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  • 26.11.2023 15:18

Miracle in Captivity: Irish-Israeli Girl Freed After 7 Weeks with Hamas

In a poignant turn of events, the 9-year-old Irish-Israeli girl, Emily Hand, initially feared to be a casualty of a Hamas attack on Kibbutz Be’eri, emerged among the 17 hostages released during a temporary ceasefire. Emily had been held captive for seven weeks since the harrowing terrorist assault that claimed over 100 lives.

Her father, Tom Hand, initially expressed a sentiment that her death might have been the "best possibility" amid the chaos. However, as events unfolded, hope prevailed. Emily, one of 17 hostages (13 Israelis and four Thai nationals) released by Hamas in exchange for 39 Palestinian prisoners, is now reunited with her family.

Irish Tánaiste Micheál Martin conveyed the collective sentiment of relief in Ireland, emphasizing the Hand family's journey through trauma. "The people of Ireland have been touched by Emily’s story, her innocence, and the quiet dignity and determination of her father, Tom."

Emily's abduction during the October 7 attack prompted a complex emotional journey for her father, who, initially grappling with the possibility of her demise, later walked back those remarks upon realizing she might be alive. Tom Hand denounced Hamas for the atrocities in Gaza, stating that what they do to people is "worse than death."

Born in Dún Laoghaire and not of Jewish descent, Tom's life took a twist when he fell in love with a member of the kibbutz, resulting in two children. After his divorce, he married Emily's mother, Liat, who tragically succumbed to breast cancer five years ago. Tom was reportedly in the process of applying for an Irish passport for Emily at the time of the attack.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar faced criticism for his passive language in response to Emily's return, emphasizing prayers over concrete action. The Israeli Government Spokesman, Eylon Levy, highlighted this, stating that Ireland's contribution seemed limited to prayers.

Controversial Rhetoric Sparks Outcry Amid Emily Hand's Return

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's choice of words upon the return of Emily Hand, the 9-year-old girl abducted by Hamas, has stirred controversy. Varadkar's statement, describing Emily as an "innocent child who was lost" was met with criticism from various quarters.

Israeli Government Spokesman Eylon Levy took to Twitter, expressing his dismay at Varadkar's characterization. "This is how you describe a little girl who went missing during a stroll in a forest, then gets discovered by a friendly hiker," Levy tweeted. "Not a girl brutally abducted by death squads that brutally massacred her neighbors."

The Irish Jewish organization, Irish Jewish Voice, joined in the condemnation, emphasizing that Emily was not "lost" or "misaid," but rather cruelly abducted by Hamas terrorists. The group drew a parallel to Oscar Wilde's plays, suggesting that reality starkly contrasts with theatrical depictions.

Varadkar, known for vocal criticism of Israel's military actions in Gaza, faced backlash for his previous statement characterizing Israel's response as "something approaching revenge." As Emily and other hostages have returned, the controversy surrounding Varadkar's rhetoric adds an additional layer of complexity to the ongoing discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the broader context, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed the safe return of the 17 hostages released by Hamas. Accompanied by Israeli special forces and officers from Shin Bet, they are returning to Israel via Egypt. Simultaneously, the Israel Prisons Service released 39 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, consisting of women and minors from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Words Amid Controversy — Varadkar's Rhetoric Echoes Beyond Emily's Return

As Emily Hand's return unfolds, the controversy sparked by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's choice of words adds an unexpected layer to the narrative. Varadkar's description of Emily as a "lost" innocent child faces criticism for downplaying the gravity of her abduction by Hamas terrorists.

Israeli Government Spokesman Eylon Levy and the Irish Jewish organization, Irish Jewish Voice, both expressed dissatisfaction with Varadkar's characterization, emphasizing the brutal reality of Emily's abduction. The use of language, likened to Oscar Wilde's plays, draws attention to the stark contrast between theatrical depictions and the harsh realities of conflict.

Varadkar, a prominent critic of Israel's military actions in Gaza, faces scrutiny for his previous characterization of Israeli responses as "something approaching revenge." As the 17 hostages, including Emily, safely return to Israel, the controversy surrounding Varadkar's rhetoric becomes a noteworthy aspect of the ongoing discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a broader context, the return of the hostages and the release of Palestinian prisoners mark significant developments, with the nuances of language reflecting the sensitivities and complexities inherent in the region's geopolitical landscape. The aftermath of Emily's ordeal not only highlights the resilience of the human spirit but also underscores the impact of diplomatic rhetoric on the perceptions surrounding such critical events.