Oren Rubinstein, whose cousins Shiri and Noga Weiss have been released from Hamas captivity, stands in front of San Francisco City Hall holding a poster he printed in Spanish with information about Mexican nationals who were taken as hostages in the Oct. 7 attack. (Photo/Andrew Esensten)
Oren Rubinstein, whose cousins Shiri and Noga Weiss have been released from Hamas captivity, stands in front of San Francisco City Hall holding a poster he printed in Spanish with information about Mexican nationals who were taken as hostages in the Oct. 7 attack. (Photo/Andrew Esensten)

‘They may heal someday’: Pacifica man’s cousins are among hostages released in Israel-Hamas truce

Shiri and Noga Weiss, the cousins of Pacifica resident Oren Rubinstein, are recovering in Israel after spending 50 days as hostages in Gaza.

Shiri, 53, and daughter Noga, 18, were among the 17 people handed over on Saturday by Hamas — and among the 69 people freed in total since Friday.

“I am still in shock and grateful they were released,” Rubinstein told J. on Monday in a text message from Israel. Rubinstein traveled there last week to visit and support his relatives before he knew they’d be released.

“It’s just the end of the beginning of suffering for Noga and Shiri and our family. The release from the dungeon they were kept in for 50 days is over; they may heal someday. Our family is devastated,” Rubinstein said.

They were among the 30 residents of Kibbutz Be’eri taken hostage on Oct. 7. A total of 240 people were kidnapped that day, and Hamas terrorists massacred 1,200 people in southern Israel and wounded thousands more.

Israel and Hamas agreed on Nov. 21 to a four-day pause in the war tied to the release of hostages and an influx of humanitarian aid into Gaza. As part of the deal, Hamas agreed to release 50 Israeli hostages initially in exchange for 150 Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

Hamas has handed over a total of 69 hostages, including 51 Israelis and 18 foreign nationals, between Friday and Monday in four incredibly tense and sometimes delayed releases. On Monday, the White House confirmed that the cease-fire will be extended two additional days if Hamas continues to release 10 hostages per day.

Rubinstein, who earlier this month spoke at length with J. about the seven members of his extended family who had been killed or taken hostage, flew to Israel last week to spend time with his Israeli relatives. He also planned to offer support and donations to Kibbutz Be’eri survivors, including Maayan and Meytal Weiss, Shiri’s older daughters.

The whereabouts of husband and father Ilan Weiss, 56, remain unknown. He is considered missing because his body has not been found, but there are also no eyewitness accounts or video footage of him being taken hostage. Hamas has not provided any list of hostages and would not allow the Red Cross to see them.

“Can you imagine, after getting out of that hole and hell, it is now October 8 for them? They didn’t know who lived, who died and what happened. They didn’t even know who else was taken hostage. They thought they could be executed when they were taken out of that hell hole. The idea of a joyous reunion at home is a story that makes people feel good, but the reality is that joy is a small part of what everyone here is experiencing,” Rubinstein told J.

Another Weiss cousin, Adam Baker of West Bloomfield Township, Michigan, spoke to CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday morning.

“They’re traumatized. They’re not ready to speak to anyone,” Baker told CNN.

He said trauma specialists were with his two cousins and likely had been informing them about their father and the scope of the Oct. 7 attack on Kibbutz Be’eri. In addition to the 30 taken hostage, more than 120 people were killed at Be’eri. The kibbutz had about 1,200 residents before Oct. 7 and was one of the places hit hardest by Hamas.

The lack of information about what happened to Ilan is devastating, Baker said.

“That is worse than an open wound,” he told CNN.

The Weiss family’s losses are steep.

Ilan’s half-brother, Amir Weiss, and Amir’s wife, Mati, both 69, were killed on Oct. 7. Shiri’s brother Gil Buyum, who was 55 and a member of Kibbutz Be’eri’ security team, was killed, as was his son, 22-year-old Inbar Buyum.

A Hamas video released online and shared on Israeli news broadcasts on Saturday showed Shiri and Noga, as well as other hostages, being handed over to the  International Committee of the Red Cross in the darkness of night, as armed and masked Hamas terrorists walked beside them.

“Physically, outwardly, Shiri and Noga seem fine,” Baker told CNN, based on information he received from other cousins. “Whether or not they were subject to brutalities, we don’t know.”

Emma Goss
Emma Goss

Emma Goss is a J. staff writer. She is a Bay Area native and an alum of Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School and Kehillah Jewish High School. Emma also reports for NBC Bay Area. Follow her on Twitter @EmmaAudreyGoss.