It’s been five weeks since grandparents Nitsa and Gilad Korngold have been fighting to bring their son, Tal, his wife Adi, and their two grandchildren - Yahel, 3, and Naveh, 8 - back home after they were abducted into Gaza on October 7.
When they feel like they need a break, they travel to Ma'ale Tzviya, a town in northern Israel, where the family has been living in recent years, to remember the scents of their grandchildren, whom they miss dearly.
Naveh’s writing desk is still neatly arranged, with a daily schedule of second-grade elementary school student detailed and a three-dimensional globe puzzle he completed. On the sofa lies a booklet with kind words Yahel’s kindergarten teachers wrote for her, and not far from it are the dolls she loves playing with.
"She used to hold parties for her dolls just as she saw in kindergarten," Nitsa said. "She'd have morning meetings with them, sing, and dance with them. She really loves unicorn plushies, so I took one with me because I hope she'll be back soon, and I don't want her to feel the doll's absence for even one more moment."
It's hard to grasp the reality in which grandparents are fighting for the return of their kidnapped family members. Dozens in Israel have been praying for over a month to meet their grandchildren again, taken to Gaza by terrorists. Following Nitsa’s interview, where she was holding Yahel's unicorn doll, they've been receiving more and more dolls from the public in Israel - unable to remain indifferent to the situation.
"Children sent us unicorn dolls they wanted to give us until Yahel returns," Nitsa recounted. On the weekend of October 7, Tal and Adi Shoham (Korngold) and their two children, Naveh and Yahel, visited Adi’s family in Kibbutz Be’eri.
hey were abducted that same morning along with three other families - Shoshan Haran, Adi's mother, Sharon Avigdori, and 12-year-old Noam Avigdori. Three other families were murdered in the massacre that took place in the kibbutz – Lilach and Evyatar Kipnis and Avshalom Haran.
"Gilad and I think the world is our family," said Nitsa. "We have no other interests, only our children and grandchildren. Our grandchildren are the air we breathe. It's an indescribable physical pain. Naveh has a vivid imagination, so I constantly hope that wherever he is, he finds something to play with, and that he manages to entertain Yahel and sing with her. We know they were taken from their room in Be’eri wearing short pajamas. We wonder if they’re cold, if they have clothes and blankets, if they know when it's day or night. If they’re getting food, if Adi is allowed to hug them."
Since the horrific events of October 7 in which they were kidnapped, the family members make it a point to gather every day for a communal evening, where every person recalls an event they had with the children or a positive trait about them.
"We constantly think about them," said Gilad. "We want them to know that we love them very much and we're doing everything we can to release them as quickly as possible. We ask them to be as strong as they can. We only dream of the moment we can hug them again."
'It tears your heart and soul'
Throughout Hamas’ murderous attack, Camellia Choter-Yishai sat in a protected room while her entire family was scattered across four different houses in Kibbutz Be'eri. "I’m a grandmother to ten grandchildren - including 16-year-old Lior, who was murdered, and Gali, 13, who was abducted. It's very difficult when you hear your grandchildren cry for help and you know you can't help them at all. It tears the heart and soul," she shared.
"That same morning, I messaged Lior, and he told me that everything was okay, but from the short sentences he wrote, I understood that he was very anxious. He sent me a kiss, and I told him I love him, and that was our final conversation."
Lior and Gali Tarashchansky were with their father, Iliya. "When the soldiers took me out of the house at 2:00 a.m., I didn't want to leave without my grandchildren," Camellia said. "I'm very involved in my grandchildren's lives. They live in my house, and eat my food. Gali loves my chicken soup and matzo balls the most. Since that day, I haven't cooked anything, I'm constantly worried. I just want to see Gali back home. She’s such a joyful child, and loves life. It doesn't make sense to me at all that she would be in that place, surrounded by darkness."
'I tell them she'll be back in a few days'
Since their granddaughter, 19-year-old Noa Marciano, was kidnapped, Bella and Yaakov Ben Shoshan have been spending their days at her house with her younger siblings. "I'm at their house all day, keeping busy and trying to calm them and myself down and follow a routine, but it's not working; we all feel very bad. I try to calm them and tell them that she’ll be back in a few days," Bella shared.
The last time the two heard from Noa was during Hamas’ attack at 07:30 a.m. She spoke with her mother and said she had to keep her voice down. Twenty-four hours after the call ended, the family saw a video released by Hamas, showing Noa cuffed in captivity.
Bella is more than a grandmother; every day, she visited Noa and her three siblings, made lunch for them to have when they returned from school, and talked and listened to them, hearing about their day. "Noa and I have a very deep bond," Bella said. "She always shared stories and experiences with me, I know all her friends from school."
"Be strong, we miss you," Bella said. "Be as strong as you can be. We look forward to seeing you and giving you a tight hug."