A Peace Activist’s Ordeal: Ada Sagi’s 53 Days as a Hostage in Gaza Shatters Her Belief in Reconciliation

Ada Sagi, a 75-year-old Israeli peace activist, was held hostage in Gaza for 53 days following her abduction by Hamas on 7 October. This ordeal shattered her long-held belief in the possibility of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

In her first interview with the UK media since her release in November, she recounted her experience to Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 4’s Today program. She spoke about being held by paid guards, her time in a hospital before her release, and her changed worldview, now convinced that the world harbors animosity towards Jews.

Ms. Sagi, who spent decades in the Nir Oz kibbutz near the Israel-Gaza border, dedicated her life to fostering reconciliation by teaching Arabic to Israelis. Her plans to visit her son in London and celebrate her birthday were abruptly altered when Hamas launched an attack on southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking 251 hostages, including Ms. Sagi.

She turned 75 while in captivity, describing her captors as “Hamas terrorists” and revealing the devastating impact of this experience on her belief in peace.

A Peace Activist's Ordeal: Ada Sagi's 53 Days as a Hostage in Gaza Shatters Her Belief in Reconciliation
A Peace Activist’s Ordeal: Ada Sagi’s 53 Days as a Hostage in Gaza Shatters Her Belief in Reconciliation

Held initially in a family home and then moved to an apartment in Khan Younis due to safety concerns, Ms. Sagi was guarded by students paid by Hamas.

She detailed the dire economic conditions in Gaza, where a day’s work with Hamas paid 70 shekels compared to just 20 shekels otherwise. Ms. Sagi was one of 105 hostages released in a deal involving a week-long ceasefire and the release of 240 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

The uncertainty of her impending release was harrowing. Ms. Sagi described the tension and fear each time there was a knock on the door and the emotional rollercoaster when plans for her release initially fell through.

Eventually, she and other older female hostages were moved to a hospital, which she believes was Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza, before finally being freed.

Now living in Kiryat Gat, Ms. Sagi is writing a book and working with children with ADHD, finding solace in helping others. Despite the profound loss of her home and the destruction of her kibbutz, she remains committed to sharing her story.

She emphasizes the emotional toll of her captivity, acknowledging the importance of expressing her pain and the therapeutic value of tears, as advised by her mother.

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