Since her 23-year-old son Hersh had his left arm blown off at the elbow and was taken hostage into Gaza by Hamas on 7th October 2023, Rachel Goldberg-Polin has gone from the self-described “Jane Doe” anonymity of Jewish woman, to becoming the international voice for hostage families, entering a world previously unknown to her-public speaking and meeting world leaders to gain the release of her son and the other hostages taken by Hamas that day.
“I think the real way to recover from 7th October is to get the hostages back,” she told OSV News. She felt extremely “grateful and privileged” to have met with Pope Francis, along with 11 other hostage families. She showed him the video of Hersh, who had been able to put a tourniquet on his arm to stop the bleeding, climbing onto the back of a pick-up truck with his arm blown off.
The pope was visibly shaken after having seen the video in a meeting on 22nd November, she said. After viewing it, he said the families had experienced terrorism, which he called “the absence of humanity.” Goldberg-Polin said that “without realising it” she had begun “to question humanity,” but Pope Francis gave her “permission to not lose faith in humanity.” “I can still have faith and hope that humanity will be victorious over the darkness” the hostage families and the hostages “are going through.”
Picture: Rachel Goldberg-Polin, whose 23-year-old son Hersh was kidnapped by Hamas on 7th October 2023 during a music festival, is pictured during an interview with OSV News in Jerusalem, 1st February 2024. The number 117 on masking tape on her sweater marked how many days her son, an Israeli-American, had been held in captivity in Gaza as of the day of the interview. (OSV News photo/Debbie Hill)