Israel-Hamas War

‘I kept calling as if she'd answer the phone;' Chicago residents worry for family, friends in Israel, Gaza

U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday condemned the attack by Hamas, calling it an act of “pure unadulterated evil"

NBC Universal, Inc.

As Israel continues to step up its offensive on the Gaza Strip in response to an unprecedented attack by Hamas, many Chicago-area residents are praying for the safety of their family and friends in Israel and Gaza as the fighting, which has left more than 2,000 people dead, is expected to escalate.

At least 14 Americans have been killed in the Israel-Hamas war, President Joe Biden said Tuesday, and as many as 20 others are missing or believed to be held hostage by Hamas, a group designated a terrorist organization by multiple countries including the U.S., the UK and Canada.

"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, a close friend of Evanston resident Judith Raanan, who with her 19-year-old daughter are believed to be held hostage by Hamas.

"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."

Coates said Judith was in a small town in southern Israel with her daughter, Natalie, 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," Coates said. "I kept calling as if she’d answer the phone. Of course she didn’t answer her phone."

Coates added that Judith hasn't been active on the messaging app, WhatsApp, since Friday morning.

In a Facebook post, the Evanston synagogue Judith attends wrote, "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."

The Israel-Hamas war has also led to destruction and loss of life in Gaza.

"Her and her family, husband, father-in-law, two brothers-in-law and kids. The home was bombed, they all passed away," Chicago police officer Mohammed Darabaih told NBC Chicago, of his cousin's home in Gaza.

Among the family's survivors are 2-year-old twins, who are now orphans. The oldest daughter is just 6 years old, with family hoping to track down any loved ones who may have survived, Darabaih said.

"They're growing to grow up without both their parents, immediate parents and grandparents. They lost them all," Darabaih said.

Speaking at an Israel solidarity event in Glencoe Tuesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker pledged his support, and that of the state, to the country as the attacks by Hamas continue.

“Each step of the way, they should know, and the people of Israel should all know, that America and Illinois unequivocally stands with them in their battle to end the ongoing Hamas attacks,” he said.

During his remarks, Pritzker drew distinctions between Hamas and the Palestinian civilians who live in Gaza.

“There are many peace-loving Palestinians, and we must honor them,” he said. "But Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist organization, an army of murderers backed by Iran. Their mask has been removed, executing innocent children and the elderly. There’s a special kind of hell for that.”  

Wednesday afternoon, the Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine is expected to hold a rally in downtown Chicago.

Contact Us