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Family of Hamas Hostage Says He's Here, at Their Sabbath Table, in Their Hearts

  • World
  • Sunday, 05 November 2023 15:19

When the family of Evyatar David sat down to dinner after sunset on Friday, there was an empty chair at the Sabbath table.

It was the fourth time since Oct. 7 that the 22-year-old Israeli had been held hostage by Hamas, and those who loved David most had to break bread without him.

The traditional Jewish meal took place this time in the home of David's aunt and uncle, but the pain was the same.

"His energy is missing," said David's 18-year-old sister, Yaela.

"That's exactly what I was going to say," replied his mother, Galia, 56.

The last time they saw David was exactly four weeks ago when the family sat down for their traditional Jewish meal in their home on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Now it hurts too much to eat there without him.

David, they said, was so excited about going to the Supernova music festival the next day that he couldn't eat.

He ended up in Hamas' hands after militants suddenly attacked several targets in Israel, including the Supernova music festival he attended.

In addition to killing about 1,400 people, including children and infants, and igniting the current war with Israel, Hamas took hundreds of hostages — one of them David.

Since then, David's mother and sister have been sleeping in his bed. The family has tried to pay as little attention to the news as possible. And David's always-silent father, Avishay, 63, has grown even quieter as the days without his younger son have turned into weeks.

Yet the family clings to hope that David will come home. And when the wine was poured and the blessing was said, his older brother, Eli, 26, prayed for his safe return.

"He's here, he's here," insisted David's mother, tearing up and pointing to her heart. "He will come back."

The grief-stricken family welcomed NBC News into their home about a week after talks to free more than 200 hostages still held by Hamas fell apart.

David managed to contact his close-knit family shortly before he was seized. Soon afterward, Hamas released a propaganda video showing David in handcuffs looking frightened.

These images of David were featured in a warning published last month by Israel's Foreign Ministry.

In an earlier interview with NBC News on Oct. 9, concerned relatives said that not knowing what was happening to David had been torture.

"All you have is your imagination," said Jonathan Gutman, David's cousin.

Friends who escaped the Hamas raid told the family that David tried to help other concertgoers flee and stayed behind to assist the wounded, Gutman said. Gutman, 31, who lives in Prague, described David as a "very strong, very supportive" person.

Gutman said the Israel Defense Forces confirmed that David was taken hostage by Hamas shortly after the video surfaced. He said the images were frightening but also gave them a glimmer of hope.

"It seems he wasn't harmed, which is, essentially, a miracle, given what happened at that music festival," Gutman said. "We're grateful for what we have in this situation."