My Second Trip to Gaza Was as a Hostage. I Will Never Return.

Jan 2, 2024 | History, Hostages

Ms. Munder, 78, is a retired resident of Nir Oz, Israel. She spent 50 days as a hostage in Gaza after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.
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The first time I went to Gaza was in 1967.

As a 22-year-old living in the small agricultural kibbutz of Nir Oz, a mile east of the Israeli border with the territory, I would wake up early in the morning to tend to the fields, pick apples in the orchard and work in the day care center.

[The New York Times Op-Ed continues]

I have happy memories from that day, and in the years that followed, my interactions with Gazans grew. I met Gazan businessmen who traded with my brother-in-law in the city of Be’er Sheva and who came as guests to my home in Nir Oz. I sat alongside them in the traffic on weekend journeys to Tel Aviv. For a time, you could imagine that we were destined to live together.
Nevertheless, we expected that Gaza would eventually return to the Egyptians in exchange for peace and normalization but hoped that the ties with Gazans would remain. After the Camp David Accords left Israel in control of Gaza and the failure of Oslo led to the bloodshed of the second intifada, our hopes for coexistence were extinguished. By the time Israel disengaged unilaterally from Gaza in 2005 and sealed the border, we were strangers once again. I could feel the old shadows slowly returning to Nir Oz as Hamas took power.

On Oct. 7, masked Hamas gunmen burst into the bomb shelter inside my home and kidnapped me; my daughter, Keren; and my grandson, Ohad. My husband, Abraham, was knocked out trying to stop the screaming men from entering the safe room and was taken away separately from us. He is still in captivity, his condition unknown. Hamas also killed my son, Roy, as he tried to defend Nir Oz.

Later that day I was back in Khan Younis, 56 years after my trip to the beach.

Over the next 49 days, I spent most of my time locked in a small room on the second floor of a hospital. My jailer, who went by Mohammad, called himself a soldier of Hamas, but he didn’t look like a soldier. I was being guarded by a man in civilian clothes and held against my will in a civilian building.

[The New York Times Op-Ed continues]

What I do know is that I will not go to Gaza a third time. Perhaps one day Israelis will again take a trip to the beach in Gaza or host merchants over coffee at their homes. I hope our two peoples can finally live in peace, side by side. And I know that if Hamas remains in power, that will never happen.
Ruti Munder, 78, is a retired resident of Nir Oz, Israel. She spent 50 days as a hostage in Gaza after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.

View this New York Times Op-Ed from January 2nd