Israel-Gaza War, Hamas, Hostages

No Stone Left unturned as Rachel-Goldberg Polin fights for her son Hersch

Bring Them Home Now: A mother's tireless quest to get for her captive son back.

Demonstrators protest for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip outside the PM's residence in Jerusalem, following the release of a video by Hamas of Israeli hostage Hersch Goldberg Polin, April 24, 2024. (Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The rallying cry "Bring Them Home Now" has reverberated across Israel since the horrific October 7th attacks, when Hamas militants killed 1,200 people and took 240 more hostage into Gaza. For Rachel Goldberg-Polin, these words carry immense personal weight - her 23-year-old son Hersh is among the 116 hostages still being held captive in Gaza.

In a heart-wrenching video from that fateful day, Hersh is seen being forced onto a truck by Hamas militants, his left arm blown off from the elbow. Since then, his family has received no updates on his wellbeing, leaving them trapped in an agonizing limbo.

Hersh, who was born in Berkeley, California and moved to Jerusalem with his family as a child, had intended to be exploring some corner of the world right now - he even had travel tickets booked. Instead, the curious, easygoing, and dry-humored young man was violently abducted from a music festival in southwestern Israel.

Just before being kidnapped, Hersh managed to text his parents "I love you" and "I'm sorry." His mother Rachel replied asking him to let them know he was okay. Those were the last words they've heard from the voracious reader and soccer fan who celebrated his 23rd birthday just days before the attack.

Ever since, Goldberg-Polin has been tirelessly working to ensure her son will return home safely. As reported on the Times of Israel, she wears a piece of tape marking the number of days Hersh has been held - currently 236 - as "an emblem of my pain."

Her impassioned efforts have seen her meet with dozens of world leaders, addressing the United Nations in New York City and Geneva, securing an audience with Pope Francis, and even being named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people of 2024, which she called "an embarrassment to the human race that we haven't been able to save" the hostages, as reported by Israel 21C and Time Magazine. "Hope is mandatory," she stated resolutely. "I believe it, and I have to believe it, that he will come back to us."

Goldberg-Polin tries to cope with the "indescribable" agony and uncertainty by turning to her Jewish faith, repeating a mantra when praying for Hersh: "I love you, stay strong, survive." Each morning she has to "put on this very heavy costume" and push through the day for his sake.

A brief moment of relief came in late April when Hamas released a proof-of-life video showing Hersh alive, the family's first sight of him since he attended the fateful music festival with childhood friend Aner Shapira on October 6th. Shapira was killed by a grenade while protecting others in their bomb shelter.

And though she tries not to envision it yet, Goldberg-Polin dreams of the day she can welcome her son back home to share in those "boring moments of being a family" once more. "I believe Hersh is strong," she says, her mantra pushing her through each agonizing day apart. "Stay strong, survive."

Goldberg-Polin remains deeply concerned for all civilians impacted, stating "I don't think it's a competition of pain" between the hostages' families and residents of Gaza. Her advocacy has made her a powerful voice for the 121 captured Israelis still unaccounted for over seven months after being cruelly torn away.

As the world watches this profound example of a mother's boundless love, Rachel Goldberg-Polin's clarion call to "Bring Them Home Now" sends an unshakable message to Hamas: Israel will never abandon its people and will stop at nothing to bring their captive sons and daughters home.

Tel Aviv, Israel - October 21st 2023 - Family members of the kidnapped set up a demonstration demanding their return (Photo: Shutterstock/ Yehuda Bergstein)


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