Six U.S. citizens remain as hostages in Gaza, with their exact conditions and whereabouts unknown. Among them is 35-year-old Sagui Dekel-Chen.
“Sagui is someone with an incredibly magnetic smile, attracts people like a magnet and is full of life and energy,” said his stepmother, Gillian Kaye.
The past 15 weeks have brought an excruciating reality for his parents.
“Every morning is a challenge and it's a fight for Sagui and the other 132 hostages, and fighting off hopelessness because we know so little,” said Sagui's father, Jonathan Dekel-Chen.
Prior to the war, Sagui worked for a nonprofit and lived on a kibbutz with his pregnant wife and two daughters. They survived the Oct. 7 attack, but it was the last time they saw Sagui, who was taken hostage.
“It's an impossible pain to wake up every day and be reminded and wonder, ‘Is he alive? Is he being tortured? Is he sick? Is he getting medicine? Is he getting care? Is he starving?’” said Kaye.
That is why they are traveling this week to Washington, D.C., in the hopes of bringing to the nation’s capital a renewed attention on the hostages.
“Of course, the U.S. government has a part to play, both as a close ally of Israel, but also as a leader of the free world in gaining the freedom of these hostages,” Jonathan Dekel-Chen said.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson told Scripps News that the U.S. is actively working with Israel, Qatar and Egypt on restarting hostage negotiations, adding, “we need Hamas to be a part of that process, too. We believe that Hamas can and will engage on this, and that’s something we’re intensely focused on.”
Asked whether the U.S. should be directly negotiating with Hamas for the American hostages, Sagui’s parents had this to say: “We’ll respond to that with a 'No comment' because, look, we're parents of a hostage in Gaza,” Kaye said. “We're not politicians, we're not political negotiators.”
They do recognize, however, that with each passing day, the situation becomes more dire for the hostages in Gaza.
“We can't do it alone,” Dekel-Chen said. "We desperately need engagement of people in governments to pressure the parties, to pressure the parties to get this done, to get these hostages home.”
Kaye said that is why raising awareness of the hostages’ plight — now more than 100 days old — is so crucial.
“I just want to add, just really simply,” said Kaye, “I would ask, I would beg people: Please don't look away.”
It is an option they themselves don’t have.
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