NEW YORK (AP) — Emily Tony Korenberg Hand celebrated her eighth birthday final 12 months romping with family and friends among the many jugglers, acrobats and stilt walkers for her circus-themed occasion at Kibbutz Be’eri, not removed from the Gaza Strip.
On Friday, when she turned 9, there was no occasion. Emily is believed to be someplace in Gaza among the many hostages taken by Hamas militants who swarmed her kibbutz Oct. 7 throughout the incursion into Israel that left some 1,200 useless and 240 kidnapped.
“She gained’t even understand it’s her birthday. She gained’t know what day it’s,” her tearful father, Thomas Hand, 63, mentioned by way of Zoom. “Are you able to think about the worry?”
Quickly after the Hamas assaults, Hand had been instructed by leaders of Be’eri that Emily was among the many useless after she had spent the night time at a pal’s home on the kibbutz. His shock and grief on the information was tinged with consolation.
“I used to be type of relieved as a result of I’d slightly that than have her taken hostage,” he recalled pondering. “The best way they instructed me was Emily has been discovered. She was discovered within the kibbutz, and she or he’d been discovered useless. I’ll always remember these three statements.”
Then, on Oct. 31, Hand’s world turned the other way up as soon as once more.
That’s when the Israeli army knowledgeable him Emily‘s physique had not been recovered, nor her DNA discovered among the many blood and plenty of useless at Be’eri. There was no blood within the bomb shelter she would have used or in the home the place she had gone for her sleepover.
“I needed to shift my entire mind and digest this new info. And once they instructed me, I simply went, ‘No, no, no no,’” he mentioned, his voice cracking.
Hand and his daughter, each twin Irish-Israel residents, weren’t strangers to heartbreak. When Emily was 2½, her mom, Liat Korenberg, died of breast most cancers. Korenberg and Hand had by no means married and have been residing aside, she in Haifa and he at Be’eri after he married one other girl.
Earlier than Liat succumbed, she and Emily moved in with Hand at Be’eri so Emily‘s transition could be simpler. Liat suffered for simply over two years.
On the kibbutz, Emily shortly made mates and settled into college. She has various pursuits: Brazilian dance, judo, volleyball, tennis and piano. She loves gymnastics. She excels at teachers. “This 12 months she needed to be taught the guitar. I hope that occurs,” her father mentioned.
Emily, he mentioned, is a pacesetter amongst her mates. “She didn’t demand to be. Individuals simply adopted her,” he mentioned.
Emily‘s life contains her father’s now ex-wife, Narkis Hand, and two older kids from his marriage that ended greater than 20 years in the past. Emily stays shut with Narkis and her now-grown half-siblings, together with 26-year-old Natalie. Additionally they stay at Be’eri, a tight-knit group Hand found as a volunteer earlier than he determined to remain 30 years in the past.
“Emily liked cooking so Emily and Natalie would cook dinner collectively,” mentioned Hand, a Dublin native. “Narkis actually grew to become Emily‘s second mom. Even Narkis’ mom, she grew to become a second grandmother.”
In a message to her sister, Natalie instructed The Occasions of Israel: “I need to inform you that we’re doing every part to get you dwelling. We all know you’re being held hostage. We love you a lot and miss you.”
Hand was in New York for media interviews but additionally to unveil a billboard of Emily on Friday in Occasions Sq.. It’s the primary of lots of to go up round the US with photos of the hostages as some protesters proceed to tear down “kidnapped” posters. A billboard, Hand mentioned, can’t be ripped aside.
“Are you able to think about what that poor little little one goes by means of each single day, terrified for her life?” he mentioned. “Loss of life. Loss of life in my head is a neater possibility.”
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