Israel’s U.N. mission hears from families of kidnapped, missing: “We want them back. It’s all we want.”

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At a standing-room-only meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York, Israel’s U.N. mission heard heart-wrenching accounts from families of Israelis, Americans and others believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas during its attack on Israel last Saturday.

“We experienced our darkest moment since the Holocaust,” Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan said, adding, “Men, women, children, the elderly, not even newborn babies were spared. Entire communities have been erased. The savagery is unfathomable.”

Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan speaks during an event featuring families of Israelis kidnapped by Hamas, at U.N Headquarters in New York City, Oct. 13, 2023.

BRENDAN MCDERMID / REUTERS


The first family member to speak was Yoni Asher, joining virtually from Israel. His wife Doron (who has German citizenship); their two young daughters, Raz and Aviv; as well as his mother, his mother-in-law and her husband were all taken hostage by Hamas.

“On Saturday morning… I woke up to the worst nightmare of my life,” he said, tearing up as the crowd listened in silence.

“My wife was visiting her mother at one of the kibbutzim and I stayed home,” Asher said. “I got a phone call from my wife, scared, scared, whispering, terrifying, saying that she’s hearing gunshots and people are entering the house. Later on, I saw a video and, on this video, I saw my wife, two daughters got taken on a vehicle and I recognized them.”

“I can’t describe such a moment in words where you watch your whole family get taken away from you,” he said.

Liam and Alana Zeitchik spoke about six family members — Danielle Alony, Sharon Alony Cunio, David Cunio, Julie Cunio, Emma Cunio and Amelia Alony — who were taken hostage.

Raquel and Jay Zeichik spoke about their niece Danielle and her family. “We want them back. It’s all we want. We don’t want war. The world should be together with us,” Raquel Zeichik told CBS News.

Families of hostages speak at U.N.
Rachel Zeitchik, left, Alana Zeitchik, center, and Liam Zeitchik, far right, along with other family members, come together to talk about their loved ones kidnapped by Hamas, members of the Cunio/Alony family, during an event at U.N. headquarters, Oct. 13, 2023.

Craig Ruttle / AP


There was Rabbi Burton Visotzky, whose cousin, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, was taken.

“Hersh had just had his 23rd birthday and he knew there was this great dance party going on, so he went,” he told CBS News. “And as the dawn broke, Hamas attacked and they blew off part of his arm by guns or a grenade and then they took him captive.”

“He must be in dire need of medical care,” Visotzky said.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., also spoke at the meeting. “Let us be clear, there’s absolutely no place for this evil in the world. No justification, no excuse,” she said. “Know that the United States, working closely with our Israeli partners, is doing everything we can to secure the release of all hostages.”

The meeting ended with “Hatikva,” Israel’s national anthem, performed by Israeli singer Noa Kirel.

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