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A Majority of Heschel Students and Faculty Support Hostage Deal

Romy Aschengrau

A deal between Israel and Hamas for a temporary cease-fire took effect on Nov. 23. The pause allowed for the release of Israeli hostages taken in the Oct. 7 attacks in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, as well as the transfer of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Israel and Hamas initially agreed to a four-day ceasefire. During that time, 50 Israeli hostages were exchanged for 150 Palestinian prisoners. 

The pause was then extended for two more days, during which 20 Israeli hostages were exchanged for 60 Palestinian prisoners.

Gaza continued receiving humanitarian aid from Nov. 24 to Dec. 1, as over 200 trucks entered the territory carrying relief supplies and fuel.

The fighting resumed on Dec. 1, after Hamas refused to release any more hostages and began firing missiles at Israel. Since then, Israel has entered the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, where close-combat battles are raging. Qatar and Egypt say that they are continuing to pursue a new hostage deal.

Heschel students and faculty are relieved that some hostages have returned, afraid for those who remain captive–expressed mixed emotions over the deal.

Freshman Matan Grozalsky-Wernick supports the deal. “This situation is tragic, although I do feel like it is a good trade,” he said. “It brings me joy to see hostages reuniting with their families. We need to do everything we can to reunite everyone.”

Heschel middle-school Hebrew teacher Evyatar Shamsiev recently returned from volunteer work in Israel. Shamsiev helped to establish schools and educational frameworks for the children along the Gaza border who were evacuated from their homes.

Shamsiev sees both positive and negative aspects of the deal. “As someone who grew up in Jerusalem, to see the terrorists who tried to kill Israelis go free is not easy,” he said. “But the remaining women and children must be returned, and everything must be done to free all hostages from the hands of Hamas. There is no magic solution that everyone will like, but we need to bring them home.”

Shamsiev also attested to the unity among the Israeli public during this difficult and emotional time.  “It was surreal to see the whole country waving Israeli flags, in houses and on the streets,” he said. “There is a feeling of unity in Israel–everyone there knows that we will get through this difficult time together, no matter what.”

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