“We always celebrated Chanukah as a family,” Eyal Waldman, 63, from Tel Aviv, explained to JNS. “We went skiing in Courchevel [in France]. Now, wherever we go, at every celebration and every family event, Danielle will be missing.”
Hamas terrorists murdered Waldman’s daughter Danielle, 24, along with her boyfriend of six years, Noam, on Saturday, Oct. 7, as they attended the Supernova Music Festival near Kibbutz Re’im.
“I taught her how to surf, snowboard, scuba dive. Danielle truly loved life,” said Waldman, who was on vacation in Indonesia when he received a call to catch a plane back to Israel.
“The Monday morning after the attack, I went down to the south and found the car she was murdered in. The bodies had already been taken away by first responders. I also got a hold of a video call from the girl sitting next to Danielle when she was hit,” said Waldman.
Danielle, who was born in California and moved to Israel when she was three years old, would have turned 25 on Nov. 21.
“It’s extremely difficult for my two other children, Sharon and Guy. They miss their little sister. It will never be the same without her,” added Waldman.
Hamas terrorists murdered more than 360 mostly young revelers in and around the festival. Another estimated 40 partygoers were taken hostage to Gaza.
Ela Ben Ami, 23, from Kibbutz Be’eri, is spending Chanukah without her father, Ohad, 55, who was kidnapped along with her mother, Raz, 57, on Oct. 7.
Raz was freed on Nov. 29 as part of the hostages-for-ceasefire deal agreed to by Israel and Hamas.
“At 7 a.m. my dad heard gunshots and screaming in Arabic. My mom texted from the safe room that she was terrified. At 9:30, he wrote that he could hear them rampaging about inside the house from inside,” Ela Ben Ami told JNS.
“At 10, my parents texted me that they had been captured. An hour later, a picture of my father, barefoot and in his undergarments, was posted to Telegram on a Hamas channel.”
Of the approximately 240 Israelis and foreign nationals abducted on Oct. 7, some 138 remain in Gaza, including Ohad.
“On Chanukah, my dad would call the entire family and ask them to gather at our house. He would read the blessings and light the candles. He loves it,” Ela Ben Ami said.
“On the fourth day of Chanukah, there would be a ceremony in the dining room of Kibbutz Be’eri. Kids would sing and everyone would dance. Except now, my dad is not here and there is no kibbutz to celebrate at,” she added.
Ben Ami participated in the Menorah in the D lighting event in downtown Detroit to bring attention to the plight of the remaining hostages.
“My younger sister Natalie is sleeping with my mom in her bed until my dad comes back,” Ben Ami said of Raz, who is recovering from 50 days in captivity.
“Chanukah is a holiday of miracles and I hope that he will return before the last day of the eight days to light the candles with us,” she added.
Also attending the Menorah in the D event was Yair Moses, whose divorced parents were kidnapped by Hamas from Kibbutz Nir Oz from separate houses on Oct. 7.
His mother, Margalit, 77, was released on Nov. 24. Last week, she appeared in a video describing the difficulties of life as a captive and the urgency of the situation.
Yair’s father, Gadi, 79, is still in Gaza.
“I feel happy to be reunited with my mother but at the same time, I am extremely worried for my father. So you could say that I am half happy, half worried,” Moses told JNS.
“I found out that my father was being held by terrorists in Gaza via a picture in The New York Times. There were lots of details including his name. There was no doubt,” he said.
Yair, whose name Yair translates into “the one who shines,” is still hopeful that Israel’s light will emerge victorious over the darkness that befell his family and the country on Oct. 7.
“Chanukah is a very important holiday for us. My parents were with us at every candle-lighting gathering,” Moses said.
“Yesterday, we managed to find a video of my father in which he was lighting the fourth candle of the holiday. We hope that this will somehow turn into reality and that he will come back,” said Moses.