A grief stricken father was in New York City on November 17th the day his daughter Emily turned 9 years old, forced to spend it in captivity after being taken hostage during the Hamas attack on Oct. 7.
”It’s her birthday and she is not here,” said Thomas Hand, who was in Times Square on Nov 17 gazing at an LED billboard which sponsored by Bringthemhomenow.net. The billboard at the intersection of Seventh Ave, Broadway and 47th St. –the crossroads of the world–featured the words: “Today is Emily’s 9th Birthday & 41st Day as a hostage. Bring Them Home Now.”
”I was praying for a miracle that she’d be out by her birthday,” said Hand, who lives in Dublin. His ex-wife Nacis was raising Emily in Israel. She was killed in the Hamas terrorist attack. Initially, Hand was told that Emily had also been killed in the Oct. 7 attack. But when no body was located days later, she was officially listed as a person believed to have been taken hostage instead.
Emily’s birth mother had died of cancer when she was 2 1/2 years old.
The Bring Them Home posters were featured in a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal and are appearing in posters and billboards around the world.
They have sparked controversy too as pro-Palestine protestors have taken to ripping them down.
The posters are the brainchild of an Israeli couple, Rob Anders and Odelia Torteman, who were with Hand in Times Square on Nov. 17th
”We’re bringing our international campaign around the world,” said Torteman.
“This billboard says not only is Emily not home on her birthday, blowing out candles, but she is one of now 238 hostages being held in Gaza,” said Anders. Toterman adds, “and that includes 38 children, one as young as ten months old. He was nine months old when he was taken.”
The body of one of the hostages, 65-year-old Yehudit Weiss was discovered dead by Israeli soldiers several days earlier in a building adjacent to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Her husband Shmulik Weiss was among the 1,400 people killed in the Hamas attack on Oct. 7.
The hospital where Weiss was discovered has become a flashpoint. The Gaza Health Ministry, which said over 10,000 civilians have been killed by the Iraeli air strikes, including 4,100 children, claimed Israel attacked a civilian hospital and accused the Israel Defense Force of war crimes. The IDF claims the hospital was being used to store weapons and as a command center connected to the Hamas tunnel system and claimed it found “concrete evidence” that Hamas was operating a military facility below the hospital.
It could not be determined how Weiss died. It was known that she was battling cancer at the time she was taken hostage.
“When you see a nine year old on her birthday in captivity, I think it makes people realize, these are real people,” said Anders.
“We’re doing a lot of activity all around the world to raise awareness of hostages,” said Torteman. “Every day that goes by, their chances are unfortunately lowered.”