For 96 days now, Eitan Gonen has been in constant agony as he waits, and waits, for his beautiful, effervescent, 23-year-old daughter, Romi, to be freed from Hamas captivity. Last Saturday, we dropped a podcast episode focusing on our conversation with Romi’s mother, Meirav Leshem Gonen. Previously married to Eitan, the couple has five children together, ranging in age from 16 to 30. Romi, her father likes to say, is the sandwich. Right in the middle. Like Meirav, Eitan was on the phone with Romi for much of the time – four and a half interminable hours – when she and her best friend, Gaia, tried desperately to escape the Hamas savages on October 7th. At one point, Eitan told Romi to try to get to Be’eri, unaware that the kibbutz was overrun with terrorists who totally destroyed the community. Ultimately, Romi was captured and as far as the family knows is alive with a seriously wounded hand and kept in the tunnels. Eitan shares his fears, hopes and refusal to despair. This baring of their darkest moments in life by Romi’s father and mother is extraordinary and the two podcasts really should be listened to as companion narratives of a family navigating the unimaginable. A testament to life, love and hope. Eitan tells us about the restaurant in Tel Aviv where Romi works as a waitress. It’s called “Chez Vivie” and a table has been set on the patio for Romi, with her photo, waiting for her return. We all wait for Romi’s return, along with all 139 hostages still in Hamas hell.
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