by AJNews staff
(AJNews) – Vivian Silver is a Canadian woman who has spent decades in the peace movement, forging close ties with moderates in Gaza. She is missing, presumed to have been abducted from her Kibbutz Be’eri home when Hamas terrorists invaded on Oct. 7.
Silver, 74, born and raised in Winnipeg, made aliyah in 1974. She moved to Kibbutz Be’eri, near the Gaza Strip with her late husband and two sons, 33 years ago. She is deeply involved in Women Wage Peace, a grassroots effort that united women from diverse Israeli communities to lobby politicians for a diplomatic solution to the middle east conflict.
Silver was on the phone with her sister and texting with her son on the morning of Oct. 7, telling them that Hamas terrorists were at her door and outside her safe room. Then there was screaming and yelling and the phone went dead. She has not been heard from since.
According to an IDF spokesperson, by October 16, Israeli officials had notified the relatives of 199 people that their loved ones are believed to be hostages in Gaza. The number has now risen to 240.
These numbers mark a sharp revision of the army’s previous estimate of the number of Israeli captives, which had grown to 155 in the days after Hamas struck Israel Oct. 7, which left 1400 people dead, and thousands wounded.
The new estimate came as Israel prepared for a ground invasion of Gaza that families of the hostages fear could put their loved ones at further risk.
“We are making valiant efforts to try to understand where the hostages are in Gaza, and we have such information,” an Israel Defense Forces spokesman, Daniel Hagari, said at a press conference, according to Times of Israel. “We will not carry out an attack that would endanger our people.”
Little information has emerged publicly about the condition, whereabouts or survival of the hostages after an initial flurry of videos released right after the attack. It was also not clear whether the IDF believed that the number represents a comprehensive estimate of the number of hostages. The bodies of several hostages, who had been killed, were recovered when the Israeli military led a small incursion into Gaza ahead of the invasion.
The families and supporters of the hostages have formed a well-organized operation to keep their loved ones in public view even as Israel shifts into war mode. They have held press conferences to call attention to the missing, created viral social media videos showcasing the names and information about the hostages and made available posters that volunteers have plastered in public spaces, including in New York City subway stations.
“The hostages include women, children and the elderly and have drawn significant attention from international leaders, including President Joe Biden, who spoke with their families, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been moving among Middle East countries trying to broker their release. A diplomatic source told the Times of Israel that Qatar was involved in the effort as well, but that Israel had so far declined to participate in talks.
“Israel will not hold negotiations with an enemy that we have vowed to wipe from the face of the earth,” the head of Israel’s National Security Council said, eliciting ire from some of the families of the missing – and agreement from others.
On Oct. 15, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with representatives of the missing for the first time, vowing to do everything possible to bring them home.
Since October 20, Hamas has released 4 hostages who had been abducted and held in the Gaza Strip – an American mother and daughter and two elderly Israeli women. On Oct. 30 it was announced that Israeli forces had rescued an Israeli soldier from the Gaza Strip, the first such successful operation since Hamas invaded Israel on Oct. 7, and the first since the terror group assumed control of the territory in 2007.
Hostage negotiations are reportedly ongoing via Qatar, where Hamas’ leadership is based, as Israel readies for a large-scale ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes following Hamas’ invasion.
Meanwhile, in a Globe and Mail article, Irwin Cotler and Yonah Diamond from the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights state, “While Vivian Silver is silenced, her example should be our guide – the courage to engage in the real work necessary for co- existence. Vivian would have been at the forefront of the campaign to free the hostages. We should be there for her. Vivian stands for everything that a feminist foreign policy should deliver, one that places people, peace, and the planet above violence. There is no clearer path toward peace than seeing the Canadian who embodies these principles, along with all the hostages, released.”
Written with files from JTA, Canadian Jewish News and Globe and Mail.