Top Israeli TV comedy series creator and writer Hen Avigdori usually spent his time working on jokes and punching up scripts for satires and sitcoms like The Jews Are Coming, Sofsheli, Ad Kan! and Tzomet Miller.
Then came Oct. 7, when Hamas attacked Kibbutz Be’eri in southern Israel. His wife, Sharon Avigdori, 52, and his 12-year-old daughter, Noam, as well as five other family members are believed to now be hostages of the terrorist organization. “It’s my life now. I have a mission, to get the girls back home,” an anguished Avigdori told The Hollywood Reporter in a weekend interview from Hod HaSharon in central Israel.
He last heard from his wife and daughter, who were visiting his wife’s brother, as they sheltered in his brother-in-law’s home in Be’eri settlement just as Hamas terrorists were on a rampage after infiltrating southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. “They said, ‘We’re headed to the safe room. Everything is OK.’ I talked with her brother. He said, ‘The girls are a little concerned. They’re not used to bombings and going into the shelter. They’re a little afraid, but they’ll be okay,’” Avigdori recounted.
But around an hour later, he got another message from his wife’s brother, Avshalom Haran. “My brother-in-law said they’re in big trouble, he hoped they’re going to survive this,” Avigdori recalled the text reading. Eventually, Haran was found dead, along with two other family members, Lilach and Eviatar Kipnis, who also lived in Kibbutz Be’eri.
Avigdori’s wife, daughter and five other family members — Shoshan Haran, 67, Adi Shosham, 38, Tal Shoham, 38, Naveh Shoham, 8, and Yahel Neri Shoham, 3 — were missing and are believed to be held hostage in Gaza after their house was burned down and their bodies were not found.
In all, around 100 Israelis out of a community of around 1,100 people were killed at Kibbutz Be’eri as Hamas terrorists attacked by land, sea and air in an attack that’s prompted an ongoing retaliation by Israeli military forces in Gaza.
On a Zoom call, a chain-smoking Avigdori, heavy bags under his eyes, pleaded with people everywhere — especially fellow creatives in Hollywood — to help bring his loved ones home. “Don’t forget that there are 242 civilian hostages — women, children, babies, elderly people, people with special needs — all of them should get back to their loved ones as soon as possible,” he said.
“To every American who thinks life matters — it’s not a Jewish thing; it’s not an Israeli thing; it’s a human thing. Nobody should go to sleep without hugging his own daughter and the American people should keep on the pressure to get the hostages out alive, well and quickly,” Avigdori told THR.
He added that includes Americans possibly writing their local politicians support and action to bring the Gaza hostages home. “They (Americans) can write their Congressman, they can do whatever they like, whatever is in their power to make this a humanitarian issue, to make this a human issue, and to get them out of alive,” Avigdori insisted.
Tel Aviv-based filmmaker Shira Havron, a niece of Shoshan Haran and Adi Shosham’s cousin, also said her life changed on Oct. 7 in ways she could never have imagined. “I never thought it would happen to my family,” she told THR, while echoing that the fate of the 242 hostages in Gaza deserved the world’s attention and support.
“This is just not another day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We’re most aware that we’re coming from a complicated region. But this is 242 people taken from their homes into the hands of a terror organization,” she argued. Havron added not knowing the fate of family members only added to her family’s mounting worry and the need to see them returned home before harm or worse came to them in Gaza.
“We ask her for the most basic thing, for a sign of life, the Red Cross to see them and we need to bring them back,” she added. Havron’s grandparents helped found Kibbutz Be’eri in 1947 after surviving the Holocaust in Germany.
Aaron Geva, co-director and script editor of the Israeli TV comedy Chanshi, which also starred Henry Winkler and premiered at Sundance, recalled to THR the events of Oct. 7 where, as a cousin of Shoshan Haran, he learned that 12 members of his family at Kibbutz Be’eri were under attack.
Geva’s family had been used to news that rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, but most were intercepted by the Israeli military and reaching a shelter in Kibbutz Be’eri was always enough to ensure safety. But on the day of the Hamas attack, the phones of Geva and his family flashed with grisly messages that Hamas terrorists had reached settlements in southern Israel and were attacking local homes and people.
“It took time to even grasp who’s alive, who’s not. I mean, the damage done to the bodies, it was so horrendous it took time to identify them,” added Geva, who is also a correspondent on the Israeli award-winning TV series Meha Tzad Hasheni (The Other Side), about the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 assaults.
He insisted there’s urgency to get the hostages released before the Israeli military escalates its retaliation campaign in Gaza still further and as ordinary Israelis slowly begin to return to some sense of a normal life.
“This is the biggest fear, that this will become part of our reality, that there are 240 additional people in Gaza, under the surface (in tunnels) and alone, without knowing what care they receive, what they are going through. And it’s starting to feel this is the new normal here,” Geva said.
That leaves Hen Avigdori also waiting for the return of his wife, a drama therapist who has a specialty working with autistic children, and his own daughter, Noam, who had a summer job as a dog walker for her neighborhood.
“She walked the dogs. She loved it. We promised her a dog, but never had the chance. But I’m telling her now, when she’s coming back, she’s getting a dog. Any dog she likes,” Avigdori said.