The Hamas terrorist attacks that began on Oct. 7 left 116 children from 59 families missing a parent or parents, according to data presented to the Knesset Labor and Welfare Committee on Tuesday.
Rakefet Atzmon, who is in charge of the issue of orphans at the Ministry of Welfare, told the committee that according to the ministry’s data, 20 children under the age of 18 from 12 different families had both of their parents killed, taken hostage or missing.
Atzmon added that 96 children under the age of 18 from 47 families had one parent killed, taken hostage or missing.
“The State of Israel has not faced such a situation since its establishment, neither in numbers nor in substance. There is no need to explain the importance of sensitivity when it comes to the treatment of those children. As a committee, we intend to accompany the responsible parties, to assist and be at their disposal for any need that comes their way,” said committee chair MK Israel Eichler.
At least 1,400 people were killed by Hamas’s surprise attack on southern Israeli communities. More than 800 of the bodies have been identified. The number of confirmed hostages held captive in Gaza stands at 240. Other persons remain unaccounted for.
Atzmon said the data was constantly being updated with information from the IDF Home Front Command, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and the National Insurance Institute “to get a complete picture.”
Asked how the youngsters who lost both parents are being treated, Atzmon said that “the perception and preference is that those who will take care of children who have lost both of their parents are first of all family members and this is the situation at the moment. Of these 12 families, the majority have already reached a legal agreement on who will take care of the children.”
She said for the remaining children, welfare services are still trying to reach agreements for the children to be raised by relatives.
“If they fail, we will have to decide within our authority in the law,” she said.
Yonatan Bogut, CEO of the Summit Institute, urged lawmakers to quickly recognize all the orphans as foster children so they can begin receiving care. The Jerusalem-based nonprofit provides foster care services in Jerusalem and southern Israel.
“The time factor is critical for children who are going through trauma again, especially those of them who are still moving between houses and are in dire need of stability,” Bogut said.