Researchers from Haifa University hold hostage posters in Antartica

In light of the ongoing conflict back home, the duo seized the opportunity to shed light on the situation in Israel, particularly focusing on the plight of the abductees.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

Upon arriving in Antarctica, the Haifa University researchers posed for celebratory photos with the flags of Israel and their university. But then they posed for a more serious picture: holding posters of abducted Israelis.

“The trip to Antarctica was planned long before recent events. Raising the flags of Israel and the University of Haifa was part of our original intention. However, amidst current events, this act holds far greater significance and power,” remarked Dr. Tal Luzzatto Knaan and Prof. Tali Mass.

In light of the ongoing conflict back home, the duo seized the opportunity to shed light on the situation in Israel, particularly focusing on the plight of the abductees. Despite initial reluctance to discuss political matters during the journey, Knaan and Mass persisted, sharing firsthand experiences, images, and videos of the abductees with their international peers.

The two researchers are from Haifa University’s Charney School of Marine Sciences.

Their Antarctic journey is part of the “Homeward Bound” program, which aims to empower women in STEMM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine) to address global challenges collectively.

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The two were among dozens of accomplished women from various corners of the globe.

Knaan specializes in functional metabolomics and natural substances with a focus on marine bacteria and algae. A mother of three, Knaan seeks to better understand the ecological context of molecules and the potential applications for biotechnology, agriculture and medicinal uses.

Mass, also a mother of three, is an expert in the physiology of corals and marine animals, particularly in corals with specific traits and tolerances to changing environmental conditions.

“We understood the responsibility to bring awareness, especially in a forum like this, centered on leadership. It was vital to impart our perspectives on the situation back home. Many of our colleagues, exposed to this reality for the first time, now comprehend our circumstances better,” Knaan and Mass said.

While the two were away, Hamas released 26 Israeli and 15 foreign captives on Friday and Saturday.

A four-day ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization went into effect at 7 a.m. on Friday.

As part of the deal approved by the Israeli Cabinet last Wednesday, Hamas is to release 12 to 13 hostages each day of the truce. The release of every additional 10 hostages will result in one additional day in the pause in combat, for up to five days.

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At least 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. Another 240 men, women, children and soldiers were taken back to Gaza as hostages. Some people remain unaccounted for as Israeli authorities continue to identify bodies and search for human remains.