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Released Israeli hostage Yarden Roman-Gat fights for sister-in-law's return from Gaza (CBC-60 min)

2023-12-18 (218)

Israeli hostage Yarden Roman-Gat, now reunited with her husband and daughter after 54 days in Gaza, spent the day after her release hoping her sister-in-law Carmel would be the next to come home.

But Carmel wasn't released. Though more than 100 hostages taken into Gaza during Hamas' deadly Oct. 7 attack have been released, roughly 130 remain in the hands of Hamas. Yarden Roman-Gat, along with her husband Alon, are still fighting for Carmel's return.

What happened to the family on Oct. 7?
The couple were in Kibbutz Be'eri, near the Gaza border, visiting Alon's parents when Hamas stormed in, they said. Alon's mother was dragged outside and shot dead. His sister Carmel disappeared.

Fighters shoved Alon, Yarden and their 3-year-old daughter Geffen into a car and took off. When an Israeli tank passed by, the captors got out and hid in some trees, leaving Alon, Yarden and Geffen behind with an unarmed driver.

The parents seized the moment and took off. Yarden had been holding Geffen, but she's not a good runner, so she passed their daughter to Alon.

"He's a very good runner," she said. "I just passed her on. It was a no-brainer. It was her best chances."

Alon ran ahead with their daughter, gunfire ringing out as he ran for safety.

He found a ditch and hid with Geffen, wondering if he should go out and look for his wife.

"I thought about all these things," he said. " And I said 'No.' I have one mission now. And this is to save Geffen."

The pair were in the ditch from around 11:30 that morning until about 8 p.m.

Yarden's capture
As her husband and daughter hid, Yarden, too exhausted to keep running, fell to the ground as her captors closed in. She tried to play dead, but was quickly found out.

"They grabbed my arms and started dragging me on the ground towards, back to the car," she said.

Yarden, who'd been in pajamas, said her clothes were pulled from her body as she was dragged.

And it was one of, one of the most frightening moments because my thoughts were, 'Even if they didn't have that intention, now they might have, and I'm half naked," she said.

Like other hostages, she was driven into Gaza through thick crowds of celebrating people.

"My kidnappers could not help themselves, showing me off as a trophy," she said.

54 days in captivity
"I was watched and seen at all times. I was not hidden, not for a moment," she said. "They could do anything to me."

There are some details of her time in captivity Yarden did not want to share.

"They did not want to protect me. They wanted to guard their trophy," she said. "But I do think I managed to make them care, I don't know, in some levels. And I do think it helped me survive."

Sometimes Yarden could hear news on the radio. About three weeks into her captivity, she happened to catch one of Alon's cousins speaking. The cousin mentioned that Yarden and Carmel were being held, but he didn't mention Alon or Geffen, so Yarden assumed her husband and daughter were OK.

Though she felt relief about Alon and Geffen, she was tormented thinking about Carmel because of the almost constant explosions of the Israeli bombs leveling neighborhoods all across Gaza.

"It's a very, very frightening experience to be on a war zone," she said. "You cannot ignore it. It's very intense."

Returning to her home in Israel
Yarden and Carmel's family waged a campaign for their release. They even traveled to Washington for help. Eventually, all the pressure paid off; late last month, Israel temporarily ceased the bombing and Hamas agreed to release some hostages, mostly women and children, in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners. Under the terms of the deal, three Palestinian prisoners were to be released for every one hostage freed.

Every night, the phone would ring with news of who was on the release list, Yarden's brother, Gili Roman, said.

"That was the twisted reality show that we lived in," Roman said.

Once the hostage releases started, the entire country was glued to television, as each transfer was covered live. But for five excruciating days, neither Yarden nor Carmel were on the list.

Then came day six of the temporary cease-fire. After 54 days, Yarden's captors told her she was going home.

"They wondered, 'Why aren't I'm happy?'" Yarden said. "They almost demanded it. 'Be happy, be happy already. You're going home.'"

The family gathered around a TV that night and watched as Yarden crossed out of Gaza and was transported to Israel. Alon woke Geffen up around 2 a.m.

"'We found Mommy,'" he remembered telling her. "'We found Mommy and she's coming back.'"

The temporary cease-fire ended on Dec. 1 without Carmel's return.
Alon is still fighting for his sister, now with his wife by his side.
"My sister-in-law Carmel and a bunch of other hostages are still in Gaza," Yarden siad. "And it's wrong. And we have to stop it. And if we can do anything to help that, we will."

Video Transcription:

It's been one horror and tragedy after

the next since hamas's killing and

kidnapping attack of Israelis 10 weeks

ago on Friday three hostages were

accidentally killed by Israeli forces

even though we now know they were waving

a white flag, this as the Army's pounding

of Gaza continues unabated as much as

90% of the population has been displaced

and the death toll keeps risinging

about 100 Israeli hostages have been

released mostly women and children but

as many as 130 remain in captivity an

open wound in Israel, where we went this

past week and spoke to one of the

hostages who was freed after 54 days

36-year-old Yarden Roman Gat, she and her

husband Alon Gat were abducted on October

7th at a kibutz near the Gaza border

Alon took us to the rubble that

was his parents' home in Beeri, this is the

the entrance, on October 7th he, his wife

Yardan and their three-year-old daughter

Gefen were visiting his folks when

Hamas stormed the kibuts gate broke into

their home dragged out his mother and shot her

his sister Carmel disappeared and

the Hamas fighter shoved the three of

them into a car and took off, and they

are taking us into Gaza, you're driving

along there in the car, yeah, this is the

area where they drove the car to, and

there is a small Army Post over there

and this is the place where they stoped

the car because there was a tank passing

the terorists went out of the car to hide

in the trees, he and Yarden sees the

moment and we just jumped off, both

sides and started running, you had Gefen?

I had Gaffin on me, I'm not a good runner

and running with the 12 KG of my baby

the best odds is that Alon would

take her and he's a very good runner

I just passed her on, it was a no-brainer

it was her best chances so you passed

your child along to Alon, yeah, so I took

Gefen and I ran in front, we started to

hear the terrorist shooting at us so we

hearing bullets whistling next to us on

my both sides really close by I'm

talking about that distance of me and

you're carrying, and I'm with Gefen, and I

found a small crack in the ground like a

small ditch? yeah, yes, and I put Gefen

down on the on the ground and I was on

her lying there with Gefen trying to

keep her quiet and all this time you

still don't know what had happened to

your wife, it's something that I thought

about should I go with Gefen and search

for Yarden is Yarden, is she wounded is

she hurt, I thought about all these

things and I said no, I have one Mission

now and this is to save Gefe, how long

were you in the ditch? from 11:30 a.m.

to around 8:00 p.m. 9 hour? s about

and Gefen was amazing, she didn't cry about

food or water once she told me Daddy

it's a shame we didn't bring water

hours earlier Yarden too exhausted to keep

running fell to the ground as her

captors closed in, I played dead but

holding my breath was next to impossible

so they said, no she's not dead

there's no blood so pick her up, and they

grabbed my arms and started dragging me

on the ground towards back to the car

I went in pajamas, and my clothes tried to

swipe off my body and it was one

of one of the most frightening moments

because my thoughts were even if they

didn't have that

intention, now they might have, and I'm

half naked so you're worried about rape

yeah, I was worried to get raped

yeah, of course

and fortunately enough they didn't do it

and they were, the the goal was get me

into Gaza like other hostages she was

driven into Gaza through thick crowds

celebrating, my kidnappers could not help

themselves showing me off

as a trophy and showing my face as

an object, I was not a person, but but

the windows were up right no one could

reach, no, they were not up there were a

lot of people around and as we,

yelling and, yeah partying

after similar gauntlets of

Terror many other hostages were taken

down into the dark airless tunnels

Yardan was never underground, and where

did they take you? eventually we got uh

to a house I was alone but I was never

alone because I had my Guardian guardian

guards, guards with me

24/7 from the second I got to Gaza to the

second I

left were they men or women or both or

only men, only men, you cannot object to

anything it could cost you your life

she was given a hijab that covered most of

her body. I got a very strong

feeling this is my that that fabric is

my only

protection that

I don't know its effectivess but it was

the only thing I got you could feel

hidden a little bit behind that formless

the word

hidden has no place, I was watched and

seen at all times I was not

hidden, not For a moment, they could do

anything to me, I was helpless

did you try to engage them so they would

see you as a human

I'm trying to make them care did

it work do you think they began to want

to protect you? they did not want to

protect me, they wanted to guard their

trophy but I do think I managed to make

them care I don't know in some

levels and

I do think it helped me survive. do you

think that at some level you just shut

down you know just almost as if it was

happening to another person, no no you

were it was happening to me yeah there

are details about her captivity that she

didn't want to share with us

did they feed you? what you can't talk about it?

That okay. She lived with persistent

anxiety over the fate of Elon and Gefen

then 3 weeks in because she could

occasionally overhear news on a radio

she happened to catch one of Alon's

cousins speaking, and he mentioned by the

way the fact that I am and Carmel my

sister-in-law were held in Gaza, you

heard your name come up on radio, yeah

but it didn't mention Alon and Gefen so

I could pretty much assume

that they were fine. along with relief

about her husband and child she was

tormented about Carmel because of the

almost constant explosions of the

Israeli bombs leveling neighborhoods all

across Gaza, were you afraid that that

was going to kill you? yes, it's a very

frightening experience to be on a war zone

you cannot ignore it, it's very


meanwhile in Israel there was a growing

"bring them home now" movement to pressure

the government to prioritize the

hostages. bring them back home now, now,

now, now, posters of the hostages are

everywhere this is Romy Gonen who was

shot and kidnapped for her mother mirav

it's October 7th every day outside

they're not fed they're starved we know

the about um sexual harassment of the

women that left there and of the men

also that treated with cruelty the ones

that stayed there and it's important to

understand that they don't have time

Yarden's family waged their own

campaign setting up a war room to get

her and Carmel freed even traveling to

Washington for help, eventually all the

pressure paid off, last month Israel

agreed to Cease the Bombing and free

some Palestinian prisoners and Hamas

issued a daily list of hostages it would

free the next day, every day mostly it's

night in the middle of the night we

would get a phone call of whether we are

on or off the list. Yarden's brother Gilly

the way it played out was Hamas would

announce who's coming out tomorrow that

was the twisted reality show that we

lived in, yes that is what happened, once

the hostage releases started the entire

country was glued to television as each

transfer was covered live, but for five

excruciating days neither Yardan nor

Carel were on the list, then came day six

of the ceasefire

after 54 days Yardan captors

told her you're getting out

they wondered why aren't I'm happy,

they almost demanded it, be happy be

happy already you're going home, you know

some of the hostages were given drugs to

make sure that they looked Happy, Well

treated, if they.... I don't want to go there,

you don't? okay. on the night of her

release her family the entire War Room

gathered around a television and as she

crossed out of

Gaza oh escorted by her captors yardan

was handed over to the Red Cross and

transported to Israel. I woke up Gefen

around uh 2:00 in the morning I woke

here and I told her we found Mommy we

found Mommy and she's coming back

the reunion, the embrace took place

at a hospital the first stop for all the

released hostages, the last time Yarden

had seen her daughter was 54 days

earlier when she handed her over to Alon

so it it hasn't been that long since she

came home, is she still the same person

yeah, she is? I think she is, yeah

are you the same person? no I'm a

different person

I'm tearing apart between finding

more info about Carmel, my mother was

murdered so also, I didn't have time

to mourn on that, I was dis connected

emotionally and I think still, I am

Alon's old kibutz is now rose and rows

of burned out houses. This is Gefen's

Swing with painful reminders, the day

after Yardan was released everyone

thought his sister Carmel would follow

the whole day I kept my self expecting

Carmel, I was almost

sure she's the

one, oh dear I'm

sorry, I'm sorry, the ceasefire deal

unraveled no more hostages have come out

since the family war room is still

operating now focused on Carmel and now

you're part of the war room that's right

so why did you decide to do the

interview? my sister-in-law camel and a

bunch of other hostages are still in

Gaza and it's wrong and we have to stop

it and if we can't do anything to help that we will

you see this a mother still waiting

for her daughter to return is there any

fear that time is running out yes at 60

minutes she's young

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