to bring their father, Yair Yaakov, and all remaining hostages home now.

*The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC. 

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Transcript of Interview with Renana Gomeh:

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

Over 200 hostages are being held by the Iran backed terror group Hamas after its terrorist attack against Israel and the massacre of over 1400 Israelis on October 7. American Jewish Committee and more than 110 Jewish organizations from more than 40 countries have urged the United Nations and all governments to secure the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages. The condition of many of the hostages remains unknown, yet we know some are in dire need of urgent medical care. With me to discuss her efforts to bring back her 12 year old and 16 year old sons is Renana Gomeh. Renana, thank you for joining us. 

Renana Gomeh:  

Thank you so much for having me.

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

Now, your two sons were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz by Hamas terrorists on October 7. You were on the phone with your sons, as Hamas terrorists were breaking into your home. I cannot imagine what you've been going through over the past 2 weeks. Could you please tell listeners what happened that morning at 6:30am?

Renana Gomeh:  

Yes, I was on another kibbutz that Saturday morning, with my spouse. I have a partner living on another kibbutz in another community near the Gaza border, which is 15 minutes drive away. And I'm divorced, and my ex-husband lives 400 meters away from me. He's also a member of my kibbutz, of my community. And the boys just usually sleep at my place. You know, this is how they prefer it. And since they're not very young children anymore, we let them choose. So they were alone at home. 

And he was at his place with his girlfriend, with his partner, who I love to bits. And about 6:30 in the morning, we all woke up to the red alert, which is unfortunately something which became a routine and we're used to. Since I was also on our kibbutz on the Gaza border, all communities at the Gaza border had red alerts and rockets flying over, hundreds of rockets flying over on a completely surprise attack. We just didn't see it coming whatsoever. I called my boys as I was running to the safe room at the place I was in to make sure that they're in the safe room at my place. And as the safe room is the eldest son's bedroom, he was there but he made sure that his little brother was also there. So they were in the safe room. And every couple of minutes I spoke to them to see that they were okay. 

At a certain point they said they're starting hearing gunshots outside the house and I could hear gunshots outside the house I was in. Again, it was a completely well-planned and well-executed attack on all communities at the same time. So no one could go outside. 

And I told them it was probably the army defending them. You know, they’re keeping us safe. 30 minutes later or so I can't remember. I've lost track of time to be honest, of that morning. We started getting text messages from other members of the community saying terrorists are walking outside freely, breaking into houses, trying to get people out. I was begging neighbors and people from the community to go and see, to go and see them, go and be with them. You know, try and help them. But no one could go outside. And there were probably over 100 terrorists walking around, getting into houses. So there was not a chance that anyone could help. 

At a certain point I asked my elder brother, who's also a member of the community, to call my eldest [son] and tell him how to lock the door. The doors don't lock in a safe room because the safe rooms were planned against missiles and rocket attacks and against earthquakes. So they actually want you to have the door been able to open from the outside, so they can take you out. So they don't lock. But you know, there's certain technical ways to try and keep them locked. So I asked him to call my eldest and tell him how to do it. And then I later found out that he held the door like hell. And he fought for that door. But it didn't make it. And about an hour later, about two hours after the attack started, they called me and said, they hear someone breaking in. Breaking the door, breaking in, walking in the house. 

And a couple of minutes later, I could hear Arabic speaking outside. The door opens. And my youngest said, Please don't take me, I'm too young. He was always good at manipulation. This time it didn’t work. And they took them. That was the last I've heard from them. It's almost two weeks now. And I've nothing, I've heard nothing. I know nothing of their whereabouts. I know nothing about the conditions they're held in, whether they eat, whether they sleep, and whether they're still alive.

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

I'm so sorry to make you relive that. But I also know that it's important that you share your story with the wider world. 

Renana Gomeh

It is, it is. I know. This is all I can do at the moment, you know. And so it means a lot to me that you're actually giving me the platform. Because what I need your audience to do is to enlist to the effort to get them released now. To get my boys home alive now. They shouldn't be there. They take children hostage, 80 people out of our small community, which only is about 400 people. 80 people were taken hostage from the age of six months to the age of 86. People who need medicine, people who need medical care. It's just plain children that need a mother. 

I later found out that my ex-husband and his girlfriend were also taken hostage from their house. My hope is that they've met and they’re together. As 80 people were taken my hope is that someone that they know is with them, to support them and to help them.

That's the story you know. As a mother to other mothers, just trying to imagine it was your child being kept there. Just for one hour, let alone 13 days. My heart goes out to every mother even in the Gaza Strip. You sometimes get in the news in Israel, you sometimes get news like a 14 year old terrorist was killed tonight at a terror attack and I always my heart goes out to them and I say you know he's 14, he’s someone's child. But what kind of a mother raises such monsters?

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

Of course, listeners who are hearing this can go to to send a letter to the United Nations, send a letter to Congress to demand swift action to release the hostages. I know that you are pushing for swift action to release your sons and the other hostages. Who have you met with, who have you talked to about bringing your sons home and what can be done? 

Renana Gomeh:  

Well I’ve met anyone who was willing to meet me. I was mainly trying to get the media, international media to hear my voice and to get people around the world to hear us. I think the international community has a lot of tools and there's many ways you can help by just by putting pressure, as you just suggested, by putting the right pressure in the right places, in order to release them. Obviously I want all of them to be released, there’s over 200 people kept in the Gaza Strip, as far as we know, I think there's more. But, you know, it's not for me to say.

What we need you to do is to approach your governments. And ask them to release those civilians that are held. We don't even know, again, in what conditions and especially released those 40 or so children. Children under the age of 18, from babies to teenagers. They're not part of this game. I'm sorry. They are not bargain chips in the war game. Get them free now without any conditions whatsoever. I can't see how anyone can think otherwise. It's just plain and simple.

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

Renana, are you getting any explanations or theories from diplomats, people that you're speaking with, on why they're holding your sons and other children like this?

Renana Gomeh:  

To be honest, until two weeks ago, I saw us as neighbors. And I thought there was mutuality between us, you know, that we could have a future together. Those two people have a mutual economy, have mutual relations, even have mutual cultures. But I don't think we do. I can't even try and get into these terrorists' heads and the way they think, because what they did is not just taking soldiers hostages in order to bargain them, to trade them, for prisoners. What they did was to rape and decapitate and murder, just for the sake of fun. 

They came in, had cameras, to have this horror filmed, and put on Facebook and on TikTok. So I can't even begin to try and understand but I reckon they probably want to bargain them for the prisoners, which as far as I'm concerned…I don't care. I think the actions they took cannot be justified in normal rules of war. I can't, I can't explain. It's not for bargaining. It's for fun. 

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

Are you being told there are limits to what diplomats can do or is anyone telling you their hands are tied, or are you getting unequivocal unbridled assurance that everything is being done?

Renana Gomeh:  

I'm not really told anything at the moment, but I'm not an expert. I understand that not everything can be told. If there are efforts being done, which I hope there are, they can’t share it with 200 families. My hopes are that anyone with the right mind understands that this situation can not go on. And the children cannot stay held by terrorists for not even one hour, let alone a day or a month. And that has to be over, no matter what. I don't care if the war still goes on after. I don't believe there's any other way to get them released, but diplomatic pressure. I think this is the way to do it. But I'm not sure there’s anyone to negotiate with. So you know, the other side is so different to us. And their morales are so different from ours, apparently.

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

Are you traveling places to meet with government officials, and do those government officials include Israel, America, beyond that?

Renana Gomeh:  

I'm willing to do anything to get my kids back home. And to get everyone's kids back home. I have another daughter, my eldest, who's 21, who was also in Nir Oz at that horrible, horror day. And who's traumatized. Thank God, her boyfriend was around and held the door. And luckily, they got out alive but very, very deeply scarred. And I have to take that into consideration while making decisions about traveling far away. But I'm doing my best by Zoom. I'm trying to get my voice heard in any way I can, under those conditions. And I still have her to think of, she's all I have at the moment. So she deserves her mother to be around. Even [if] she's willing for me to do anything to get her father and her brothers back.

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

Where are you staying now?

Renana Gomeh:  

We've been evacuated to a beautiful hotel suite in Eilat. My boys love Eilat. I was here with them two months ago on summer vacation. It took me years after I got divorced to get to this point where I can take them to a summer holiday on my own. So it was very meaningful also. So I'm finding it very very hard to walk around in Eilat. But everyone from my–what's left of my community of what was Nir Oz–everyone were evacuated to this hotel and we found it very important to be together. 

This community, you know, it's like a big family to us. This is why we decided to stay here with them. It's very hard because it's very far away from everywhere in Israel. I know for people in the States internal flights seem like a normal bus. But for us, it's not. But at least it feels safe-ish. I don't think anyone who's now staying here could bear even one more alarm. 

People ran for their lives, people fought terrorists. People jumped out of burning houses, people fell out of windows, people were hiding in bushes, people were faking themselves dead. There's not even a… I can't even start to describe, you know, for me, the horror was the fact that my children were taken away. But other people experienced horrors themselves. So we're here with our big family, the kibbutz, trying to recover from ashes.

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

Much of the world's attention is on what's going on now in Gaza. What do you have to say to journalists who are covering this war?

Renana Gomeh:  

The last thing I want, as a human being, as a mother, as a woman–if we were to run the world, it wouldn't happen. Just saying. But the last thing I would have wanted is war. You know, we've had so many in the last few years. This is the last thing we need. This is the last thing the Gaza people need. People in Gaza are used as human shields, even their children, like I said, terrorists who are 14. Terrorists, they’re children, why are they carrying guns? Why are their summer camps, teaching them how to use guns and to become terrorists?

My heart goes out to every mother there. And I wish we didn't have to have a war. And I wish we could live a better life. And I think the people in Gaza had that chance. We walked out of the Gaza Strip 20 years ago, took villages, complete villages out. And it was a very difficult action to do in Israel. Which, you know, we still bleed on it nowadays, politically and socially. 

And we gave them the opportunity to become an independent state. And they gave the keys to a terrorist organization, which uses all the money that the EU and whoever is giving them in order to weaponize themselves and in order to become terrorists and to educate their children to become terrorists. 

I used to tell my children all the time: your life is so much better than children in Gaza. You have education, you have running water, you have electricity. And you have the morals that the Jewish world gives to their children: of equality, of mutuality, of giving away from yourself and no wish to get something in return. 

The other side does the opposite. We treasure life as Jews and they treasure death. So I'm sorry, but my sympathy is gone. I want my children back home, now, alive. Afterwards, we can speak about having a war or not having a war, the conditions they’re in, the humanitarian solutions. But the world should know that what happens there is not an independent state. It's a terrorist organization, holding civilians, hostages. Their own civilians. My heart goes out to every child and every mother there. It's not their fault.

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

Thank you so much for sharing your perspective, sharing your family's story. And I am praying and we are all doing everything we can to help you get your sons and the other hostages home. And I pray that that happens very soon. Thank you so much for joining us.

Renana Gomeh:  

I just want them–I just want my boys back home alive now and I want you to help us do it in any way you can. Thank you so much for having me.

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

If you would like to help make a difference, go to There you can urge the United Nations and members of Congress to secure the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages being held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza.