‘Held by human monsters’: Former hostage Ilana Gritzewesky slams gov’t at Tel Aviv protest

“I was brutally kidnapped on October 7. My jaw was injured, my arm was dislocated, and I lost hearing in my left ear,” former hostage Ilana Gritzewesky told a crowd of thousands Saturday evening during a demonstration in Tel Aviv

In her speech, Gritzewesky recounted her abduction to Gaza and her plight as a hostage for 55 days.

She was released from captivity on November 30. Her partner, Matan Zangauker, is still a hostage in Gaza.

“I was kidnapped while everything around me was burning,” she said. “The neighbors in the kibbutz were screaming for help while terrorists were taking me to Gaza on a motorcycle.”

She told the crowd that during her time in captivity, she “was held by human monsters.” 

Gritzewesky also recalled the intense bombings around her in Gaza. “I heard every explosion, every moment I felt I was going to die. The shockwaves from the shelling shook every building I was in,” she recounted. “On the other side, we experienced terrible abuse from the terrorists at every moment,” Gritzewesky added.

“We lost hope, felt helpless, didn’t sleep, didn’t eat, only fear and anxiety overwhelmed us,” she described.

Ilana Gritzewsky recalls her abduction and captivity in Gaza in Tel Aviv, June 22, 2024. (credit: via Maariv)

She then shared that while in captivity she and others held hostage with her were able to see the demonstrations and rallies in Israel calling for their release and felt like she was “not forgotten.” 

She saw that “there were people fighting for us” and said that watching these demonstrations gave her hope. 

Gritzewesky said that her soul is still captive in Gaza, and Hamas controls her all the time. 

Betrayal of the government

She then spoke against the current government and said she felt “betrayed.” “Not a single minister bothered to call and ask about my well-being!! For Ben Gvir, I was good enough to sit in the tunnels but not enough to meet with him!! Netanyahu said that demonstrations strengthen Hamas, but they actually weaken Netanyahu!”

“Sara Netanyahu said to be grateful for the return of the hostages, and I say ‘shame!’ Shame that you abandoned me, shame that you are abandoning the hostages there for so many days! Shame on a government that betrayed me that has been betraying all the other hostages for 260 days,” Gritzewesky declared. 

In her speech, Gritzewesky revealed that she was born in Mexico to a “Jewish-Zionist family,” and at 16, she made aliyah to Israel alone.

She told the demonstrators that she studied and served in the IDF “because [she] believed that it would be better for [her] here. Even after Hamas slaughtered us, even after I was kidnapped, I still believe that it can be better here,” she added.

“There are strong people fighting together with me to bring home my partner Matan and all the hostages.”

She then called on all the other hostages who had returned to demonstrate with her and the families that were there.

“When my traumas surface, when the anxieties come, I take a deep breath and remember that I am not alone. I remember that there is a large public fighting together with me and supporting me… you are my strength. You are the strength of the hostages!”

She concluded her speech with a tribute to her partner, Matan.

“Matan… I miss you so much. I want you to know that we are strong. With the lioness mother, the amazing sisters, and dear Gina, we will bring you back,” Gritzewesky concluded. 

Shani Goren marks hostage Arbel Yehud’s birthday 

Another former hostage who survived Hamas captivity spoke at the demonstration. Shani Goren addressed the large crowd at Hostages Square, calling for the release of all the hostages, including her close friend Arbel Yehud. Saturday is Yehud’s 29th birthday.

Shani Goren speaks at a demonstration in Tel Aviv, June 22, 2024. (credit: Paulina Patimer)

Goren was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz and held for 55 days before her release.

“I am Shani Goren from Kibbutz Nir Oz. Arbel is my best friend,” Goren began.

“People ask me how I’m doing and if I’m managing to process what I’ve been through. The answer is that I can’t. Every day I wake up, I’m still held hostage because until Arbel and everyone else return home, we can’t even begin to discuss rehabilitation and moving forward,” Goren declared.

“Bring her home. Bring them all home. Now!” Goren concluded. 

Approximately 150,000 protesters filled Democracy Square (Kaplan) in Tel Aviv Saturday evening, alongside around 70 additional protest sites across the country, calling for immediate elections.