As founder of a social enterprise advocating to improve economic and social conditions for older women, I write a great deal about older women. I tell their stories. But never before have I had to tell the stories of older women designated as targets for terrorism and hostage taking. This is what happened in Israel on October 7th.
Bilha Inon aged 75 and her husband Yakovi 78 were in their small wooden house when Hamas terrorists, who had infiltrated into Israel from Gaza, set fire to their home with them inside. They were burnt to death.
The first Australian to be killed in the Hamas attack was 66 year-old grandmother Galit Carbone. Her body was found on her doorstep. Carmela Dan 80 was missing for two weeks after Hamas attacked Kibbutz Nir Oz. Her burnt body and that of her 13 year-old autistic granddaughter Noya Dan, have now been found and identified.
There were many older Israeli women amongst over 1,200 massacred on that day. There are also many older women amongst the estimated 250 hostages Hamas took to Gaza. Vivian Silver 74, was believed to be one of them. Vivian had spent 40 years working for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and was a founding member of Women Wage Peace. She was part of an Australian initiative associated with Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, and regularly drove Palestinian children who needed medical treatment from Gaza to Israeli hospitals. It took 38 days following the Hamas assault to positively identify her remains in her home set alight by Hamas as she tried to shelter there.
Almost 5 weeks after she was abducted from Kibbutz Be’eri by Hamas on October 7th, Yehudit Weiss 65 was found dead in Gaza. Israeli soldiers found her body in a building near al-Shifa hospital. She was taken hostage at the same time Hamas killed her husband Shmulik. She had been undergoing cancer treatment before she was abducted.
Yaffa Adar 85, is a founder of Kibbutz Kfar Azza, the scene of some of the worst atrocities. She was identified as one of the hostages when Hamas triumphantly uploaded footage to the internet of both the massacre and the kidnapping of hostages. In the video, Yaffa can be seen in a golf buggy surrounded by Hamas gunmen jubilantly parading her through Gaza, as if she is some kind of trophy.
There is another photo that Hamas posted. It shows a grey-haired old woman with a masked Hamas gunman standing over her, his machine gun placed in her lap. She has been forced to hold up her fingers in a victory sign. She has been identified as a Holocaust survivor.
And as in the Holocaust, before these Jewish women were selected to be hostages, they had to witness Hamas behead their grandchildren in their cots and execute their children, sometimes their entire family. And as in the Holocaust, many bodies are hard to identify as they have been burnt to ash.
These older women, like many of the hostages are in urgent need of treatment for injuries and lifesaving medication for conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia.
Then there are the missing ones. Dafna Shai Heiman has not been able to trace her 84 year-old mother Ditza Heiman. When she frantically called her mother during the attack, a Hamas terrorist answered the phone. Ditza could be one of the group of 80 year-olds, even one in a wheelchair, who were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nahal Oz.
The New York Times reported that Hamas documents at the scenes of the massacres revealed that it was a meticulously planned assault with precisely designated targets. The objective of the heavily armed Hamas militia was not to battle with Israeli soldiers. It was to kill as many civilians as possible, in their homes and at the music festival.
It was the worst mass killing of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust. In an open letter, over 200 international legal scholars accused Hamas of committing genocide during its attack, and stated that the mass-abduction of civilians constituted a war crime.
Older women were not the only target of Hamas, but they were a deliberate target.
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