Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Families of U.S. hostages in Gaza set to attend State of the Union

By 37ci3 Mar3,2024

WASHINGTON – Some Americans still have family members A hostage was detained in the Gaza Strip is expected to attend President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address next week after receiving an invitation from a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

The families also plan to send letters to each other Member of Congress is asking themselves and their staff to wear yellow ribbons and dog tags to Thursday night’s walk-out in solidarity with those who work desperately every day to bring their loved ones home.

“It’s a living hell. It’s a living hell from the moment you wake up in the morning until you go to bed,” said Jonathan Dekel-Chen, father of American hostage Sagui Dekel-Chen, who planned to attend the event at the Capitol with Sagui’s stepmother, Gillian Kaye.

Dekel-Chen and Kaye said they hope their presence will remind Americans of the dire situation their son and 133 other hostages face and ask lawmakers both in the U.S. and around the world to continue their efforts for their release.

“There really are no words to describe how difficult it is. I feel for my son; I am exhausted for his wife and three young daughters who are waiting for him at home and have no idea what is going on with him,” said Dekel-Chen.

Dekel-Chen will attend as a guest of Rep. Josh Gottheimer, DN.J., co-chair of the bipartisan group Problem Solvers, and Rep. Kaye will attend. Greg Steube, R-Fla., will be the guest speaker.

More than a dozen family members are expected to attend as guests of lawmakers from both parties, including Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Ted Budd of North Carolina.

Six American hostages are believed to remain in Gaza.

The State of the Union address comes as more Democrats in Congress are calling for a truce in the Israel-Hamas war, and the party’s progressive wing has intensified its criticism of Biden’s handling of the conflict that began on October 7. .

Biden and his administration have been in regular contact with the families of the hostages, and some of his top aides have played key roles in negotiations to bring them home.

When members of the hostage families are in Washington, they usually meet with senior administration officials at the White House to get updates on the latest state of negotiations. They have met at least three times this year. Another meeting will take place next week as family members will be in Washington for the State of the Union, a person familiar with the plans said.

Gottheimer argued that the peace process could not begin in any meaningful way until the hostages came home.

“I believe it trumps any political issue or any ideological differences,” Gottheimer said. “These are American hostages who were taken hostage by terrorists on October 7. To me, there’s nothing clearer than getting them home.”

According to the Israeli government, on October 7, about 1,200 people were killed and about 240 people were kidnapped. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said on Thursday that the war in Gaza has killed at least 30,000 people since then. Israel says there are still 134 hostages in Gaza.

Other guests at Biden’s speech include Ronen and Orna Neutra, who say they start thinking about their son Omar every day.

“He is very kind. He’s the kind of kid who breaks the ice,” said Orna Neutra. “He has a big smile on his face. He is very social. And he’s a really good kid.”

The Neutras, who will attend as a guest of Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi of New York, are concerned that the American public’s interest in the plight of the hostages has waned. They hope the sea of ​​yellow ribbons and the faces of family members will serve as a reminder of the cost of war and the efforts to bring hostages home.

“It has to stay in front of the politicians, it has to stay in front of the media, it has to stay in front of the public,” said Ronen Neutra. “This is one of the biggest stages of the year. We hope that President Biden will mention us and our loved ones in his speech, and I know he is deeply interested in the situation.”

The neutrals hope that an agreement will be reached soon.

“We are actually quite optimistic. I think all parties have reached the point where they need some kind of agreement,” said Ronen Neutra. “As a result, we feel that a deal is somehow inevitable.”

But hope still seems alien to Dekel-Chen. He said that he will worry about his son’s fate until he sees him again physically and holds him in his arms.

“I don’t hope. I haven’t done it since October 7th. I only deal with results,” Dekel-Chen said. “I don’t recommend anyone to go on an emotional roller coaster ride, you know, about rumors and rumors and news that might happen. Not at this stage. It’s not even five months.”

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By 37ci3

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