Israeli hostage tells of capture, captivity, dramatic release with daughter

An American-Israeli mother detailed her harrowing experience of how she and her daughter were captured by Hamas militants and held as hostages for two weeks before being released last year.

Judith Raanan and her now 18-year-old daughter, Natalie Raanan, were the first hostages to be released by Hamas after the militant group stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking about 200 more as hostages. In her first interview since being released in October, Raanan describes how she and her daughter were captured and released by Hamas militants on NewsNation’s “Elizabeth Vargas Reports.”

Raanan said she and her daughter were sleeping in a guest house in the kibbutz near the Gaza border when the Hamas’ attacks began.

“Yes, we heard gunfire. We did not hear any planes above us. We only heard shots from far away. And then until I until I heard some Arabic and I understood that I have two minutes to explain to my daughter what is about to happen. And, and I did,” Raanan told host Elizabeth Vargas.

She said she told her daughter “don’t panic,” warning her that militants with guns are going to burst through their door. She said she and Natalie were still in their pajamas went the militants came through their door, who she says were carrying “big weapons” and a “big bomb.”

“My girl was afraid. She said, ‘Mom, I’m afraid to be raped.’ I said nobody’s going to do nothing to you,” Raanan said.

She compared the experience to a “Russian roulette,” adding that “You don’t know if you’re gonna be dead or alive.” While being held in captivity, she said she sung Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” to her daughter to keep her calm.

The song by Louis Armstrong. It’s a wonderful world…And she goes like, Mom, I don’t think that this is appropriate. This is not so wonderful right now. And I said this is appropriate. You are Jewish Queen; you are my princess,” she said.

When asked how she kept it together while going through the experience with her daughter, she said that they prayed.

“All the time. She’s extremely beautiful too. And it’s not just that it doesn’t matter. It just that you know we’re vulnerable. And we pray, we pray, we talk to Hashem,” Raanan said.

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