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With Mitzvahs and Prayers, Jewish Communities Celebrate Hostage Rescue

When 70-year-old Louis Har and 60-year-old Fernando Simon Marman were rescued in a daring joint operation involving the IDF and Israeli police and intelligence, Jewish communities everywhere celebrated their homecoming. The hostages, who were abducted from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7, had been held for 127 days in Gaza. 

As Har and Marman’s family members celebrate the return of their beloved relatives, they are joined by the communities who prayed with them, cried with them, and stood by their side throughout the months of uncertainty and crisis.

During the attacks on October 7, five people were kidnapped by Hamas from one room in Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak: Louis Har, Clara Marman, her siblings Fernando Marman and Gabriela Leimberg, and Gabriela’s daughter Mia.

One month after the kidnapping, two of Louis’ daughters, Rinat Har Sheleg and Natali Har Afgan, were in New York to raise awareness for the plight of their father and the other hostages. They contacted Chabad of the Five Towns on Long Island. Would the Chabad representatives, Chanie Wolowik and her husband, Rabbi Zalman, accompany them to the Ohel—the Rebbe’s resting place—to pray for their family in captivity? 

“Our community has gone to the Ohel to pray for them every day since then,” Chanie Wolowik told Lubavitch.com. “We have a group coordinated by local women from the Five Towns who go every day to the Ohel to pray in a rotation. We pray for all the hostages and for Israel.” 

Then, the first miracle.

On November 28, Gabriela, Mia, and Clara were released by the terrorists. Louis and Fernando, however, languished in captivity. 

In early January, Chabad of the Five Towns led an Israel Solidarity mission, and Wolowik invited the entire family—including those who’d been recently freed from captivity—to come and celebrate Shabbat with the Five Towns community in the Old City of Jerusalem.

“That Friday evening was the first time Clara and Karin ever lit Shabbat candles,” Wolowik said. “We said the Shehecheyanu prayer, thanking G-d for allowing us to live to this moment.”

Natali and her husband Tom Afgan later traveled to Florida to continue raising awareness of their plight. On Chanie Wolowik’s suggestion, they visited The Shul of Bal Harbour in Surfside. Chabad representative Chana Lipskar invited them to address the Shabbat class she leads for women of the community. 

After Tom and Natali spoke about her father Louis, Mrs. Lipskar challenged her audience. 

“A tremendous change has happened in the Jewish world,” she told the 100 women gathered. “And each of us has to be willing to do more.” The women each resolved to commit to a mitzvah.

Natali pledged to light Shabbat candles each week. Lipskar then asked if Tom would agree to put tefillin on every day in the merit of his father-in-law. Tom agreed. 

Natali, feeling confident that the multitude of prayers would be answered by her father’s safe return, then asked Mrs. Lipskar for a second pair of tefillin, “so that when my father comes home, he will also be able to put them on each day” 

The IDF’s bold operation to rescue Louis and Fernando made world news. At the Chabad Centers on Long Island, in Surfside, in Israel and around the world—joy erupted, with great thanksgiving, while prayers continue for the return of the remaining hostages.

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