Israel-Hamas War

Vigil held in Evanston for mother, daughter missing in Israel following Hamas terrorist attacks

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A vigil led by Evanston's Jewish community was held on Thursday night to pray for the safe return of Judith and Natalie Raanan, who have gone missing in the wake of Hamas terrorist attacks in southern Israel on Saturday that left over 1,300 Israelis dead and spearheaded a war between the organization 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."

Earlier on Thursday evening, an American Jewish group held an event near Chicago's Belmont Harbor to pray for the lives lost in the war.

The organization, IfNotNow, publicly recited the Mourner's Kaddish, a Jewish prayer, for both Israelis and Palestinians killed in the war. The group sang prayers for peace and read the names of those who have lost their lives.

Organizers at the event called for peace while denouncing the apartheid policies they say led to this moment.

"We do have families in Israel, many loved ones in Palestine, and at the same time we have to realize these deaths are being leveraged to increase violence to Gaza," Aaron Niederman of IfNotNow said.

Niederman said his group was calling for de-escalation in the conflict and for water and electricity to be restored to Gaza, calling for an end to "indiscriminate bombing."

"This is an incredibly divisive time, and one thing I admire of these organizers is the ability to hold these multiple truths. To recognize the pain that so many are going through and to take it a step further, to say ‘we as Americans do have the ability to create change, advocate for de-escalation and then for things not to go back to status quo," Niederman said.

Over 1,300 Israelis and over 1,500 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank have died since Hamas' attacks began on Saturday.

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