‘My son was shot at the Nova festival and remains a hostage in Gaza’

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‘My son was shot at the Nova festival and remains a hostage in Gaza’

Mother of hostage Eliya Cohen speaks to 120 women at Migdal Ohr event at St John's Wood Shul

Naomi is a freelance features writer

Eliya Cohen (right) and his girlfriend Ziv
Eliya Cohen (right) and his girlfriend Ziv

On Wednesday night Sigal ‘Sigi’ Cohen told a group of 120 women at St John’s Wood shul the harrowing fate of her son Eliya, 26, who has been held hostage in Gaza since the October 7 massacre.

Sigi told the women she discovered Eliya and his girlfriend Ziv had been at the Nova festival and Eliya was injured.

Initially thinking he was safe in an Israeli hospital, Sigi’s world crumbled when a Facebook message revealed a picture showing Eliya in Gaza and she has been “unable to eat, work or sleep since”.

The couple escaped the party, only to face a terrorist attack in a shelter. “Ziv survived by being buried under bodies, playing dead. She heard Eliya cry that he’d been shot.”

The Women’s Hearts United for Israel event, orchestrated by Migdal Ohr UK, was an evening to cultivate love, solidarity and support among Jewish women as well as raise funds for Magen Israel emergency relief.

Executive director Amit Fraser illuminated Migdal Ohr’s crucial role as “Israel’s largest welfare charity, caring every year for 12,000 at-risk orphaned children.”

Sigi Cohen

She emphasised the invaluable contribution of every woman present, highlighting that their dedication fuels Migdal Ohr’s ability to provide comfort and security during challenging times, ultimately bolstering the future of Israel. The crowd was then introduced to Lana Saffrin Betesh, chair of StandWithUs UK and Shiran Ben Ezra from Achinoam Association, who discussed shared values and commitments.

The evening was enhanced by the magnetically warm presence of Israeli-born motivational speaker Michal Oshman – a TEDx luminary, mentor, and best-selling author.

The main event, a challah-making activity, unfolded gracefully, with Israeli flags adorning tables and the necessary ingredients prepped for the occasion. Led by Sarit Vogel, a dynamic pre-marital coach and marriage counsellor, the activity blended Jewish teachings and mysticism with the physical act of challah-making. Sigi made the bracha of hafrashot (separating) challah along with the crowd, as well as prayers for the safe and speedy return of Eliya and the other hostages.

A heartfelt performance by tenor Shimi Goodman, paying tribute to the hostages, was rounded off with the Hatikvah and an uplifting reminder from Sarit that “while our enemies might not realise it yet, the greatest miracle of Chanukah is us. For the Jewish soul is likened to a candle – eternal, unwavering and always illuminating, even in the darkest of times”.

Guests left with laden trays of challah along with goodie bags containing a copy of Michal Oshman’s bestseller What Would you do if you weren’t afraid? plus Shabbat candles to light for Israel, keeping the flame of hope for our hostages flickering.

To contribute to Migdal Ohr’s Magen Israel initiative click here.


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