It has been over four weeks when Ditza Heiman, 84, was abducted by Hamas and taken into Gaza together with roughly 240 other people.
Hamas answered the phone on October 7, when Ditza’s daughter called.
According to Neta Heiman Mina, another daughter, “they were shouting ‘It’s Hamas, it’s Hamas’.”
“My sister hung up because she was so scared. I didn’t believe she was taken by them. I believed she had been murdered.”
In Gaza, Ditza Heiman is a hostage.
When Hamas launched their deadly onslaught on Israel, killing 1,400 people and kidnapping over 240 more, she was seized from Kibbutz Nir Oz.
According to Neta, she spoke with her mother early in the day. Ditza was unaware of what was going on outside her secure room.
“I don’t think she realised, or we realised, that the terrorists were at the kibbutz,” said Neta.
It was just before 10:00 local time when her mother sent her her last message. She didn’t pick up her phone after that.
Later, when Neta spoke with one of her mother’s neighbors, she learned that Ditza had been phoning for assistance. When he went outside to investigate, he saw that she was being carried off by gunmen from Hamas.
“They started shooting because there were too many terrorists outside. He retreated into his hiding place. “He was fortunate,” stated Neta.
Neta and her sister came onto a video of her mother on a Hamas Facebook page. “They grabbed her. She was seated in an automobile. We knew she was still alive when we discovered the video.”
Ditza Heiman had been a resident of Nir Oz her whole adult life. Retiring just a few years ago, she was a social worker with 12 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren, and “so many more children who grew up with her and consider her to be family”.
Neta speaks about her mother with a steady voice. She was self-sufficient, cooked for herself, and went on walks.
But her gait was sluggish. Neta remarked, “I don’t think she could walk for many kilometers, like Yocheved,” alluding to Yocheved Lifschitz, an 85-year-old who was released last month and who has described having to go through tunnels.
Ms. Lifschitz spoke of being led beneath Gaza into a “spider’s web” of tunnels.
Concerned about the ground offensive in Gaza is Neta. She worries about the young soldiers as well as the prisoners, not knowing what it means for them.
“All of them are my friends’ kids; they are my friends’ kids. It won’t, in my opinion, free the hostages,” she remarked.
She requests that the Israeli government “speak with Hamas directly.”
Longtime supporter of an agreement-based settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, she is an activist with Women Wage Peace, the largest grassroots peace movement in Israel comprised of Jewish and Arab women.
She also attributes the current state of affairs to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration.
“In the last nine months they did everything to escalate the situation, especially in the West Bank,” she stated.
She claims that during the period when many Israeli troops were stationed in the occupied West Bank, Hamas launched its strike.
“The army was there [in the West Bank], to protect the Sukkah [a shelter put up as part of a Jewish festival].” She mentions the unrest in Huwara, a town known for its flashpoint status.
“They were there and they didn’t protect my mother. And now they need to do everything to bring them [the hostages] back.”