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Mother of Israeli hostage receives global recognition in TIME Magazine's 'Most Influential' People' in 2024

Rachel Goldberg-Polin has raised global awareness since her son Hersh was taken captive by Hamas on Oct. 7

Rachel Goldberg, mother of Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, speaks during a rally for hostages marking 100 days since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, outside the Jerusalem Municipality, Jan. 14, 2024. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

TIME Magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2024 includes Rachel Goldberg-Polin, the mother of one of the 133 hostages currently being held captive by terrorists in Gaza.

Goldberg-Polin has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to advocacy and raising global awareness about the ongoing hostage crisis ever since her son Hersh was abducted by Hamas on Oct. 7, along with 132 others.

The prestigious recognition comes amid ongoing negotiations between Israel and Hamas for a ceasefire deal, which has fallen short of any agreement allegedly due to the terrorist organization's unreasonable demands, according to Hebrew news reports.

Goldberg-Polin and her husband Jon, along with hundreds of other families affected by the crisis, have campaigned tirelessly for the release of all the hostages. Millions of people across the globe have resonated with the distraught mother, who has spoken to influential leaders from the Pope to members of the United Nations to the White House.

She urged continued global awareness and action to secure the release of the hostages, while also expressing her gratitude for being placed on the TIME100 list.

"I want to thank TIME for my inclusion on the TIME100 and for recognizing the significance and gravity of the hostage crisis," Goldberg stated.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Goldberg described Hersh as “funny with a dry, dark sense of humor.” Hersh loves soccer, electronic music and traveling in Europe, she said.

On the night before the brutal Hamas attack on Israel's southern border, Hersh joined his parents and two younger sisters for Shabbat services and dinner to celebrate Simchat Torah. Afterward, Hersh told his parents he and his best friend Aner Shapira were going camping.

“And as he was leaving, as he was walking out, he turned around in the doorway and he looked at me very casually and just said, ‘Love you, see you tomorrow,’” Rachel said. “And that was 195 nights ago.”

Hersh and Aner were among thousands of young Israelis who attended the Nova Music Festival on the morning of Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists stormed the southern border and brutally murdered 1,200 civilians in several Israeli communities.

When Goldberg turned on her phone the next morning, she found a text from Hersh saying he loved them and he was sorry. Video footage and witnesses confirmed later that Hersh was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists from a small bomb shelter on the side of the road near the festival site. Hersh’s friend Aner was killed in the bomb shelter where he saved countless lives.

The last GPS location on Hersh's phone showed that he was inside Gaza.

For the past six months, Goldberg and her husband have been working tirelessly as they travel back and forth from Israel to Washington and New York City to meet with world leaders.

“We run every single day as hard as we can,” Rachel said.

Iran’s attack against Israel last weekend has complicated the most recent hostage release deal brought to the table by the United States, making any future agreements uncertain.

Despite the lack of progress in the negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that Israel remains undeterred in its mission.

“Israel will continue to forcefully pursue the fulfillment of the goals of the war against Hamas and will turn every stone to return the 133 hostages from Gaza as soon as possible.”

As the war in Gaza has stretched on over six months, there is increasing speculation in Israel, the U.S., and abroad about how many hostages remain alive in Hamas captivity.

While the IDF has confirmed the death of at least 34 out of the remaining 133 hostages, Israeli and American officials estimate that the number of deaths could be much higher, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Israel has demanded the release of at least 40 surviving hostages as part of the first phase of a potential hostage release deal, focusing on the most vulnerable hostages; specifically women, children, the elderly and those who are ill.

“We should all just keep praying for miracles and freedom and unhardened hearts, and God willing, the next time that I see you, Hersh will be next to me,” Goldberg said. “I am still believing that he will be at my Seder.”

Rachel and her husband have expressed their gratefulness to Christians around the world who are praying for the release of the hostages.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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