'It’s complete helplessness,' freed hostage describes captivity

16-year-old Sahar Calderon recounts hours hiding in the bushes, seeing terrorists on murderous rampage before being caught and taken to Gaza, there, separated from brother and father she remained until her release 52 days later

Sahar Calderon, a 16-year-old girl who was abducted by Hamas terrorists on October 7 and held in captivity for 52 days, describes her experience as one of complete helplessness.
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In an interview to the New York Time, the youth, whose father was still being held hostage in Gaza said she had wondered if she would ever see her family again. “Will I return to my normal life? Will I not be killed? It’s complete helplessness.”
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סהר קלדרון בריאיון לניו יורק טיימס
סהר קלדרון בריאיון לניו יורק טיימס
Sahar Calderon
In her interview, Calderon who now lives in temporary lodgings in central Israel away from her home in Kibbutz Nir Oz, recalled the fear she felt while the IDF operated in the Strip. “I heard all the Israeli strikes, very intense bombing. Many times I told myself that in the end, I will die from Israel’s missiles and not from Hamas. Please, stop this war; get all the hostages out.”
The last time Sahar saw her father was on October 7 when terrorists attacked Nir Oz. She was staying at his home with her 13-year-old brother, Erez, while her mother, Hadas, was at her own home in the kibbutz. When the terrorists entered the family's home, Sahar escaped with her brother and father through the window and hid in the bushes. She and her father removed their white clothes to make it harder to identify them.
From within the shrubs, she said she witnessed the massacre on the kibbutz. According to her account, Hamas terrorists opened fire, torched houses, and looted everything they could. " Bikes, tractors, mattresses, refrigerators, motorcycles, television sets, everything," she said. " I see the terrorists holding bags packed with things.”
Two hours passed, and her legs went numb after prolonged kneeling. "I see all this and I just think: How did this happen? I sit in the bush and I just pray and hope they don’t catch us." But they were discovered, and again they had to flee.
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כרמלה דן ונכדתה סהר
כרמלה דן ונכדתה סהר
Sahar Calderon with her grandmother Carmela
Sahar couldn't catch up to her father and brother, and they were separated. One of the terrorists shot at her legs but missed, and ten armed terrorists, dressed in civilian clothing, caught her. Two of them lifted her onto a motorcycle and drove toward Gaza.
" The motorcycle drove through the fields, and there, too, were thousands of terrorists, people, Gazan citizens," she told The New York Times. Tractors and pickup trucks, things from our homes. I saw many small children and mothers from Gaza. People coming toward me to hit me. When we crossed into Gaza, I had never felt that kind of fear. I was scared to death."
She was held separately from her relatives and didn’t know that her grandmother, Carmela Dan, and her 13-year-old cousin, Noya, were murdered on October 7. She also didn’t know what happened to her brother and father. "I didn’t know how many hostages there were. I thought it was me and the people I was with. I didn’t know anything about who’s alive and who’s dead. I also felt I had been forgotten.”
Sahar didn’t want to provide details about her conditions in captivity and only said, "When you’re a hostage, you know nothing about what’s going on outside. It’s complete helplessness. The conditions were really bad. I was hungry. People there were constantly hungry. And there was nothing we could do.”
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סהר קלדרון חוזרת מהשבי
סהר קלדרון חוזרת מהשבי
Sahar Calderon after her return from captivity in Gaza
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Her father, Ofer, and her brother, Erez, were also abducted to Gaza, but Sahar knew nothing about it for 51 days. "I was told I was going back to Israel one hour before. I was sure they were lying to me until they actually came and took me. I met my brother Erez a few moments before we were handed over to the Red Cross. I was so happy to see him I started crying. And I said to myself I have him at least.”
In Israel, Sahar reunited with her mother, sister, and older brother, when she realized that her father was still in Gaza. “How is he?” she wondered. “Is he OK? What is he feeling? Who is he with? how will he being kept? I felt that I left him behind.”
Almost a month after being released from captivity, Sahar and Erez suffer from insomnia and panic attacks. " They lost their childhood. They are afraid that behind each door in the house are terrorists,” her mother told the paper. According to her, only the return of their father Ofer can help them heal: "We know he is alive. We want him back alive."
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