Noam Peri recently flew from her home in warring Israel to Washington, D.C. She had never been to the nation's capital, but now she's there representing Nir-Oz, a kibbutz near Gaza that Hamas ravaged on Oct. 7.
"Unfortunately, I never thought I would visit here in these circumstances," she said. "One out of four people in Nir-Oz is either murdered or kidnapped. There is no one single family left untouched. There is no one house or building standing. Everything is burned to ashes."
Among the hostages still believed to be held by Hamas is Peri's 79-year-old father, Chaim. What Hamas didn't know when they captured Peri's father is that the man made time to help Palestinians.
"He was volunteering for years to drive sick people from the Gaza Strip, sick kids and adults, to life-saving medications and care in Israeli hospitals," Peri said. "He would wait for them at the border, take them to the center of Israel to get care and drive them back."
On Oct. 7, Hamas stormed Peri's parents' kibbutz. A man broke into their home, where they had rushed into a safe room.
"And that was the moment that my father understood — I imagine that my father understood — that he's going to break the room and get them," Peri said.
She says her father opened the door so Hamas would take him and his wife, Peri's mother, could keep hiding.
"I thought this is history that we see on black-and-white movies from the Holocaust," Peri said. "I never imagined I would see and hear those horrors in my lifetime."
Now, Peri is pushing U.S. lawmakers to make freeing the hostages a priority. Joining her in the cause is Irwin Cotler, a former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada who once represented Nelson Mandela.
"We're going to have a resolution introduced both in the Senate and in the House that makes the urgency of the release of the hostages unconditionally as a priority for Congress, Senate, the American people, the government, etc., and have the United States lead an international coalition for that purpose," Cotler said.
Peri says she's concerned Israel's operation in Gaza could harm the hostages. "But I'm sure that if Hamas want to keep those hostages safe, they can do it," she said.
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