Father of nine-year-old Hamas hostage pleads for her return at London protest

Irish-born Tom Hand had initially been told his daughter Emily had been murdered by the terrorists.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The father of a young Hamas hostage pled for her safe return at a pro-Israel rally held opposite the prime minister’s office in London Sunday.

Tom Hand, who was born in Ireland but came to Kibbutz Be’eri in 1992 as a volunteer and later became a permanent resident, told the crowd that he had been in his home “on that horrific morning” of October 7, when dozens of the almost 3,000 terrorists who broke through Israel’s vaunted security fence invaded his kibbutz.

Emily, who had been at a friend for a sleepover, was “now down deep in the tunnels of Hamas,” he said. “Last Friday was her birthday…she’s now nine. She didn’t celebrate her birthday like any other normal kid in the world,” with a party, cake, friends and family.

“She wouldn’t even know it was her birthday,” he opined, as “she wouldn’t know what date it is.”

“Her place is at home with us, in her own room, in her own bed,” he said, crying out, “Help me bring her home!”

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Hand, 63, has raised Emily alone for the past six and a half years, as his wife Liat passed away from cancer when Emily was just a toddler. Be’eri was one of the hardest-hit kibbutzim, with some 10% of its population massacred by the Hamas terrorists and nearly three dozen kidnapped.

He had had the horrific experience of first being told by the IDF that his daughter was dead, based on mistaken DNA evidence. His reaction at the time was relief, he said, that she wasn’t suffering at the terrorists’ hands, that her death had probably been quick.

Weeks later, he found out that she had been seen being taken away.

“Later on we had an eyewitness… [who] saw her being led away by the terrorists, into a van off to Gaza” after the attack, he told journalists at the demonstration.

Previously, in an interview at the Dead Sea hotel where he and other survivors from his kibbutz were evacuated, he said that now he is just waiting for her return, hoping and praying, and trying to stay strong.

“We’re going to get her back,” he said, adding that he would take her to “the next Beyonce concert” after she is released, because Emily was such a big fan of the singer.

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“I’ll spend all my money, every penny I’ve got to give her fun to make up for everything that she’s lost and everything she’s going through,” he said tearfully.

The demonstration was organized by Christian Action Against Antisemitism-UK, a British NPO whose motto for the protest was “Never Again Is Now.”

Several thousand people came to Whitehall in answer to the call. They heard from two more family members of other hostages as they held the now-ubiquitous posters of the abducted of all ages, from infants to Holocaust survivors. They heard Hebrew songs as well as other speakers, and waved British and Israeli flags, large and small.

After one speaker said they wanted to send “a message of love and hope” to Emily, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to the nine-year-old, and then rhythmically shouted, “Bring her home!”

After flying in from Israel, Hand also got to meet Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in an effort to enlist his help, despite the Irish government’s icy relations with Israel.