Israeli hostage released by Hamas after 50 days: “I felt no relief, only concern for those left inside”

Inside that underground room, the overwhelming emotions of fear and sadness consumed me… soon, the terrifying roar of bombings engulfed us. We dreaded the possibility of a missile strike destroying our location amidst the relentless attacks.

  • 5 months ago
  • February 16, 2024
11 min read
Clara (right) and her daughter Mayaan requesting the release of their other family members who were being held hostage by Hamas. | Photo courtesy of Maayan Sigal Clara (right) and her daughter Mayaan requesting the release of their other family members who were being held hostage by Hamas. | Photo courtesy of Maayan Sigal
journalist’s notes
interview subject
 Clara Marman, 64, is a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has been a resident of Israel since 1981. She is the proud mother of two daughters and grandmother to four grandchildren, all who reside in Israel. On October 7, 2023, she, along with family members, were taken hostage by Hamas and kept in an underground room. She was released after 50 days.
background information
In the early hours of Saturday, October 7, 2023, an escalation between Israel and Gaza began when Hamas militants infiltrated southern Israel, prompting a response from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Hamas launched operation “Al-Aqsa Storm,” claiming to have fired 5,000 rockets at Israeli positions. In a recorded message, Hamas military commander Muhammad Al-Deif called for a general uprising. Hamas executed a terror strike in various kibbutz in Israel, killing civilians and taking hundreds hostage. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared the country at war and initiated a counteroffensive. The conflict has led to reports of human rights abuses, civilian torture, and ongoing bombings. Clara Marman, an Israeli citizen abducted on October 7, was released during negotiations between Hamas and Israel. Later, her partner and brother were also released.

NIR YITZHAK, Israel — I spent more than 50 days in hell, kidnapped by Hamas. They ripped me from my home in the kibbutz along with my sister, brother, partner, and niece, transporting us to the Gaza Strip. During that time of captivity, unable to see the sunlight, fear, sadness, and boredom consumed me.

When Hamas released me, I felt no happiness, thinking only of my brother and partner who remained in their grasp. For more than 70 days, I lived in a state of dissociation, my body free but my heart trapped in that dark, grey cave. Only now, with all of us released, do I feel as though I can begin to reclaim my life. Yet, the mark of this harrowing experience will always remain.

Explore more stories on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Orato World Media.

Family weekend celebration derailed by terrorist attack

On October 6, 2023, we celebrated a special family day as my youngest granddaughter turned two. Her birthday party took place in Beersheva, a city near my kibbutz. My heart overflowed with love and happiness as my granddaughter blew out the candles on her cake. The sight of colorful balloons and playful children left me at ease. As the celebration ended, I invited my brother, partner, and niece to stay at my house to avoid the long commute back to their homes and to continue our festivities.

A kibbutz is a place located in the countryside. It provides a perfect setting for a relaxing weekend with its peaceful scenery. I enjoy hosting, always ensuring my guests are comfortable. We had a great dinner and stayed up late chatting. The next day, we planned to rest. However, on Saturday, October 7, 2023, at half past six in the morning, the kibbutz’s anti-missile sirens woke us up abruptly.

When I heard the sirens, I climbed calmly out of bed. Living just four miles from Gaza, I became accustomed to these alerts. The usual procedure is to go to the shelter, wait about 10 minutes after the explosions, and then resume daily activities.

I made coffee for the whole family, served cake for breakfast, and invited them to the safe room, made of reinforced concrete and designed to resist air assaults. The ordinary-looking door was easy to open, a detail I never paid attention to until that day. In my home, I always felt safe and protected.

“Don’t shoot,” my brother shouted as terrorist entered the safe room

On this day, as the sirens continued blaring, something seemed different. The bombings felt more intense and relentless. When we switched on the television, we discovered the attacks were widespread. I remained calm, feeling responsible as the homeowner to ensure my family’s safety.

The army’s strong presence around the kibbutz reassured me. However, that sense of calm slowly faded when, in WhatsApp groups, I read the terrifying news that terrorists had entered a neighboring kibbutz, as well as mine. Just then, the roar of gunshots grew closer. The next message from a neighbor read, “We have terrorists at home breaking our windows. What should we do?” Suddenly, I heard the windows of my house shatter, and gunshots rang out in my living room.

Frightened, we hugged each other tightly and huddled in a corner. When the terrorists opened the door, they fired into the room, hitting the wall right in front of where we had been sitting. We felt the heat of the bullets, but none of them struck us. “Don’t shoot,” my brother shouted in Spanish. As soon as they confirmed no one had weapons, the terrorists stopped shooting and entered. With wild pulling and pushing, amid screams, they forced us out of the house.

Despite the desperate situation, I clung to optimism, believing that once outside, the Israeli army would rescue us. However, the scene looked devastating. Every house in the neighborhood had broken windows and open doors, and my neighbors were nowhere to be seen. I wondered if they had been killed or kidnapped. Looking around, I noticed children riding bikes, seemingly oblivious to the chaos. At that moment, I realized Palestinian boys had jumped over the fences, entered, and started looting. They sang, shouted, and behaved as if they had conquered the kibbutz.

Hamas confined us to an underground room in Gaza where we kept track of the days by the calls to prayer

Our captors acted aggressively and brutally, and I wondered if they were under the influence of drugs. They loaded us onto the back of a truck, jumping in and out while shouting incomprehensible things. The driver maneuvered the vehicle in a zigzagging, unpredictable manner, recklessly crossing areas of gunfire. It felt like we were on the verge of crashing at any moment.

My sister appeared nervous and agitated as she visibly shook. I attempted to calm her down, telling her to breath as I worried, she might have a heart attack. However, as I tried to console her, the terrorists shouted at me to shut up in English. I felt responsible for everyone. After all, I had invited them to my house the previous night. It became a matter of character. I am not one to become hysterical; I always strive to focus on the positive.

After they dragged us out of the truck, we walked for about two hours. Exhausted, our legs went numb. Then, the Hamas terrorists forced us into another vehicle, which transported us to Gaza. They confined us to a dark, underground room, where for the next 50 days, we saw no one except the guards who watched over us. We had entered hell itself.

Since our arrival, my niece and I decided to keep track of the days. Without a watch and unable to see sunlight, we relied on the calls of the muezzin to pray in the mosque. The five daily prayers helped us keep track of the days. Time felt infinite in that place. Doing nothing, lacking the freedom to decide our actions or movements, each second stretched on to unimaginable lengths. It felt terrifying.

Captivity takes its toll: “We lived with the constant fear of guards receiving orders to execute us”

Inside that underground room, the overwhelming emotions of fear and sadness consumed me. At times, one feeling dominated, but both lingered constantly. I often believed it would never end and a sense of bitterness grew inside. On a rare occasion, I felt confident the Israeli army would find us or find a solution.

Yet, soon, the terrifying roar of bombings engulfed us. We dreaded the possibility of a missile strike destroying our location amidst the relentless attacks. Explosions rattled nearby, a mere 50 or 100 meters away, leaving us trembling. Sleep became impossible due to the intensified bombing. We lived with the constant fear of guards getting orders to execute us. The unbearable uncertainty felt overwhelming.

On November 10, 2023, I turned 64 years old. I asked everyone not to mention my birthday. “Let’s wait until we can go out and celebrate properly,” I told them. In that hell, I did not feel capable of celebrating. However, I later learned that in Israel, my daughters organized a celebration with family and friends to honor me. 

Most of the time, our conversations took place in Spanish, assuming the terrorists understood only Hebrew. My niece, a 17-year-old, spoke no Spanish, so we explained some things to her. We did not want her to feel left out. During challenging moments, she asked us to tell stories about our lives to ease the tension and boredom. My partner Louis commanded the spotlight. Being a member of an Israeli folklore group that toured globally, he shared delightful tales. We listened intently, momentarily escaping our confinement.

One day, the guards informed us that the women would be released due to negotiations with Israel

At times, I closed my eyes to detach from the unbearable reality, focusing on positive thoughts. Often, I tried to send my daughters positive feelings from afar. I pictured them thinking of me, wishing my optimism would reach and reassure them that we would soon reunite.

One of our main distractions was our niece’s dog Bella. Somehow, she followed us during the kidnapping. The terrorists allowed us to keep her, despite their reservations. We busied ourselves caring for her. We trained her to relieve herself, comforted her from the noise, and fed her with what little leftovers we had.

Throughout that hell, being together kept us alive. One day, I told my brother that despite regretting the experience, if I could choose who to be with at such a time, I would choose them. We all shared that sentiment. That experience brought us closer.

One day, the guards informed us that the women would be released due to negotiations with Israel. Despite our vow to stay together, Louis and my brother Fernando insisted I leave. We had no say in who left or when. The terrorists quickly made it clear there would be no changes. Although devastated, we hoped to be reunited outside in just a couple of days.

After almost two months of being held hostage by Hamas, I returned home to breathe fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, but none of that comforted me. I felt no happiness, only concern for those left inside. Despite my body being in Israel, my heart remained in Gaza.

I watched as my grandson struggled to comprehend what our family went through as hostages of Hamas

When I saw my daughters’ faces again, my heart pounded. It felt like a flash of happiness in the darkest night. We merged together into a hug that seemed to encompass every bit of our love and concern for each other. It proved a beautiful and emotional moment.

After a couple of days in the hospital, where they monitored my general health, I decided to stay with one of my daughters in the north of Israel. My kibbutz had been completely evacuated, and the community relocated to the south. I chose to be with family.

From that point forward, I shifted my focus away from my rehabilitation towards securing the release of Fernando and Louis. I engaged with a range of figures to advance the cause, including Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Congressmen, and leaders of the Spanish government.

Reuniting with my young grandchildren posed a challenge. My oldest grandson, who is eight years old, suffered the most. Our once beautiful relationship abruptly changed. Upon my return, he distanced himself from me out of fear, unable to confront such a difficult topic.

As days passed, he began to open up, asking complicated questions and striving to understand. Being with my grandchildren is immensely fulfilling, particularly at this stage of my life. However, I must admit that I haven’t been able to spend enough time with them. 

With the release of my partner and brother, I finally feel free

Since being freed from Hamas, I remained constantly on the move, attending demonstrations and holding meetings to secure the freedom of my partner and brother. They remained on my mind every day and every moment. When I ate, I tried to imagine if they were eating well. When I bathed, I felt unable to enjoy the hot water on my back. I thought only about the conditions of their confinement.

People began recognizing me on the street. I am a simple woman and never seek the spotlight, but I felt the need to share my story to help my loved ones. Sometimes, strangers hugged me and cried in my arms, and it felt overwhelming, but I tried to accept and understand it.

Then, on Sunday, February 11, 2024 – just a week ago – Hamas finally released Louis and Fernando. Tears of happiness flowed non-stop from my eyes when I received the news, and a sense of relief washed over me. I now feel completely free. These are not easy days. I will need to comfort my loved ones.

They stayed locked up for over 120 days, but the outlook is positive now. We are together again, and everything is better together. February 25, 2024, will be Louis’ birthday, and against all odds, we will be able to celebrate as a reunited family.

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Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.


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