“When her phone died, I said, ‘I hope they shoot her, I hope it’s quick.'” Shani Yerushalmi, 25, from Tel Aviv, told JNS. “I never thought they’d kidnap her.”
Hamas terrorists kidnapped Shani’s sister Eden, a 24-year-old Pilates teacher, from the Supernova music festival on Oct. 7.
On that day, rockets began raining down on Israel at 6:30 a.m. Eden, who was working as a bartender at the festival, phoned her mother to inform her that the event had been stopped and she’d soon be home.
An hour later, Eden called again.
“I was woken up by the sound of my mother screaming over the phone,” Shani recounts, as terrorists had opened fire on revelers.
Shani grabbed the phone from her mother, initiating a conversation with her sister that would last for more than three hours.
Initially, Eden hid in a car, motionless alongside the bodies of friends who had been shot and killed.
“She could hear the sound of blood dripping on the floor as she played dead,” Shani said of her sister’s experience. “I told her not to listen and instead concentrate on the sound of my voice.”
Moments later, a phone belonging to one of the slain rang, sparking fears that Shani would be discovered.
Eventually, someone approached the car, an Israeli man urging her to flee in the direction of a forested area.
“I thought I had lost my little sister as her phone had died. Shortly after that, I got a call from an unknown number. Eden had taken a friend’s phone.”
“She told me she’d separated from the Israeli man and that he’d been caught,” said Shani.
Eden remained in the bush, in a fetal position, for hours.
“At one point, ants were crawling up her face and biting her. I yelled at her not to cry. I knew if she did they’d find her but they did anyway,” Shani said.
“I told her that the police were on the way. We called the army; no one came.”
Then, Eden heard men shouting in Arabic.
“I could hear them through the phone,” Shani recounted. “I knew that those were my last moments with my sister. I had started recording the call when she whispered, ‘They caught me.’”
On the recording, Hamas terrorists can be heard saying the word, “Ta’ala,” before the phone conversation ends.
Ta’ala, a term of exaltation in Arabic, means Allah “the most high.”
During the whole conversation, Shani had set herself up in her bedroom, away from the noise and hysteria of the rest of the family. She was unaware of the scope of Hamas’s massacre, and that some 240 persons had been abducted into Gaza, including 40 from the Supernova festival.
Shani admitted feeling relief that her sister was not killed on the spot, hoping she would not be held captive alone and that the sheer magnitude of the crisis would create sufficient pressure to secure the release of all the hostages.
In November, 105 Israelis and foreign nationals were indeed freed as part of a week-long ceasefire with Hamas, a ceasefire the latter soon breached.
Ninety-one days later, Eden is still in Gaza.
Of the approximately 1,200 persons terrorists murdered on Oct. 7, some 364 were shot, mutilated, sexually abused and burned beyond recognition at the Supernova event near Kibbutz Re’im.
Exactly one week later, Eden spent her 24th birthday in captivity.
Shani says she remains hopeful that a new negotiating process will result in her sister’s release.
The terrorists “were supposed to free young women on the day the truce ended. Some say that they didn’t because they did not want them telling what happened in Gaza,” Shani said.
“I hope there was no rape, but if so, some could already be three months pregnant. We need to have them released now,” she added.
Despite the intelligence and security failures of Oct. 7, Shani says the government has prioritized the hostage issue.
“Soldiers as young as Eden die every day. I know some people say the government does not do enough. I don’t understand how anyone could say that,” she said.
Shani has no doubt that her sister will come home.
“She wasn’t injured when they caught her. She did not pose a threat to them. They had no reason to hurt her. But we’re not dealing with rational beings,” she said.
“Eden was strong on Oct. 7. She had all the right reflexes to stay alive,” she added. “I know she is just as strong in captivity. She wants to survive and she will be back.”