Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin shown alive in new Hamas video

Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin shown alive in new Hamas video
Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin shown alive in new Hamas video

Hamas on Wednesday released a video appearing to show Israeli American host Hersh Goldberg-Polin, offering the first potential sign that he may still be alive, after his violent abduction by Palestinian militants in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The Washington Post was unable to verify the video or when it was filmed. But Goldberg-Polin’s family, who have advocated tirelessly for his release, approved its use, according to the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a volunteer advocacy group.

In the footage, which is nearly three minutes long, Goldberg-Polin mentions the Jewish holiday of Passover, which began this week. He also refers to spending “almost 200 days” in captivity, which Israelis marked Tuesday.

Goldberg-Polin, 23, was one of 253 people kidnapped by Hamas-led fighters in their brazen attack in October. In a grisly video of the kidnapping, militants are shown forcing Goldberg-Polin into the back of a vehicle at the Nova music festival, his left hand blown off by what appeared to be a grenade.

At 8:11 am on Oct. 7, he had sent two messages via WhatsApp to his mother. “I love you,” the first read. The next one said: “I’m sorry.”

The new video, which was posted on Hamas’s Telegram channel, is heavily edited at times and shows Goldberg-Polin with marks on his face. His left hand and part of his forearm are missing, and he gives what appears to be a scripted statement condemning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Still, the fresh footage was met with relief and urgency from Goldberg-Polin’s family and across Israel, as Netanyahu and his government face growing pressure to reach a deal that would free the hostages. According to Israeli authorities, 133 hostages remain in Gaza, including 36 who are confirmed dead.

“Seeing the video of Hersh today is overwhelming,” his parents, Rachel Goldberg and Jon Polin, said in a statement Wednesday. “We are relieved to see him alive but we are also concerned about his health and well-being as well as that of all the other hostages and all of those suffering in this region.”

Goldberg-Polin is one of five Americans still believed to be held hostage in Gaza. The others are Keith Siegel, 64; Sagui Dekel-Chen, 35; Omer Neutra, 22; and Edan Alexander, 20. Siegel and Dekel-Chen were both kidnapped from the communities where they lived near the border. Neutra and Alexander were serving in the Israel Defense Forces on the day of the attack. The bodies of three other US citizens — Itay Chen, Judi Weinstein and Gad Haggai — are also in Gaza.

Soon after the video’s release Wednesday, hundreds of protesters massed near the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, chanting, “Bring them back now!” and “Negotiation now!” Drivers honked their horns in solidarity with the crowds. One young girl held a sign with Goldberg-Polin’s face and the words “Bring Hersh home.”

Since the start of the war, his poster has been plastered all over Jerusalem, where he was raised after his family moved to Israel from the United States.

Elisheva and Shoshana Baumgarten are sisters who live near the Goldberg-Polin family in Baka in southern Jerusalem, and they knew Goldberg-Polin as a child. They said they regularly attend protests to support the hostages and admire Rachel Goldberg, who has led an international campaign for her release and has spoken out about protecting civilians in Gaza.

The sisters were relieved to find out he may still be alive, but Shoshana Baumgarten said she was also sick with worry. In the past, Hamas has released videos of living hostages, only to later share that they had been killed.

“We just can’t let him not come home,” said Elisheva Baumgarten, a history professor at Hebrew University.

As Goldberg-Polin grew up, he became a familiar face among Jerusalem’s small community of young progressives. At the gritty Sira Pub in West Jerusalem, staff and patrons said Wednesday that he was a fixture in the neighborhood.

Arielle Kangisser, 21, said that he used to frequent the nearby coffee shop where she worked and that she would see him often in the alleyway of lively bars where the city’s more left-wing youths congregate.

Watching the new video Wednesday was “mind-blowing,” she said. “I didn’t think he’d survive with his hand, his wounds. It’s incredible that he’s alive.”

Alon, 39, the owner of the adjacent Cafe Sira, said he bonded with Goldberg-Polin over their shared love of trance music. Alon, who gave only his first name for privacy reasons, said Wednesday night that he saw Goldberg-Polin the afternoon he left for the Nova music festival near the Gaza border.

Militants stormed the festival Oct. 7, turning the outdoor concert into a bloodbath.

Alon said he “felt a bit sick” when he saw the video. “Overall, I assume it’s good, but you don’t look at it and smile.”

In their statement, Goldberg-Polin’s parents — who previously described their pain as “almost exponential” — offered words of comfort to their son.

“Hersh, we heard your voice today for the first time in 201 days and if you can hear us, we are telling you, we love you, stay strong, survive,” they said.

Joanna Slater, Shira Rubin and Lior Soroka contributed to this report.

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