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Family member of Hamas hostage says he finds strength in remaining hopeful

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

After more than a month of fighting, Israel and Hamas have agreed to a four-day cease-fire. At the heart of the deal is an exchange - the release of at least 150 Palestinian women and minors held in Israeli jails in exchange for at least 50 Israeli hostages who were taken by Hamas. Moshe Lavi is the brother-in-law of Omri Miran, who was kidnapped from his kibbutz on October 7. Welcome.

MOSHE LAVI: Thank you for having me.

SUMMERS: I want to start by just asking, if you can, to tell us a little bit about Omri. What's he like?

LAVI: Omri is a very soft-spoken man, gentle, dedicated father. He let my sister, Lishay, develop a career in Sapir College, and he was really the one who dedicated his time for the girls - their two baby daughters - Roni and Alma. He was a shiatsu therapist and a gardener in Kibbutz Nahal Oz - known for his smile in the kibbutz. He moved there 14 years ago from northern Israel. Avid reader - his favorite author was Haruki Murakami. And he was a avid supporter of Maccabi Tel Aviv in basketball and Liverpool in soccer.

SUMMERS: We learned the news yesterday that there is this deal for the four-day cease-fire and the exchange of prisoners and hostages. What went through your mind when you heard that news?

LAVI: It's complex. On one hand, I and our entire family and many people in Israel are relieved that some of the more vulnerable hostages will be returning home - talking about babies, children and mothers. But at the same time, we know that Omri and many others, the majority of hostages, will be remaining in captivity in the Gaza Strip. And we are yet to understand whether the ICRC will get access to them, will be able to visit them, will be able to provide them with medical attention.

SUMMERS: Have you - since October 7, have you heard anything about Omri's condition? Do you - has your family heard anything?

LAVI: We did hear about three weeks ago from the Israeli authorities that Omri was confirmed to be a hostage in Gaza and that he's alive. But we understood that this is a very fluid situation. We hope that all the relevant stakeholders will be able to promote a more comprehensive deal to ensure Omri and others - and all the others - will be released and return home as soon as possible.

SUMMERS: Those stakeholders, what would you want to say to them? What would you want them to know about what you and your family are going through right now?

LAVI: I hope they understand that since October 7, our life has been paused. We are living in a continuous nightmare. We're fluctuating from hope to despair. And it's really paramount that Omri and all the other hostages will be released as soon as possible, both in order to ensure reunification with their families and also to alleviate the enormous pain all of us are experiencing - we have yet to begin the grieving process for the communities we lost, for memories that were stolen from us with the burning of our homes and fields - and to ensure that something like this will not be allowed to happen again.

SUMMERS: Moshe, it is impossible to imagine the depths of grief and sadness that you and your family are going through right now. But I do want to ask you, your sister, those young kids that you were telling me about, how are they doing? How are they coping?

LAVI: Yeah, my sister Lishay and - her and Omri's two baby daughters - Roni, who's 2 1/2 years old, and Alma, who is almost 8 months now - they endured a significant trauma. They all survived the atrocities. They were all held captive by Hamas. They both saw death of loved ones, of neighbors, of the community - saw the horrors in their eyes, and a mark will be remaining in their hearts and minds for the rest of their lives. They are getting the professional attention they require, but the grief is too high.

And on top of it, they need, of course, to continue advocate for the release of Omri, the release of all the hostages. My sister is a brave and a strong, strong woman. She's been speaking up to whoever willing to listen. But the trauma will remain. Roni is already speaking, and she speaks of the horrors she experienced. She calls for her dad every night before she goes to sleep - cries for him to return home.

SUMMERS: This is an impossible situation. How do you keep hope alive?

LAVI: Yes. I think it's imperative for me to keep hope alive because, that way, I give strength to my sister, give strength to my communities and people and give strength to myself. I think by working for their release, we allow ourself to give a voice to those who were taken, give a voice to those who survive and suffered from the atrocities of Hamas and their accomplices on October 7. The world can be, at times, a very dark place, but we have to keep hope in order to live, in order to thrive. And that's what I do and intend to continue doing.

SUMMERS: That was Moshe Lavi talking with us about his brother-in-law, Omri Miron, who was kidnapped by Hamas on October 7. Thank you for sharing your story, and our thoughts are with you and your family.

LAVI: Thank you. Wish peace to all of us.

(SOUNDBITE OF BADBADNOTGOOD'S "TIMID INTIMIDATING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kai McNamee
Tinbete Ermyas
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.