The couple Liat Beinin and Aviv Atzili were kidnapped from kibbutz Nir Oz in Southern Israel during the Hamas rampage on Oct. 7. Liat is an American citizen descended from Holocaust survivors, and her family has been fighting for her and her husband’s release ever since. Liat’s father, Yehuda Beinin, grew up in the U.S. and then emigrated to kibbutz Shomrat in Israel’s north, where he still lives. Her sister, Tal Beinin, left Israel years ago, in part to escape the rockets shooting out of Gaza, and now lives in the U.S.
The family — including Netta Atzili, Tal’s nephew, who also survived the Hamas attack by holding closed the door of a safe room — has now been thrust into a public world of high-stakes hostage diplomacy even while they deal with unimaginable personal grief and uncertainty. Yehuda and Tal first spoke to me in late October, about three weeks after the Hamas attack, following a Zoom call with President Joe Biden and a lobbying trip to Washington that included meetings with senators and Vice President Kamala Harris. Despite the paralysis on the Hill at the time — the House was still speakerless with a potential government shutdown looming — Yehuda told me he’d never been so proud to be an American citizen and contrasted what he described as a compassionate and focused U.S. response to the hostage crisis with that of his own government. Israel’s approach to the hostages he called “lame, beyond lame” — the government seemed slow to start trying getting the hostages back and now is content to rely on American help.