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Haifa University scientists in Antarctica raise awareness for Israeli hostages

"Many of our colleagues, exposed to this reality for the first time, now comprehend our circumstances better,” say Dr. Tal Luzzatto Knaan and professor Tali Mass.

Israeli researchers Dr. Tal Luzzatto Knaan and Professor Tali Mass hold photos in Antarctica of Israelis held in Gaza. Credit: University of Haifa.
Israeli researchers Dr. Tal Luzzatto Knaan and Professor Tali Mass hold photos in Antarctica of Israelis held in Gaza. Credit: University of Haifa.

Upon arriving in Antarctica, University of Haifa researchers posed for celebratory photos with the flags of Israel and their university. But then they posed for a more serious picture—holding posters of those abducted in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israeli communities. 

“The trip to Antarctica was planned long before recent events. Raising the flags of Israel and the University of Haifa was part of our original intention. However, amid current events, this act holds far greater significance and power,” said Dr. Tal Luzzatto Knaan and professor Tali Mass.

Despite initial reluctance to discuss political matters during the journey, Knaan and Mass persisted, sharing firsthand experiences and images and videos of the abductees with their international peers.

The two researchers are from the University of Haifa’s Charney School of Marine Sciences. Their Antarctic journey is part of the Homeward Bound program, which aims to empower women in STEMM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) to address global challenges collectively.

Knaan specializes in functional metabolomics (the study of small molecules) and natural substances with a focus on marine bacteria and algae. A mother of three, Knaan seeks to better understand the ecological context of molecules and the potential applications for biotechnology, agriculture and medicine.

Mass, also a mother of three, is an expert in the physiology of corals and marine animals.

“We understood the responsibility to bring awareness, especially in a forum like this, centered on leadership. It was vital to impart our perspectives on the situation back home. Many of our colleagues, exposed to this reality for the first time, now comprehend our circumstances better,” said Knaan and Mass.

At least 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. Another approximately 240 men, women and children were taken back to Gaza as hostages. Some people remain unaccounted for as Israeli authorities continue to identify bodies and search for human remains.

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