By Billy Thompson
Digital Marketing Associate
The Jewish community of the Lehigh Valley came together on the evening of December 3 to hear a story from Liran Berman, whose twin brothers, Ziv and Gali Berman, were taken hostage by Hamas during the terrorist attacks on October 7.
On the morning of the attacks, Israelis awoke to the sound of emergency sirens and alerts on their phones. Berman and his family assumed that this was just the usual short burst of rocket fire from Gaza, an all-too-common occurrence, and that they would be able to go back to their lives shortly. The severity of the situation became apparent as news of Hamas invading Israel spread.
Berman had his wife and children safe with him, but his mother, father, and brothers were in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, near the Gaza strip. Compounding the terror of the situation, cell phone service had become unavailable due to the mass of emergency calls coming from Hamas’s victims. All the family could do was text message one another on WhatsApp. By 9:30 a.m., Berman and his family had lost contact with the twins.
Sunday afternoon marked the last rescue mission by the Israel Defense Forces in Kfar Aza, and Ziv and Gali were not accounted for in the group of survivors. After that began what Berman called the worst week of his life. Ten days went by, and during this time he attended nine or 10 funerals for 13 Israelis murdered by Hamas. All the while there was no news regarding the twins. It wasn’t until day 10 that the family was told of the twins’ status as Hamas hostages. As Berman put it, they had the surreal feeling of celebrating his brother being a hostage; that was better that than murdered. The family, knowing there was a chance the twins were still alive, were once again able to feel hope.
Ziv and Gali are known as the light of their family, friends, and colleagues. They are in the prime of their lives, at age 26, working in the entertainment industry. They had just returned from Costa Rica and Mexico before October 7. When they were not working on entertainment production, they were participating in sports. They love soccer and played on their kibbutz’s soccer team.
Berman recounted some of his happiest moments with his brothers. He said they were the best uncles his children could hope for, always playing and dancing with them. The twins were just as good as brothers. Berman said he and they always got along, despite the 10-year age gap between them. They share similar hobbies and are in touch frequently.
Since the twins’ kidnapping and the war, Berman and his wife have been trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in their routines for the sake of their children, a son age 4 and a daughter age 2. The son senses that there’s a change in the family, but Berman said there would be no good way to explain the conflict to the children without terrorizing them.
Berman has taken the story of his brothers across the world to make sure it’s not forgotten. He stresses that putting families behind the names and faces of those kidnapped by Hamas is very important. They are not just hostages; they are uncles, kids, fathers, mothers.
Berman’s mother and brother were rescued by the Israel Defense Forces and are now among the many survivors of the Hamas assault who have been displaced from their homes near the Gaza Strip. Berman’s mother wished to stay close to family in this trying time, so she, her husband, and son left for Kibbutz Beit Guvrin in the Lehigh Valley’s Parternship2Gether region, Yoav. Berman spoke of the kind hearts of the kibbutz residents in this time of crisis as they refurbished two small homes for his parents and brother, even providing special accommodations to his father, who has Parkinson’s disease. Berman said they treated his family as their own.
For the foreseeable future, Berman’s mother, father, and brother will remain in Beit Guvrin. Their sense of safety in Kfar Aza is lost.
All this is just one story. There were 137 more remaining hostages at the time of this event. Berman urged everyone to keep the people of Israel in their thoughts and prayers and to put pressure on their elected representatives to push for a ceasefire on Israel’s terms.