The son of a Winnipeg woman believed to be a Hamas hostage recounted the last conversation he had with his mother.
In an interview with CTV National News’ Adrian Ghobrial, in Israel, Yonatan Zeigen said his last words to his mom were “I love you.”
He said he hasn’t been able to confirm the whereabouts of his mother, Vivian Silver, since Saturday. He believes she is one of the dozens of people that Israel says were taken hostage by the Hamas militant group.
“It’s overwhelming. It’s uncomprehending from all sorts of factors,” Zeigen said of her disappearance. “She was a beacon for peace and justice, an ally to the Palestinian people.”
Silver, 74, is a peace activist living in Be’eri Kibbutz, on the edge of the Gaza Strip.
Zeigen, who resides in Tel Aviv, said his family was planning to visit his mother for Shemini Atzeret on Saturday, but decided against it in the end.
He said they decided to go another time instead, because they’d seen “enough family” for the holiday.
“On the one hand, it’s very lucky and on the other hand, the sentiment of ‘enough family’ now seems ridiculous,” he said.
Zeigen said he and his mother share a “strong connection” and he is now “overwhelmed” with emotions, not knowing where she is.
Vivian Silver, 74, pictured with her two sons. (Contributed)
‘IT’S A DIFFERENT SITUATION’
According to Israeli officials, Hamas militants stormed the country on Saturday and commenced the deadliest attack the region has seen in decades. Hamas took hostages, including women, children and older adults, Israel says.
Zeigen said when the sirens sounded on Saturday morning, his family didn’t think anything of it.”We didn’t pay a lot of attention because we’re accustomed,” Zeigen said of their mindset initially. “But very soon we realized it’s a different situation because there was a significant incursion.”
Throughout the morning, Zeigen was calling and sending text messages back and forth with his mother. Silver, according to her son, has a “great sense of humour,” and was handling the situation well by sending jokes back.
“At some point, I heard a lot of gunshots outside a window (through the phone),” Zeigen said. “She was hiding in a safe room behind a closet door, so we decided to stop talking on the phone so she wouldn’t be heard.”
Vivian Silver protesting in Israel. (Contributed)
Then, he said, she sent him a message that “they were inside the house. We told each other we love each other and that’s it.”
Zeigen has not heard from her since.
“My efforts to get information, specifically about the house, if Israeli soldiers got to the house, and if she’s there or not…Nobody knows,” Zeigen said. “Nobody could tell me…It’s very frustrating, a bit hurtful even.”
Silver is a prominent activist in Israel, he said, which is why she moved back the country from Canada 50 years ago with a group of “like-minded” people. She often participates in protests and rallies for peace in the region, her son told CTV News.
Zeigen said she dedicated her life to the causes she believes in. After retiring as CEO of an organization that promoted peace between Israel and Palestinians, Silver was involved in another organization of women with a similar goal, he said.
At one point, Silver volunteered with a group that drove Palestinian patients from Gaza to Israeli hospitals for medical care.
“She dedicated her life to it,” Zeigen said. “Since she was a student, all through adult life, by volunteering, being a member of organizations, running organizations, public speaking, everything.”
With files from CTV National News’ Adrian Ghobrial in Tel Aviv
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