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Berkeley woman flies to Israel as relative held in Gaza is released

Berkeley woman flies to Israel to see relative released by Hamas
Berkeley woman flies to Israel to see relative released by Hamas 05:37

SAN FRANCISCO -- For 53 days, Yael Nidam-Kirsht of Berkeley, was waiting for the call that came this week.

"I was so excited," she said. "I was crying, I was laughing, I was jumping. I just did not know what to do with myself."  

Her sister-in-law, Rimon Kirsht and Rimon's husband Yagev, were among the 240 hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7. Since then, Kirsht has put her own life on hold to meet with officials and appear at Bay Area demonstrations, all in an effort to get her loved ones out of Gaza.  

Just days after the Oct. 7 attack we met her at San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza for what would be her first of many rallies.  

"I'm the only member of the family who is able to speak now because they're all heartbroken," she told us at the time.   

Then, on Tuesday, it finally happened. Rimon's name was on the list of hostages scheduled to be released and Nidam-Kirsht booked the first flight back to Israel.   

"We go to the hospital and we see her at the end of the corridor. We see her face and we're running towards her, giving her the biggest hug, the longest hug -- probably the tightest hug anyone could give a person!" Nidam-Kirsht said from Tel Aviv.  

Hostage Release
Rimon Kirsht (lower left) is reunited with family members and her dog Tova in Israel.  Courtesy Yael Nidam-Kirsht

Along with the entire family waiting for Rimon in the hospital was her beloved rescue dog Tova. 

"She took her dog and just held her and cuddled her and that dog hasn't left her side since," Nidam-Kirsht said. 

The last time they saw Rimon was in a propaganda video released by Hamas on Oct. 30, in which Rimon wasn't  wearing her glasses. The family made sure to have a new pair waiting for her when she returned.  

"She was able to hug her mother and then, two seconds later, her sister handed her glasses and, when she put on the glasses for the first time, she said, 'I'm able to see. I'm able to see!'" 

As hostages freed by Hamas begin their long road to recovery, accounts of their captivity are starting to trickle in. Many of them were held in suffocating rooms with no beds and almost no food. It is Rimon's mental health that Nidam-Kirsht worried about the most.  

"More than 20 people grabbed her and her husband by force from their home," she said. "They took them to some place unknown where they were kept in the dark and they did not know every day what's going to happen to them. They were completely not in control over their lives." 

The moment is bitter sweet. Rimon's husband Yagev is still being held hostage in Gaza. But, for now, they are thankful. 

"Yagev is still missing. We have not forgotten about him. We have not forgotten about everyone else," Nidam-Kirsht said in a video message sent from Tel Aviv. "So, we're continuing to fight for everyone. Thank you, thank you everybody, we love you." 

Then her sister-in-law can be seen blowing a kiss to her Bay Area supporters. 

"Thank you everybody," she said in her first public appearance. "We love you."

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