A Berkeley-born Israeli hostage hadn't been seen since Oct. 7. His family finally glimpses him

Nearly seven months into the Israel-Hamas war, Hamas released a video Wednesday of California-born hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin. It is the first time the American Israeli citizen, who was severely injured when Hamas attacked the Nova music festival on Oct. 7, has been shown alive since his capture.

In the video, the 23-year-old is missing his left hand and part of his arm — evidence of the attacks he endured in October when Hamas assailants lobbed grenades into a shelter where he and his friends had sought refuge.

Goldberg-Polin, who was born in Berkeley, begins the heavily-edited, nearly three-minute video identifying himself by name.

Sitting in a chair against a blank wall, he urges the Israeli government to immediately bring him and other hostages home before addressing his parents and two younger sisters, Leebie and Orly.

“I love you so much and miss you so much and I think about you every day,” Goldberg-Polin told his family, noting that he knew they were doing their best to bring him home. “I want you to stay strong for me and not stop until we all return home in peace.”

Goldberg-Polin’s parents expressed relief Wednesday to hear their son’s voice for the first time since Oct. 7.

Dressed in dark T-shirts marked with tape that read “201” — a reference to the number of days their son has been held in captivity — they said in a videotaped statement they were overwhelmed to see Hersh alive, but concerned about his health and well-being.

“We're here today with a plea to all of the leaders of the parties who have been in negotiating to date,” said his father, Jonathan Polin, naming Qatar, Egypt, the United States, Hamas and Israel. “Be brave, lean in, seize this moment and get a deal done to reunite all of us with our loved ones and end the suffering in this region.”

His mother, Rachel Goldberg, addressed her son directly: “If you can hear us, I'm telling you, we are telling you: ‘We love you. Stay strong, survive.'”

Read more: This Israeli couple's son is in enemy hands. They're determined to get him back

Hamas has issued similar hostage videos — a tactic that Israel and various human rights groups condemn as “psychological warfare” because hostages appear and make statements under duress.

In a statement, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said that the Goldberg-Polin family had given permission for the video to be shared after its release by Hamas.

“Hersh's cry is the collective cry of all the hostages — their time is rapidly running out,” the forum said in a statement. “With each passing day, the fear of losing more innocent lives grows stronger. We cannot afford to waste any more time; the hostages must be the top priority.”

With more than 133 hostages still held captive by Hamas, the forum said, “this distressing video serves as an urgent call to take swift and decisive action to resolve this horrific humanitarian crisis.”

It is not clear when the video was filmed, but Goldberg-Polin wished his family a happy holiday, a likely reference to the Jewish Passover.

In the video, Goldberg-Polin said he went to the Nova festival near the Kibbutz Re’im on Oct. 7 seeking entertainment with friends.

“Instead, I found myself struggling to survive with serious injuries all over my body," he said. “Nevertheless, I took it upon myself to protect myself and the people who were afraid around me because there was no one to protect us that day.”

Goldberg-Polin was 8 when his family moved to Israel from Richmond, Va.

His mother, Rachel Goldberg, last saw him the evening of Oct. 6, when he left a family dinner celebrating the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah to meet his best friend.

Shortly after 8 a.m. the next morning, his mother received two text messages. The first said "I love you." The second: "I’m sorry."

During the attack, Goldberg-Polin took refuge with friends in a bomb shelter that Hamas assailants targeted with grenades. His left arm was blown off from the elbow down.

A video Anderson Cooper later shared with his parents showed him accompanied by Hamas and covered in blood, heaving himself up onto the back of a pickup truck. His left arm was wrapped in a tourniquet.

In the video shared by Hamas on Wednesday, Goldberg-Polin blamed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli officials for allowing him and other hostages to languish for 200 days.

Pointing at the camera, he said: “Benjamin Netanyahu and his government should be ashamed of yourselves because you neglected us along with thousands of other citizens.”

“At a time when you are holding lunches with your families, think of us detainees in underground hell without water, food or sun; without the treatment I need for so long,” he said. "Do what is expected of you and bring us home immediately.”

After killing about 1,200 people in southern Israel on Oct. 7, Hamas captured around 250 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

Since Goldberg-Polin was captured, his mother has campaigned tirelessly for his release, meeting President Biden and the pope and traveling to New York and Geneva to address the United Nations.

Earlier this month, Goldberg was listed among Time's list of 100 most influential people of 2024, with the magazine citing her advocacy on behalf of the "the families pressing relentlessly for the release of their loved ones — the only human beings who have experienced the wrath of both sides in the Gaza War."

"People don't seem to be able to hold two truths,” Goldberg told Time. “People feel that you either can be worried about the innocent civilians in Gaza, or you can be worried about the 133 hostages. The truth is the 133 hostages are also some of the civilians who are innocent in Gaza."

She added: "Of the thousands and thousands and thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza, I know one of them. Really well.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.