Families of Israeli hostages met with U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday to plead for help for the over 240 victims held in Hamas captivity for over a month.
Rita Lifshitz, who lived on a kibbutz where over 70 members were kidnapped, described how her stepfather was shot in the hand and lost consciousness before terrorists dragged him to Gaza.
"They are scared. I can feel their hearts beating all the time," she said. "We need to bring them back home now."
The meetings come as some far-left lawmakers have demanded a ceasefire from Israel and as pro-Palestinian groups have ramped up anti-Israel demonstrations in Washington, D.C.
"The fact that there are people advocating for a ceasefire, without discussing that the hostages must be returned, makes no sense and runs completely counter to our American values," Rep. Dan Goldman (D., N.Y.) said.
Families displayed photos of their kidnapped loved ones and described their constant fear and anxiety waiting for updates. Rep. Brad Sherman (D., Calif.), who held a press conference for the families, said Hamas has blocked the International Red Cross from accessing the hostages, despite injuries and other urgent medical needs.
Itay Raviv said he is concerned about the health of his kidnapped uncle, Alon, who uses a cane to walk and needs to take medicine daily. Raviv’s cousin, Ohed, who was also captured, turned nine years old on Oct. 23, while in captivity.
"He’s a smart, sweet boy who plays soccer and tennis. He’s very lovable," said Raviv. "Releasing them should be the top priority of the entire world."
Boaz Atzali, an American citizen who lives in Maryland, said his cousin Aviv and his wife were taken hostage. Atzali described them as a "lovely couple" who had recently adopted a three-legged special needs dog. He said Hamas killed the dog when terrorists raided their home on Oct. 7.
"I really ask [for] anything that could be done to bring them back home, safe and as soon as possible—any price for me, it's worth it," Atzali said.
Yael Nidam said her brother and kidnapped sister-in-law, Rimon Kirsht, moved to a kibbutz because they loved bringing "food and flowers into the world." Nidam said the kibbutz had a warehouse to store crops that the residents grew specifically for Palestinians—but Hamas destroyed it during the attacks.
"When the terrorists came in on October 7, they burned our houses, they burned our people, and they burned the food for their own people," said Nidam.
The families also expressed their hurt at seeing posters of their kidnapped relatives being torn off buildings and telephone poles by anti-Israel activists across the United States.
"These are people, civilians. Nine-year-old kids," Atzali said. "They are not enemies of anybody."