Like countless Jews worldwide, my world was thrown into chaos by the horrifying attack on Israelis that occurred on October 7th. The shock and dismay I felt mirrored the sentiments of many Jews who believe in Israel’s strength and its ability to safeguard its people, just as I did during the decade I lived there. Moving to the United States five years ago, I found myself haunted by fear for the safety of the family and friends I had left behind.
The pain and grief that we share for the innocent civilians who lost their lives and the hundreds who were taken as hostages are immeasurable. Our hearts ache for the families of these hostages, who live in the agony of not knowing whether their children, parents, and family members are safe–if they’ve eaten, if they’re sick, if and when they will be reunited. This feeling of despair and uncertainty is not new to the family of Avera Mengistu, an Ethiopian-Israeli citizen who has been held captive by Hamas for the last nine years.
Avera Mengistu’s story is a heart-wrenching one. He came to Israel at the age of four, and he suffers from a mental illness. He comes from a low-income family, which has made the struggle to secure his release all the more challenging. In September 2014, Avera, who is an innocent citizen and not a soldier, was held captive by Hamas in Gaza. He has not returned home since. Hamas released a video of Avera at the beginning of 2023, but the Israeli government has been unable to secure his release through negotiation.
For nine long years, Avera’s family has been tirelessly advocating for his release. They have been vocal about their plight, but there has been a notable silence surrounding Avera’s case in the international media. The reason for this silence is complex, and it may be attributed to the lack of resources Avera’s family has at their disposal to create an international campaign to bring attention to his situation. While we applaud the organized efforts to secure the release of hostages from the October 7 attack, it is imperative that we do not forget Avera Mengistu. Any deal that will potentially be closed for their release should also include Avera! He shouldn’t be forgotten once again as he was for the last nine years.
This is a humanitarian issue that transcends politics and borders. Avera’s family deserves to be seen and heard. Avera himself deserves to be reunited with his family. His ordeal began unknowingly, as he crossed into Gaza unaware of his actions due to his mental illness. The silence surrounding his case speaks volumes about the challenges that people like Avera, who are less privileged and lack the means for high-profile campaigns, face when seeking justice.
It’s time to raise our voices for Avera Mengistu. His story is a stark reminder of the importance of acknowledging every life affected by conflict and captivity. As a global community, we must remember that compassion and humanity should not be selective. We must insist on Avera’s release and ensure that his plight is not forgotten. His family, like all families enduring such hardship, deserves our unwavering support, compassion, and solidarity.