Screenshot from “Disaster,” an 80-second film from animator Yoni Goodman.
Screenshot from “Disaster,” an 80-second film from animator Yoni Goodman.

The story of a mother whose sons were taken hostage by Hamas is now an animated film

This story was originally published in the Forward. Click here to get the Forward’s free email newsletters delivered to your inbox.

Now, more than ever, it’s tempting to look away. It’s never been more crucial not to.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and Israel’s retaliation, the torrent of images from southern kibbutzim and from the rubble in Gaza has been overwhelming.

On Oct. 23, the Israeli government screened an over 40-minute compilation of massacres for the international press. CNN recently toured a makeshift morgue, where identifying mutilated bodies is an ongoing struggle. At the same time, footage of the besieged Gaza Strip, of buildings leveled and body bags are spreading on social media along with a cascade of slogans and calls to action.

In the middle of the noise and propaganda, something easier to watch, and no less affecting, has cut through: an animation about two children taken hostage by Hamas.

“Disaster,” an 80-second film from animator Yoni Goodman, came together when Renana Gome, whose children were abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz, reached out to Goodman, a regular collaborator of filmmaker Ari Folman who provided the art direction for the animated documentary “Waltz with Bashir” and “Where is Anne Frank.”

The short, drawn in a simple evocative style, is narrated by Gome and shows masked members of Hamas leading the boys away from home, where Gome hopes they are with other kidnapped children so they aren’t alone.

By eschewing violent imagery and focusing on one family’s story, Goodman’s film is a less agenda-driven entry in the war to win public opinion, and it appears to have developed organically from a mother’s request.

Though the video doesn’t address the situation faced by Gazan civilians, a great many of them also children, his note on the YouTube video expresses hope that “all the hostages will return and that the fighting will end at last, and that we may find a way to live at peace.” (A past Goodman short, “Closed Zone,” was made to address the daily struggle of civilians in Gaza navigating closed borders.)

This isn’t the first animated short to come from the Israeli side — the country debuted a Shira Haas-narrated video, where wolves attack and abduct a bear cub to call attention to kidnapped children. Its message was disrupted as it was decried by many online for appearing to liken Palestinians to animals, even though it seemed to just be depicting Hamas terrorists.

In contrast, Goodman’s short offers a poignant, artfully told story that, while sure to be labeled manipulative by some, returns the emphasis to specific innocent victims and hopes for a development that should be uncontroversial: bringing the hostages home and ending the bloodshed.

This article was originally published in the Forward.

PJ Grisar
PJ Grisar

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture reporter. He can be reached at [email protected].