KFAR VRADIM, Israel: Eitan Gonen sits in his daughter Romi’s bedroom. Outside, the world waits for Israel’s temporary truce with Hamas to take effect and for the release of some of the hostages held in Gaza. He prays his daughter will be among those coming home.
Gonen raises his head and holds back tears.
On a shelf behind him are framed pictures, nail polish and a collection of cosmetics arranged as they had been when Romi, 23, left their home in northern Israel before a rave festival in the south where Palestinian Hamas gunmen rampaged on Oct. 7.
- How pressure from hostage families nudged Israel towards a deal
- Israel, Hamas truce and hostage release delayed, says Israeli official
- Israel, Hamas agree on four-day truce, hostage release and humanitarian aid into Gaza
- Truce deal raises hopes of freeing hostages in Gaza and halting worst Mideast violence in decades
“It was very, very hard for me to enter Romi’s room for 47 days. And now we are in this room and emotions are very, very high,” he says. “But we are very optimistic that Romi will come back home. We are even convinced that Romi will be back home, alive.” He holds up a picture of his younger self holding his daughter as a baby.
The last time they spoke, the morning of October 7, Romi, a dancer, was running for her life with her best friend Gaya, hiding in bushes, begging for rescue, as Hamas gunmen rampaged the outdoor party they attended. The whole time, Romi was on the phone with her family.
After hours of hiding and the gunmen closing in, they managed to ping a colleague, Ben, who had also been at the party. He picked them up and tried to drive off, Gonen said.
“They murdered Ben and Gaya who were sitting in the front seat. And this was online, live. We heard the shots,” he said.
“Romi was shot in the hand by a bullet. She was screaming. She was afraid. She basically said to her mother: ‘I am going to die, today’.”
The last thing they heard, he said, was the attackers, in Arabic, saying, “She is alive, let’s take her.” Her phone was later traced and located in the Gaza Strip.
Under Qatari mediation, Israel and Hamas have agreed to a temporary ceasefire during which some Gaza hostages will be repatriated in exchange for the release of three times the number of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. It has been delayed at least until Friday.
But it remains unclear which hostages will be freed.
Officials have said the focus is on the dozens of children and women.
“We are confident with the Israel Defence Forces and the government of Israel that they are doing all they can to bring our Romi back home, and all the rest of the kidnapped,” Gonen said.
“I miss her voice. I miss her hugs. I miss the high energy.
I miss the great vibes she brings to every place.”