Romina cannot hold back her tears when she talks about her two nieces, her sister Karina, 51, and her husband. They are all missing. The four members of the family lived in the Niz Or kibbutz, near the Gaza Strip, and two weeks after the Hamas assault against this and other Jewish communities, no one in Israel has confirmed to the family if they are on the list of those 200 hostages captured by the Islamist group. Romina wants to believe that they are still alive, kidnapped somewhere in Gaza City, and this belief is what gives her the strength to endure the hardest blow that life has given her. «We are experiencing a very difficult and very ugly situation. I hope that my sister is strong and that she continues fighting as she knows how, like we all fight here so that they can get out, because we are going to get out of this. We are strong”.
Romina worked in the nursery of the same kibbutz where her sister lived. On Saturday, October 7 at 6:30 in the morning the sirens sounded and the neighbors went into the shelters. Some were killed there by Hamas terrorists, others received the coup de grace in their bedrooms and There were people whose house was burned to force them to leave. That morning members of the Engelbert family contacted each other by phone. «Whenever the alarms go off we call each other to know that everything is fine. Karina told me they were fine. But then I didn’t hear from her again.”
Romina was saved from the massacre because it was a Saturday and a holiday, so she stayed at her house, 30 minutes from the kibbutz, where the Hamas members also arrived with their thirst for revenge; In fact, they passed by her home and finally entered another neighborhood where they kidnapped neighbors whom the Israeli police were able to save hours later.
He describes his sister as a strong and enthusiastic person. «Karina is 51 years old, she just got out of cancer, she fought like a lioness to get out and now she is fighting to save her life, that of her daughters and that of her husband. She already misses the hugs of her nieces: “The daughters are sweet, the little one always waited for me at the bus stop to give me a kiss before going to school.”
The entire family, with the father and four siblings including Romina, comes from the province of Córdoba, in Argentina. They all settled in Israel in 1989, where they built their home, created bonds and raised their children protected by an environment that they define as “a paradise.” It refers to the kibbutz, agrarian communities in which brotherhood and the joy of life reign among their inhabitants. «Living there was like living in paradise, a very green place with trees, with kids running around playing ball, dancing and singing.». Now it’s “hell,” he laments.
On the darkest day in Israel’s recent history, Romina also lost her “wonderful” daycare children and several good friends. Some were killed and others fell into the hands of Hamas as hostages. «There are two twin girls from the garden kidnapped, with their parents. And a friend with two red-haired babies, who were seen in photos on television. And every so often I receive another message about someone who is missing or dead. He says he doesn’t want to hear the news. In his environment they provide him with information in dribs and drabs so as not to increase his anxiety: “We couldn’t imagine that something like this could happen, I can’t imagine what happened. “I feel like I’m in a nightmare from which I can’t wake up,” he says between sobs.
Israelis are drawing strength from all sides to confront an unprecedented trauma in a country that had learned to repel the hatred and missiles of Hamas. «My father is trying to be strong for everyone, for himself and also for the family in Argentina. “We have no other option.”