Open Book
Light Bulb

girls I met in the tunnels

rape is not resistance … liberators do not hold hostages

I was in a dark and damp tunnel deep underground when, in hushed voices, I heard the stories from the young women. Not stories so much as bits and pieces of living nightmares.

Seventeen-year-old Agam Goldstein-Almog witnessed Hamas murder her father and sister. Then she was taken to Gaza.

I was with my mother, who did everything she could to keep me alive while in captivity. Together with my two young brothers, we had been taken from our home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 7, but not before Hamas terrorists shot my father, Nadav, point blank, and afterward my older sister, Yam, the bullet tearing through her face.

Their blood spattered everywhere. We stepped over my father’s dying body as the terrorists screamed at us, took us out of our home, and drove us into Gaza. I never got to say goodbye.

We were moved a lot during our confinement, transferred through a series of homes, apartments, tunnels, and even a mosque in Gaza. Our captors were cruel. The fear was paralyzing. I remember saying to my mom, “They’re going to torture me. They’re going to rape me.”

In the tunnels I met other women. Most of them were just a year or so older than me. Some with bloody gunshot wounds in makeshift bandages. One had a dismembered limb.

I heard from them accounts of grotesque sexual abuse, often at gunpoint. They told me that when they were sad and cried, their captors took advantage of their helplessness even more, shoving and grabbing intimate parts of their bodies.

My mother hugged them. They ached for their mothers. They feared for their lives. They begged us to meet with their families if we were released. “Tell them you saw us, but don’t tell them everything. Save their souls from the ghastly details.” They pleaded, “Don’t let the world forget us.”

The women I met in captivity are strong, resilient. And despite everything they’ve been through—evil that no human being should witness—they still grasped on to hope. But when I left them, that hope had started to dwindle.

Living in captivity you live death. The days and nights all blend into one, with thoughts of death rattling your soul. Will I die quickly? Or will it be a long, maddening abuse?

I don’t know if the women in the tunnels are still together. I can still see the look in their eyes. What more have they endured? Are they still being abused? Are they alive?

November 26 I was released with my mother and brothers, after 51 days in captivity. I am forever changed. On October 7, I saw evil I never thought existed. My family was destroyed; a murdered father, murdered sister, 51 days in the hands of terrorists—those are not things a 17-year-old knows how to cope with.

I cannot begin to live my life again until we bring home our sisters and brothers. I cannot breathe freely knowing that they are still there. I am only a teenage girl. But I beg the world to listen to my cry: save them. ~