My daughter Roni Eshel is the girl next door. Nineteen years old, bubbly, exuberant and compassionate, a loving older sister, the eldest granddaughter of the family, she loves Taylor Swift and Harry Styles and all things pop. One of my last memories of Roni is the Maroon 5 concert we attended just a few weeks before October 7, when Hamas terrorists overwhelmed her army base.
“I’m OK, Mom,” Roni texted me during the attack. “Don’t worry, I’m in the safe room.”
I read this inconceivable message on my phone, and my heart began to race much quicker than my brain began to process.
“I’m OK Mom, don’t worry about me. I love you.” We have not heard anything from her since.
Roni is missing and could be among the more than 150 Israelis that Hamas abducted that fateful day. For over a week, her family has lived in agony as we endure the unimaginable: subjected to the whim of heinous terrorists who intentionally, mercilessly withhold all information about the condition of their hostages, we find ourselves unable to do anything but wait for any sign of life from our little girl, anything about her at all.
The terrorists, in their barbarism, specifically targeted female soldiers like Roni, defenseless in their beds. At the time of the attack, she was stationed in the communication center, a secure enclave. Unable to breach it, the terrorists resorted to setting it ablaze. Roni found herself in the company of a few fellow soldiers, some of whom managed to escape, some of whom were abducted and transported to Gaza. Several lost their lives, and several, like Roni, remain unaccounted for.
Every waking hour is consumed by the torment of being unable to protect my child. Where is Roni? Is she in pain? Is she frightened? Is she alone? Is she alive?
The fear of the unknown is a torture no family should ever bear. In addition to my husband and me, Roni’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and siblings are caught in a never-ending cycle of grief and uncertainty.
And this is not just our individual ordeal; it is the shared reality of hundreds upon hundreds of families across Israel. We feel the same pain countless Israelis who, like us, are grappling with a profound sense of loss and despair.
What we have witnessed and experienced since that Saturday has been nothing short of cold-blooded slaughter in its cruelest, most sadistic form. Innocent children were murdered in their homes, families burned alive, and countless young souls celebrating at a music festival for peace were herded into an open field and ruthlessly slaughtered en masse, with such extreme brutality that the bodies of many innocents were rendered entirely unrecognizable.
To be clear, Hamas did this to us — to my daughter — because its sole mission is to eradicate Jews. It acknowledges as much in its charter (article 7), which <a href=”https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/hamas-2017-document-full”>states</a> that Hamas “Moslems fight Jews and kill them.”
At the same time, Hamas poses not a threat just to us but to everyone. After all, Hamas has used the same tactics against us that al-Qaeda and ISIS have used to wreak havoc worldwide.
Standing up to Hamas is not just a call to Israel. It is a call to the world to stand up against the global crisis of terrorism and extremism.
All corners of the civilized world must show unwavering solidarity with us in Israel to respect innocent lives and uphold the values and morals that allow for peace.
We implore people from all walks of life to raise their voices for Roni and the countless innocent Israeli hostages whose fates remain unknown. Independent of political beliefs, we can all find common ground in the need to protect all hostages and civilians.
Roni is, first and foremost, our beloved daughter. But now, she has also become a symbol of the universal longing for safety, for justice, and for the desire to live in peace. Her safe return and the safe return of all Israeli hostages would be a gesture to restoring faith in our shared humanity. It would also finally allow us to reunite with our baby girl.