Shalom,” she said to the masked terrorist wearing a balaclava and bulletproof vest emblazoned with a Hamas flag.
Her use of the Hebrew greeting word – which means “peace” – to one of her captors seemed to mark a rare kind of character.
The man whose hand she shook was, after all, part of the group that slaughtered 1,400 Israelis on October 7 and took more than 200 hostages.
The captor held her hand for a moment, accepting her good wishes.
Known as Yochi, the gesture was fitting for a woman who, along with her husband, 83-year-old Oded, has been a peace activist all her life. She was released alongside 79-year-old Nurit Cooper on Monday night.
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At a press conference yesterday, a frail-looking Yochi told the world of the “hell” she went through as a captive.
Explaining why she went back to speak to one of the terrorists who snatched her and others in a murderous raid on the Nir Oz kibbutz, she said: “Because they treated us very nicely.”
Yochi, who uses a wheelchair, smiled as the women were welcomed back by Red Cross staff and taken by ambulance to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.
Yet Oded remains a Hamas prisoner along with those who were snatched on the day that hundreds of Israelis were killed in a massacre similar to the one on October 7 – the day when 1,400 Israelis were killed in a massacre similar to the pograms that targeted Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries in Europe
Yochi was joined at the hospital by her London-based daughter Sharone, 52.
She said of her parents’ captors yesterday: “My mum is saying they were very delicate and gentle with them and took care of all their needs.
“They seemed really prepared like they had concealed it for a long time.
“They took care of all the women’s needs, shampoo, conditioner.”
But Sharone, an award-winning artist and filmmaker, was left in no doubt of the horror suffered by her parents after they were abducted from their home near the Gaza border.
She said: “My mum was saying she was taken on the back of a motorbike, with her legs on one side and her head on another.
“She was taken through ploughed fields, with men on one side and behind her.
“While she was taken, she was hit with sticks until they reached tunnels. There, they walked for a few kilometres on the wet ground.”
Yochi was left short of breath and was bruised by the beating, then stripped of her watch and jewellery before being taken into the fanatics’ underground lair.
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Sharone said her mother told her: “There are a huge network of tunnels underneath – it looked like a spider’s web”.
She added that Yochi was taken to Abasan al-Kabira, near Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, but she lost track of her whereabouts as she was moved.
Sharone said: “When they arrived they entered a large hall where about 25 hostages were gathered.
“After two or three hours five of them were taken into a separate room. She said they were very friendly towards them, they took care of them, were given medicine.”
Each hostage was assigned a guard who would talk and eat their meals of cheese and pitta bread with them each day.
The captives were also examined by a doctor each day and the terrorists seemed “very concerned with hygiene” and gave them washing facilities.
Sharone added: “My mum is saying they told them they were Muslims, that they’re not going to hurt them.”
But Yochi also told her daughter: “I went through hell that I could not have known.
“On Saturday morning, everything was quiet and then there was huge shelling on our community. It exploded the huge fence, they opened the gates of the kibbutz and entered in masses. That was very, very tough, I have all these images in my mind.”
Accusing the Israeli Defence Forces of failing to heed warnings about the attack, she added: “The IDF did not take it seriously. We were left to fend for ourselves.
“The lack of knowledge in the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israeli intelligence) severely affected us.
“We were the scapegoats, they had warned us three weeks before, but the masses came to our roads and burnt our fields.”
British citizen Sharone paid tribute to her mum, saying: “I’m so proud of her, she’s amazing. Just the way she walked off and then came back and said ‘Thank you’ was quite incredible to me.
“It’s so her. I’m really waiting to have a bit of quality time with her.
“While I cannot put into words the relief that she is now safe, I will remain focused on securing the release of my father and all those, some 200 innocent people, who remain hostages in Gaza.”
She continued: “Both of them are very loving people, family people. The week before, they had over 20 people visiting. They really loved hosting family.
“My father was involved in kibbutz politics. He was very involved in the rights of Palestinians and working towards peace with our neighbours. His whole life was the idea that we have to find a way to live together. He felt that it was very easy to find a way.
“He was very disappointed and fought very hard against this idea of occupation, of perpetual war. I hope that he’s there and that he is being looked after. There was a doctor there, so this brings a lot of comfort to everybody.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury said that the dignity shown by Yochi and relatives of those killed in Israel by Hamas “is the first ray of light…in a situation of almost unredeemed darkness”.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Justin Welby described his meeting with bereaved families on a humanitarian visit to Jerusalem earlier this week.
He said: “The innumerable deaths on October 7 and the taking of over 200 hostages has created a situation of trauma in Israel that it is hard to exaggerate.
“There was, although huge anger, an absence of hate from those families.”
Mr Welby added: “All we can do as Christians is listen and bear witness.” Among those the top Anglican cleric met was the family of a British-Israeli soldier killed as he sought to defend against the murderous insurgent attack.
Mr Welby called for official recognition of Sergeant Yosef Guedalia, 22.
The Archbishop said: “He gave his life against overwhelming odds as wave after wave of terrorists sought to kill people in one of the kibbutzes.
“I wonder if the Government is considering – given that he is a British citizen – what official recognition of his supreme courage can be offered.”
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