Hamas announced the release of two American hostages, a mother and her daughter, citing “humanitarian reasons” for their decision. The release comes amidst Qatar’s efforts to counter claims by US President Joe Biden’s administration.
Judith and Natalie Ra’anan, a mother and daughter from Evanston, Ill., were being held captive with as many as 200 others in the Gaza Strip. At this time, their Chicago-based family has yet to receive formal confirmation.
Hostage Judith Ra’anan, 59, was born in Israel and moved to the United States 30 years ago, where she settled in the Chicago suburb of Evanston. For years she has been an active member of Chabad-Lubavitch of Evanston. Since Judith and her 19-year-old daughter Natalie’s capture 13 days ago, her synagogue and community has been on the front lines advocating for their return from captivity, as well as supporting their extended family during this crisis.
The two were traveling throughout Israel earlier this month visiting family, and celebrating the High Holidays and Sukkot. On Oct. 7, Judith and her daughter were in Kibbutz Nahal Oz near the Gaza Strip when Hamas terrorists broke in and began their rampage—brutally murdering some 1,400 Jewish men, women and children, and dragging others, including the Ra’anans, to Gaza.
Their kidnapping shook their friends and community in Evanston and around the world.
“Judith is a really kind, giving, sharing, generous individual who always wants to be there for others,” Rabbi Meir Hecht, co-director of Chabad of Evanston with his wife, Yehudis, told Chabad.org. “She would come to our house and bring gifts to our kids. She wanted to be with our family and our community, attending our programs and helping out any way she could.”
Rabbi Hecht has spent the last two weeks advocating for the Ra’anans and bringing national attention to their plight. He is hopeful the news of their release is accurate, but asks that people continue to keep Judith and Natalie in their prayers, as well as continue to pray and increase in acts of kindness in the merit of the safe return of every single one of the remaining hostages.
Israeli officials, as per Hebrew media reports, clarified that Jerusalem did not negotiate or offer any concessions for the hostages’ release.
Nearly 200 additional hostages – men, women, the elderly, and young children – remain in captivity in the Gaza Strip.