Mother of 21-year-old Israeli woman kidnapped by Hamas begs for safe return

Israel: Police rescue young girls after Hamas attack

The mother of a 21-year-old woman kidnapped by Hamas has said the slow release of a few hostages feels “like Russian roulette”.

Keren Scharf Schem, 50, has not seen her daughter Mia since the evening of October 6, when she announced plans to attend the Nova music festival with friends.

Keren watched with horror as news of the barbaric terror attacks broke on TV and for the next week feared Mia was among the 260 murdered partygoers.

On the night after the attacks, as her country struggled to comprehend the scale of the bloodshed unleashed by Hamas, Keren was asked to provide a DNA sample for use by investigators identifying victims’ bodies.

Then, Mia appeared in a hostage video released by Hamas on October 16.

The footage showed the young woman lying down as her hand and arm were bandaged at an awkward angle. Later, sitting up and speaking in Hebrew, Mia said she was in Gaza and asked to return home.

Keren could not bear to watch more than the first few frames. She said: “She was very, very scared and pale.

“You can see that she’s in physical pain and trauma. She said what they told her to say, this was their words, not hers.

“My first reaction was to be happy because I saw that she’s alive. I just felt like I was going to collapse because she’s hurt and [because of] what she’s been through.

“Now it’s been a month since this video and I have no sign of life. The Red Cross is not allowed to go there and no other organisations, so I know nothing about her. It’s terrible.”

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Hamas is believed to be holding 239 people hostage – or possibly 240, as one woman who was eight months pregnant may have given birth.

Five of those abducted have been released or rescued so far including Yocheved Lifshitz, an 85-year-old woman who was freed after 16 days.

The frail-looking grandmother stunned the world when she shook hands with one of her gun-wielding captors and said “Shalom”, a Hebrew greeting meaning “peace”.

Yocheved later described how she was hit with a wooden pole and tied to a motorcycle during the kidnapping, before being taken into a spider’s web of tunnels.

Since discovering Mia was being held, single mother-of-four Keren has worried about her daughter’s health.

Mia had pre-existing medical conditions, which needed regular care, and also told a friend via text message before she was captured that she had been shot in the leg.

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Speaking to the Daily Express from Israel via a video call, Keren’s month-long ordeal was written on her face.

She described the strain of hearing conflicting media reports “every few hours” about how the hostage negotiations are progressing.

Keren explained: “In the beginning they said 100 hostages [might be released], then they said 50 hostages, then only mothers and children.

“This is like a second Holocaust. In the Holocaust, they chose who will live and who will die. It’s like Russian roulette.

“There are families, and children, and my daughter. She’s wounded, she needs care.”

Asked if she believed her daughter was still alive, Keren said quietly: “I don’t know. Maybe not, maybe she’s not alive.”

Mia was studying to become a tattoo artist and Keren described her as mature, strong and artistic.

The distraught mum added: “She’s like a mother to her young brothers and helps me with everything. Now she’s not here.”

Keren, who lives near Tel Aviv, called for the international community to stand united against Hamas. She warned that if it does not, “other mothers in the world will be in my position”.

She added: “This is not about a war between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a crime against humanity, which happened in Israel and it will happen everywhere in the world because we are talking about evil.

“There are 239 innocent citizens, including babies, children, old people, Holocaust survivors.

“I want to tell everyone to take just one minute and try to imagine that it was their girl, son or mother who was taken, and realise that this has to be the world’s first priority, to defeat this evil.”

Keren said her only message to Hamas was a plea for Mia to be returned safely, in the same condition as when she left her family on October 6.

“I want them to show me that they are not as cruel as they seem,” Keren added. “I want to see my daughter here and take care of her here.”

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