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#SetTheCaptivesFree: I just interviewed 4 Israeli hostage families – we must get their loved ones out of Gaza immediately

Our only true hope is to appeal to the God of Israel for their liberation, in the spirit of Isaiah 61

Joel C. Rosenberg moderates a panel of hostage families at a GPO-hosted event for foreign journalists covering the war in Gaza.

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – A critical and controversial debate is underway in Israel.

One camp says: Our highest objective is to completely vanquish the Hamas terror regime in the Gaza Strip as quickly and thoroughly as possible so that they cannot ever launch another genocidal invasion like October 7th ever again.

The other camp says: Yes, we absolutely must vanquish Hamas in Gaza, but we must also do everything in our power to bring home alive every single hostage home from Gaza before it’s too late, before they suffocate, starve, or are executed by Hamas in those terror tunnels.

Count me in this second camp.

I’ve felt this way since October 7th.

But a conversation that I had last night with four Israeli hostage families definitely deepened my personal conviction on this matter.

About a month ago, I was asked by Nitzan Chen, director of Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO) – a division of the Prime Minister’s Office – to moderate a panel of hostage families at an event held at the Friends of Zion Museum for foreign journalists covering the war in Gaza.

Nitzan Chen - Director - Israel Government Press Office

Humbled to be asked, I immediately said yes and am so glad that I did.

Indeed, last night was the most emotional and powerful evening I’ve had since the war started.

I’ll share some details about our conversation in just a moment.

But first, I must say this.

The Israeli government had a moral obligation on October 7th to keep every Israeli safe from monsters like Hamas.

Yet our government utterly failed.

In time, we will go to elections.

Israelis will have the opportunity to make our voices heard and choose which leaders will take us forward.

But that’s later.

Right now, the current Israeli government – this emergency national unity government – has a moral obligation to get all of the hostages back as rapidly as possible.

That’s what the hashtag campaign – #BringThemAllHomeNow – is about.

Israeli citizens are telling our leaders to make the return of the hostages the country’s top priority.

We don’t mean, “Surrender Gaza to Hamas – give them whatever they want – in order to get all our hostages back.”

We don’t mean, “Agree to a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and betray the lives of our soldiers who have fallen in order to persuade Hamas to give back all of our hostages.”

We mean, “Win – crush and conquer Hamas once and for all – but don’t lose sight of your moral obligation to us: You must do everything possible to get all of our hostages back or the Israeli people will never forgive you and you will suffer devastating political consequences.”

That’s where I am.

That, I believe, is where most Israelis are.

That said, I believe as Evangelical Christians we need a new hashtag campaign to run simultaneously with #BringThemAllBackHomeNow.


We need a #SetTheCaptivesFree campaign.

Based on Isaiah 61, this appeal is not to the government of Israel.

It’s to the God of Israel.

Because 116 days into this horrible war, it’s clear that only the God of Israel can bring all of our hostages home.

God may use the Israeli government, along with the Americans, Egyptians, French, the Qataris, and others as His tools.

But only by God’s divine mercy and supernatural power are these 136 innocent people coming home.

And we desperately want them to come home immediately.

This is what the Lord God of Israel said through the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)

Let this be our prayer.

Especially as we meet and think about and pray for Israel’s beautiful, brave, but bereaved hostage families.


For nearly an hour, I had the rare and special opportunity to talk to a group of Israeli heroes.

One of them was Ofri Bibas.

She is the brave and heroic aunt of the two youngest and most famous hostages.

Ariel Bibas is only four years old.

Kfir Bibas was only nine months old when he and his family were captured by Hamas and dragged into Gaza.

Earlier this month, Kfir turned one year old.

Every Israeli immediately recognizes the faces of these two precious, adorable, red-headed children.

Many people around the world have come to recognize them, as well.

In many ways, the Bibas boys – and especially baby Kfir – have become the face of the #BringThemAllHomeNow campaign because no decent-minded human being on this planet can fathom why anyone would take a baby captive and refuse to release him and his family for 116 days.

But Ofri is not just grieving for Ariel and Kfir – and courageously fighting in every media interview for their immediate return.

She’s also fighting for the release of her brother, Yarden, 34, and his wife, Shiri, 32, the parents of these beautiful children.

I cannot explain how moved I was by asking her questions and giving her the opportunity to share her family’s story with journalists from all over the world.


I was also so moved to interview Malki Shem Tov.

He and his wife, Sheli, are the parents of Omer, 24, who was captured by Hamas terrorists at the Nova music festival on October 7th and dragged into Gaza.

In December, I first met Malki and Sheli – two more true Israeli heroes – when I brought a Delegation of Evangelical Christian leaders to Israel.

We went to the “Hostage Village” headquarters in Tel Aviv where family members can meet with world leaders, faith leaders, Members of Congress, journalists, and others.

There, we learned that Omer has asthma and didn’t have his inhaler with him when he was captured.

He also has celiac disease, which means he should not eat regular bread or he will suffer terrible pain.

Malki shared with me last night how painful it is to think of Omer in those terror tunnels, having such hard time breathing, and so little oxygen at all, much less fresh air.

And how painful it is to think of Omer being fed pita bread and his system rejecting it, but having little or nothing else to eat.


Yet another hero I had the honor to interview was Sigalit (“Sigi”) Cohen.

An Orthodox Jewish mom, her son – Eliya, 26 – was also taken captive at the Nova music festival.

While upwards of 260 other Israeli young people were being gunned down in broad daylight by terrorists, Eliya and his girlfriend, Ziv, tried to hide in a shelter with about 30 other people.

But the terrorists found them.

They opened fire with AK-47s, and threw hand grenades into the shelter.

Sigi told us that dozens of dead bodies fell onto Ziv and she hid under them for hours, pretending to be dead, as well.

Eliya was shot in the leg and couldn’t escape.

He was grabbed by Hamas operatives, handcuffed, thrown into a truck, and taken into Gaza.

She hasn’t heard from him since.


I also spoke to Yoni Asher, still another Israeli hero who has been through hell.

His wife, Doron, was taken hostage on October 7th.

So were their two young daughters – Raz is only four years old, while Aviv is only two.

They had all gone for the weekend to visit Doron’s mom at Kibbutz Nir Oz, right along the Gaza border.

But on that Black Shabbat, the girls watched their grandmother get murdered right in front of their eyes.

Doron and the girls then spent 49 terrifying days being held by Hamas.

Distraught and wracked by guilt for not having been with them, Yoni went on all kinds of TV shows to tell their story and ask people to pressure Hamas to release his family and all the hostages.

His story was intriguing to me and to all of us because he’s the first Israeli I have met whose family members have been released.

Not a religious man, he’s so grateful that are home yet he told me of the nightmares and trauma his wife and daughters are experiencing.

And he’s still grieving for the families who haven’t heard a thing about their loved ones and don’t yet know if they will come home alive.


Last night, I also had the immense honor to interview Gideon Bayer.

He is the father of Urija Bayer, an IDF special forces commando who was killed in combat in Gaza as he fought to crush Hamas and set our captives free.

I’ll share more about that conversation soon.

But it was powerful because the Bayer family isn’t Jewish.

They are German-Israelis.


And devout Evangelical Christians.

The story of Urija’s death made huge headlines here because Israelis were stunned to discover that German Evangelicals – not just Urija but his siblings – are serving in the IDF and fighting like lions to protect Israel and the Jewish people.

Wow – such a powerful and moving story.

All of them were.

That’s why in the coming days ALL ISRAEL NEWS is going to publish stories – and post videos – about my conversations with each of them.

I’m going to feature several episodes about them on THE ROSENBERG REPORT on TBN, as well.

Because time is running out.

We need to get them all home before it’s too late.

And we need to appeal urgently, fervently and unceasingly, to the God of Israel because He alone has the power to set the captives free.

Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.

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