Hostage families visit Colorado with pleas for help

Feb 15, 2024 | Article, JCRC, Newsletter

“Bring them home now.” The families of seven hostages held by Hamas in Gaza brought this message to the people and lawmakers of Colorado during the first week of February. They met with Governor Jared Polis and the media. They marched with members of the Jewish community at Run for Their Lives. They were scheduled to be honored on the floor of the Colorado House, but at the last minute, House Speaker Julie McCluskie barred them from the House floor, citing concerns that members on both sides of the aisle would “fail to rise to the occasion.” The families were allowed in Senate chambers.

Hostage families on the Senate floor at the Colorado State Capitol


In conversations with JEWISHcolorado, the families talked about their lives since the heartbreak of October 7 and why they had traveled so far to tell their story.

Ayelet Smarno

Yonatan Samerano

Yonatan Samerano

Ayelet Smarno is the mother of Yonatan Samerano, 21, a DJ at the Nova Festival. He and his friends fled by car to Kibbutz Be’eri, where terrorists murdered his friends. Yonatan survived, but he was kidnapped and taken to Gaza. Two months later, his family was informed that he had been murdered.

“I’m here because I want people all over the world to understand what is going on with us. I know they see it on the news, but it’s not the same as talking to people who have experienced it. For 57 days, I didn’t know what was happening with my son. Is he injured? Are they taking care of him? Is he still breathing?

“Now, it has been 121 days, and I still don’t know what happened, only that he will not come home alive. I wake up and say, ‘How come my child is not here?’

“After I heard that his friends’ bodies had been found, I said ‘Please, G-d, let them come and tell me he was kidnapped.’ I know it’s unbelievable to pray for kidnapping. But it was better than hearing he was killed or burned.

“Yonatan had been traveling the world. He had gone to Spain, Thailand, England. He was living life to the fullest. Those kids at the music festival liked to be happy; they liked music and dancing.

“We did not have a funeral, but we had a memorial ceremony. There were 3,000 people who came. I was in shock that so many people were there.

“How do I endure this? I get up in the morning, I take a shower, and then I go to work. I work because otherwise I would lose my mind.

“My younger son Yail is 18. He lost his big brother. He is broken. People say to me that I give them inspiration, that I comfort them. But when I go to sleep, I cry, and when I am awake, I cry. I’m just a mother.”

Ravid Ohad

Noa Argamani

Noa Argamani

Ravid Ohad is the cousin of Noa Argamani, 26. Noa was one of the first victims of the Hamas attack to appear on video, as she was driven away from the Nova Festival on a motorcycle, her arm outstretched, crying “Don’t kill me.”

“Why am I here? In Israel, I am a quality engineer for a security company. This is so far from my comfort zone, but Noa is also very far from her comfort zone, so to come and talk about Noa is the least I can do.

“Noa is like my little sister. She is the only child of her parents. She was in her third year studying systems engineering. A bright spot in this is her personality. I think her personality will help her survive. She has traveled all over the world by herself—to South America, India, Sri Lanka. She is a strong, independent woman. I think she gets that from her mother.

“Her mother is Chinese. She came to Israel to study 30 years ago, fell in love with Noa’s father Yaakov, and stayed. She changed her name from Li to Liora. Now, she is very sick with a brain tumor. Even with her medical condition, she is the strongest person in the family. I really admire her. But time is running out for her, and time is running out for Noa.

“We thought that when the women were released, Noa would be among them. We planned on it. We waited for the call. And then we learned she would not be coming home.

“I’m here to tell people, ‘Don’t forget Noa. Not even for a slight moment. And don’t forget Noa and her mother. They must see each other again.’”

Sharon Kaldaron

Ofer Kalderon

Ofer Kalderon

Sharon Kaldaron’s brother-in-law Ofer, 53, was kidnapped from his home on Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7, with his daughter Sahar, 16, and Erez, 12. Erez and Sahar were released in one of the hostage deals, but their father remains in captivity.

“I am here because I would do anything to help bring the hostages home, dead or alive. I would do whatever it takes—even if it means going to Alaska.

“Ofer is my husband’s only brother. My husband is not here because he is broken. He just could not do it. He is sitting at home, crying, praying, hoping that his brother is still alive. We have heard that he is wounded and in a very bad mental condition, but that was a long time ago. Things can change in seconds. Ofer could be alive when I sit down to talk to you and dead when I get up and walk away.

“Ofer is an amazing father, the main parent to four children. The oldest is 21 and the youngest is 12. His two children who were kidnapped are mentally still in Gaza. They cannot start to heal until their father is home.

“I cannot start to heal until Ofer is home. Our family was in our safe room for 34 hours at Kibbutz Sufa without food, without water. Outside we heard the terrorist shouting in Arabic, ‘No one will get out alive from here. This is your last day.’ I wrote goodbye letters to my three sons.

“Before October 7, I was a wedding planner. I don’t know if I can ever do weddings again. Right now, I feel like they took my happiness, and I don’t think I will ever get it back.”