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A hostage displayed like a trophy

Associated Press Cette photo non datée publiée par le siège du Hostages and Missing Families Forum montre Yarden Roman, qui a été libérée mercredi le 29 novembre 2023, après 54 jours de captivité dans les geôles du Hamas.

Taken hostage on October 7 by Hamas, Yarden Roman-Gat spent 54 days in captivity, before being released by her captors during the seven-day truce. Her cousin, Maya Roman, told the Devoir the incredible story of her capture, what the 35-year-old woman experienced in Gaza and how she is coping with her return to Israel.

The day before the Hamas attack, Yarden, her husband Alon and their three-year-old daughter Geffen, had returned from a trip to South Africa. On October 7, the family was in Kibbutz Be’eri, 2 miles from the Gaza border, to visit Alon’s family. “They lived on this kibbutz for four years,” says Maya. But they had just moved, because they believed it was not a conducive environment to raise their daughter with the constant sound of missile alarms. »

When terrorists broke into the house they were in, several members of Alon's family were captured. Yarden, Alon and Geffen were placed in a car with three Hamas militants. “About 500 meters from the Gaza border, they encountered an Israeli tank,” says Maya. The terrorists then got out of the car to hide. And the couple took the opportunity to flee.

But quickly, the Hamas militants saw them. “They started shooting at them and chasing them. » Yarden, who had Geffen in her arms, then handed her daughter over to her husband, since he was running faster. The man managed to outrun their attackers and hide in a cavity for eight hours without his daughter making a sound. “They then walked all night back to the kibbutz. »

A trophy

Yarden was caught by the terrorists, then taken to Gaza. “She was presented in front of hundreds of people like a trophy. She didn't know if they were going to lynch her or rape her…she was just terrified,” Maya says with fear.

The woman was then taken to a hiding place, located above ground and not in a tunnel. “She was kept alone, without any other hostages. She told us that she had lost her sense of self, of her individuality, from being constantly watched. »

She was presented in front of hundreds of people like a trophy. She didn't know if they were going to lynch her or rape her… she was just terrified.

—Maya Roman

To add to the anxiety, Yarden did not know if her husband and 3-year-old daughter had also been taken hostage. The answer came to him over the radio, about three weeks into his captivity. “She heard a member of our family dedicate a song to her and Carmel, her sister-in-law [also taken hostage] and that's how she knew Alon and Geffen were probably okay , since they were not named. »

Throughout her captivity, Yarden was constantly in fear of being raped. When she arrived in Gaza, she was given a hijab. “At one point, her captors told her she didn’t have to wear it all the time. But she thought it could protect her [so she kept it]. » According to Maya, the young woman did not suffer physical or sexual violence during her stay in Gaza.


During all this time, Maya, who like her cousin holds dual Israeli and German nationality, stopped working as she did, at a feminist newspaper in Israel, to devote herself entirely to maintaining the pressure, particularly internationally, for the hostages to be released. A crusade which notably took her to Germany and the United States to meet decision-makers.

The week the hostages were freed was one of the most difficult, she recalls. “Every evening, families waited for a call to find out if their loved ones were on the list. » The hopes of Yarden's family were finally realized on the 6th day of the truce, when the young mother, who lived out her 36th birthday in captivity, was released.

Like his companions in misfortune, Yarden passed through Egypt before returning to Israel. “Her life is very different now,” Maya points out. Everyone here in Israel is talking about the hostages. » Her cousin is doing relatively well, she reports, even if she has become, despite herself, a public figure. “She understands that what happened to her is going to affect her for the rest of her life. »

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116