“In all those hours, we were just walking like zombies — helpless, and the worst scenarios running through my head. Really, it was awful.”
Ilay David, 26, reflected on the first moments he and his family suspected that Hamas had kidnapped his younger brother, Evyatar, 22. Hamas terrorists captured him as he tried to flee the Nova music festival in Re’im, Israel, on Oct. 7. Evyatar took his mother’s car and drove to the festival with four of his friends late that Friday night, right after the holiday dinner.
Ilay now knows, with the rest of the world, that his brother was one of the many victims of a surprise attack on Israeli citizens in southern Israel. The assault took more than 1,400 lives on the first day. Hamas abducted about 240 people and took them to Gaza. Ilay waits for news at his family’s home in Kfar Saba, a short 20 minutes from Tel Aviv.
But he’s still trying to make sense of exactly what happened.
“As much as I know my brother, I think that he even didn’t run. I think he just walked, and he was so calm. Like the terrorists didn’t think that he was a threat to them. So, they just took him. That’s how I imagine it.”
A Typical Music Lover
Ilay’s brother only told him the day before that he was going to attend the music festival. It was no great surprise. Evyatar is a typical 22-year-old, very into music. He plays the guitar and can play for hours — mostly hard rock.
“Three Days Grace. Sevenfold. It’s the kind of songs that I used to put on the earphones and run. He’s very talented,” beamed big brother Ilay. “We like to sing together and play together. I play the piano.”
Evyatar works as a shift manager at the café in their hometown. “Only started his life,” said Ilay, who lives not so far away in Jerusalem, where he is a physics student at Hebrew University.
The First Hours of the Attack
At about 6 a.m. on Oct. 7, air raid sirens woke Ilay and his mother, Galia, from their sleep. It’s not common in their location, far removed from the border with Gaza. Nevertheless, they all knew the routine and ran to the bomb shelter. His mother immediately texted Evyatar to make sure he was safe.
Evyatar replied that they were fine but were packing up to leave. The festival organizers were shutting everything down as a precaution because of the rocket fire from Gaza. The rockets were so close that they could see them from the festival grounds.
Thinking everything was fine, Ilay went back to sleep. But Evyatar and his mother continued to message each other. The last text message came at 7:43 a.m.: “We’re going to the cars.”
At 8 a.m. they lost the connection. His friends were also disconnected.
Not long afterward, the sound of his mother’s cries stirred Ilay from his sleep. He knew something was wrong, he explained, because he had never heard her cry like this before.
Terrorists and a Traffic Jam
The family heard its first solid news about Evyatar’s condition from Efraim, a friend who met him at the festival. As they headed out, Efraim was driving two cars behind Evyatar and his friends. “He said that when they ran away to the cars, there was only one escape route. So there was a traffic jam — all the cars trying to escape. And there was a blockage by the end of the road. I don’t know if it was police or military or terrorists.”
“But at some point, they stopped, and they saw a car coming from the other way, shouting, ‘There are terrorists in the other way. Run away. Now. Leave the cars. Run away.’”
And when they saw a second car, riddled with bullet holes, they understood what was happening. So they abandoned their cars.
Then the group split up. Efraim ran one direction, and Evyatar and his best friend, Guy, ran a second direction. Two other friends who had driven with Evyatar ran a third direction.
Hamas soldiers kidnapped both Evyatar and Guy. Efraim escaped. And Hamas killed the two other friends.
Hamas Sends Propaganda
Back in Tel Aviv, Ilay and Evyatar’s younger sister, Ye’ela, 18, posted a photo of Evyatar on Instagram, along with her phone number and a desperate plea for anyone with information to contact her.
She wouldn’t believe her eyes when she got a reply.
Around 2:00 p.m., Ye’ela opened her phone and saw a screenshot from a video. An unknown number had sent it. She immediately told her family. Ilay looked at the photo she sent as they were talking. “I was looking at the picture, and I was sure that I’m looking at a dead man. It was my brother’s face.”
He told his sister to send him the video. When he opened it, he saw a Hamas propaganda video, complete with blaring Arabic music and text running across the video.
In the video, Ilay saw his brother being led through a street that he said looked like a street in Gaza. Evyatar’s shirt was torn. He was handcuffed behind his back. A terrorist was holding a gun in one hand and holding Evyatar in a headlock with the other arm.
‘A Punch to My Gut’
“I could see how cold-minded he was at the time. I mean, I saw that he is trying to be tough,” Ilay said of his brother.
A second propaganda video followed. “Four young people. All handcuffed. One of them was beaten. And one of them is my brother,” Ilay said.
“The scene was a dark room. They’re all lying or sitting on the floor, and the cameraman is using a flashlight, because it was a dark room, and he wanted us to see the frightened faces of the captives. And they were frightened. They were terrified. And so, seeing my brother’s face like that, it was really a punch to my gut. All they wanted to do at that moment of publishing these videos was to make us afraid and confused and terrified. And they actually succeeded.”
Staying Strong in Captivity
Some two weeks passed. And Ilay received a third propaganda video — this one, while he was doing an interview with one of the local news channels. In the interview room, Ilay met Ohad, a family member of another kidnapped Israeli.
“And he told me, ‘Man, I have a video, and I think it’s your brother in that video.’” Ohad recognized Evyatar from the Instagram page of a Gaza photographer.
“And he’s showing me an Instagram video of my brother from that same day. Like two weeks after the event, I’m seeing another video of him in the same situation. The shirt, the handcuffs, everything. And he was lying in a truck with other guys, probably the guys that Hamas took to the room, to the, I don’t know, underground room.”
Ilay remarked on Evyatar’s condition, which still gives the family some comfort: “And he, my brother, has strong energy, even through the videos.”
Waiting with Hope
Now Ilay and his family can do nothing but wait. “The first two days, all the country was in chaos, complete chaos,” he said. “We tried to deliver any information we had to all authorities, to the police and to the military and everyone. We had solid proof that my brother was kidnapped and being held.”
That Monday, two days after the first attacks, the military contacted the family and informed them that Evyatar was indeed kidnapped. “Like we didn’t know,” Ilay reflected.
For now, Ilay just wants to tell his story to anyone who will listen: “Remember his name, remember his face. And know that he is being kept — right now — in Gaza. And that Hamas is doing — right now — crimes against humanity. And that we will do anything it takes to bring them back. And I’m a big believer that he will be back home. Yeah. I really do.”
Andy Niggemann is a freelance journalist who specializes in geopolitics and religion with particular emphasis on the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, Germany, and Israel. He received his PhD from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Martin Luther’s Hebrew in Mid-Career.
Originally Posted on: https://thefederalist.com/2023/11/21/this-israeli-saw-his-kidnapped-brother-in-hamas-propaganda-videos-but-still-holds-out-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=this-israeli-saw-his-kidnapped-brother-in-hamas-propaganda-videos-but-still-holds-out-hope
[By: Andy Niggemann