Israel-Hamas War

Evanston mother, daughter missing in Israel following Hamas terrorist attacks are alive, rabbi confirms

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An Evanston mother and daughter who went missing in Israel and are presumed to have been taken hostage by Hamas following terrorist attacks by the group last week are alive, family confirmed to Rabbi Meir Hecht.

According to Rabbi Hecht, the Israeli government has made contact with the family of Judith and Natalie Raanan, confirming that they are alive.

Evanston's Jewish community gathered last night to pray for their safe return, as the two were visiting southern Israel when the terrorist attacks began, leaving over 1,300 Israelis dead and spearheading a war between Hamas and Israel.

Hamas, a political and military entity that governs the Gaza Strip, has been designated as a terrorist organization by multiple countries, including the U.S., Canada and the European Union.

Judith and Natalie Raanan were visiting family in southern Israel last week to celebrate Judith's mother's birthday, along with Simchat Torah, a Jewish holiday that began at sunset Friday.

The two have not been heard from since the attacks began Saturday morning and are believed to have been captured and held hostage by Hamas.

"As we know, they were taken hostage by cruel Hamas terrorists," Sarai Cohen, Judith's sister told NBC Chicago.

Natalie, a recent graduate of Deerfield High School, had vacationed to Italy this summer before the trip to Israel with her mother.

"We fear for her. Pray for her. Hope she's with her mom, we're not certain of that," Natalie's father said.

He gave an emotional message to his missing loved ones.

"Judith, Natalie. Keep faith strong. We will welcome you back when the day comes."

The news from family comes on another difficult day Friday, where security was heightened locally and nationwide amid reports of "increased threats of violence."

Notices were sent out this week to parents, members of the Jewish community and residents in the wake of reports of a so-called "day of mobilization" or a "day of anger."

"We are aware of the potential threats to Skokie Synagogues. Our security officers, Wilmette Police, and JUF's security team are not aware of any credible threats," a notice from a school in Wilmette read. "We are on high alert and taking every precaution we can. These are very scary times. The safety of our children and staff are our utmost priority."

Elsewhere in the region, schools and youth centers made scheduling changes, increased security and, in some cases, eliminated outdoor play for children.

"It has been reported to us that there have been threats on social media sites regarding Friday, October 13. We have stayed in constant contact with our local police departments, our security liaisons at JUF and we are staying abreast of all information as it becomes available," a similar notice to parents from a school in Highland Park read.

Friday also marked the occurrence of a contentious Chicago City Council meeting, where the body debated a measure that stood in solidarity with Israel following the attacks and ensuing war amid protests in the chamber that said the measure ignored Palestinians.

The City Council passed the measure on a voice vote, meaning that no official tally was recorded.

As the conflict rages on in the Middle East, one Chicago-based medical group is providing care in 10 different regions and warzones across the globe, including in Gaza right now.

"The medical situation was catastrophic even before this war. Shortage of supplies, doctors, medical equipment, so patients have been suffering," Dr. Zaher Sahloul of MedGlobal told NBC Chicago.

In addition to Gaza, MedGlobal is also currently providing humanitarian assistance in Colombia, Venezuela, Ukraine, Yemen, Syria and Sudan, among other countries.

More information on MedGlobal, including how to donate, can be found here.

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