Academic year starts, but some students still captive in Gaza

'It's an incredibly surreal experience, leaving an empty chair for him in the classroom,' says friend of hostage Idan Shtivi who, alongside Noa Argamani, won't be joining their classmates
As the new academic year opened on Sunday, Idan Shtivi could not join his classmates in their sustainability studies at Reichman University. Shtivi, 28, was abducted by Hamas from the Nova Music Festival on October 7.
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Noam Hayman, a close friend of Idan, expressed the poignant sentiment that while life continues for others, Idan's existence feels suspended. "It's an incredibly surreal experience, leaving an empty chair for him in the classroom. It's unsettling to witness people casually sitting and enjoying their coffee, returning to their routines, while we remain incomplete. Mentally, it is challenging to grapple with the fact that life simply moves forward. We seek solace in therapy sessions, as our group struggles to cope and find ways to navigate through this loss."
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חבריו ללימודים של עידן שתיוי
חבריו ללימודים של עידן שתיוי
Friends await the return of Idan Shtivi
Hayman said that he and Shtivi have been friends since school where he first recognized his remarkable character. "Idan possessed a serene and composed demeanor, yet he exhibited a profound understanding and enthusiasm for his studies," Hayman shared.
"If anyone had a question or sought advice, Idan was the go-to person thanks to his extensive knowledge in various fields. This degree perfectly aligns with his passion for nature and exploration, as it encompasses topics such as the green economy, resource management, human relations and the environment. As evidence of his talent, we held a photography competition focused on capturing nature's beauty, and Idan submitted an extraordinary picture from one of his trips, ultimately winning the prize. It's still there, on the school wall."
Similarly, at Ben Gurion University, another student named Noa Argamani, studying information systems, was also taken captive during the party in Re'im and has not been able to resume her studies. In a show of support, Noa's picture was hung throughout the campus.
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 ההורים יעקב וליאורה ארגמני, מימין: הבת נועה
 ההורים יעקב וליאורה ארגמני, מימין: הבת נועה
Noa Argamani
However, Yaffa, Noa's aunt, expressed her disappointment, stating, "I was certain that the students would unite and demand the postponement of the school year until all the hostages were safely returned. We needed to send a powerful message and exercise patience. After all, nothing is more urgent than the safe return of our loved ones. It is truly infuriating that the academic year has opened as if nothing had happened. Nobody should be in a rush to move on. The fact that they merely hung her picture doesn't hold much significance."
Meanwhile, the student association at Ben Gurion University has launched a commemorative project to honor the victims, involving sharing stories from their family and friends. Nitzan Davidson, 25, who manages the association's new media, is leading the effort.
"We reached the realization that this is an essential endeavor. Unfortunately, we have experienced far too many tragic losses within the Ben Gurion community. We have bid farewell to numerous friends, colleagues and cherished individuals, including students, graduates and faculty members," explained Davidson.
"The response from both the students and the bereaved families has been overwhelming. Everyone is eager to share their heartfelt memories and convey the deep love they held for these remarkable people."
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יבגני פוסטל ז"ל עם בת זוגו אביב נווה
יבגני פוסטל ז"ל עם בת זוגו אביב נווה
Aviv Na've and late partner Yevgeni
Aviv Na've, a psychology and philosophy student, lost her partner, 25-year-old Yevgeni Postel, at the festival. They met in Sri Lanka the previous summer and soon decided to move in together.
Reflecting on their bond, Aviv said, "Discovering we were both students at Ben Gurion felt like fate. Processing such a loss? That's a tough question. I'm caught between conflicting emotions. There's a part of me that wants to return to daily routines and distractions, but at the same time, it feels impossible to move forward."
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