Israel-Hamas War

Community reacts as Evanston mom, daughter presumably held hostage by Hamas

Friends are hopeful for the pair's safe return

NBC Universal, Inc.

At least 14 Americans have been killed in the Israel-Hamas war, according to President Joe Biden, and others are being held by the militant group, designated as a terrorist organization by multiple countries including the United States.

An Evanston mother and daughter are believed to be among the hostages.

"It's one thing to hear about the news, what’s happening collectively, but to know an individual makes it so personal," said Ahuvah Coates.

Coates is a close friend of Yehudit Bat Tamar, also known as Judith Raanan. The two are part of a religious women's support group. They had been communicating just days before Raanan's disappearance.

"I love Israel. I love the south. I’m in the kibbutz close to my mom," Judith said in a voice note to Coates. "Nothing like Israel my love, just nothing."

According to Coates, Judith was in a small town in southern Israel with her daughter, Natalie. The two were visiting Judith's aging mother before their presumed capture. The trip had been long been planned to celebrate her 50th birthday, along with Natalie's recent graduation from Deerfield High School.

"This was supposed to be something healing and filled with good energy and family connecting," said Coates.

Judith hasn't been active on the messaging app, What's App, since Friday morning.

"I kept calling as if she’d answer the phone. Of course she didn’t answer her phone," said Coates.

Judith and Natalie are feared to have been captured by Hamas. Judith's synagogue in Evanston shared the news on Facebook.

In a post writing, "Please pray and do an extra mitzvah for all the wounded and captured, and for our dear Chabad of Evanston congregant Yehudit Bat Tamar and her daughter Natalie bat Yehudit, who apparently have been abducted from Nachal Oz, Israel."

Another friend, Leah Kustiner, couldn't believe what she saw.

"I felt like fainting," she said. "I read it and lost my breath."

Kustiner describes Judith as warm, loving, and a woman of God.

"Judith is a beautiful shining soul. She’s strong on the inside and full of love," said Kustiner.

Kustiner is holding onto hope she'll be reunited with her friend soon. She's been communicating with Judith's mother over WhatsApp.

Translating a message from Hebrew, Kustiner says, "everyone is praying for her. Nobody even officially informed them that they were abducted, that they’re missing. But, they know."

"She's such a strong person. We’re going to have the same strength here," said Kustiner.

"I’m confident I’m going to see her again," said Coates.

Contact Us