Israeli hostages in Gaza: Tamar Gutman, the firecracker

The family of Adva Gutman Tirosh (now 38) moved to the idyllic rural moshav (cooperative farmers’ village) of Kfar Bin Nun when Adva was three years old. A drive along the quiet, lush, green streets, dotted with beautifully designed houses, each home to an integral component of this warm community, reveals that it is the perfect environment in which to raise a family.

Life was simple for the two Gutman daughters, Adva and her sister Ella (now 35), who would run and play throughout the close-knit community, and were thrilled when their baby sister Tamar burst into their lives like a firecracker. With an age gap of 8 and 11 years between them and Tamar, Adva and Ella felt that Tamar (27) was really their baby.

“My sister and I would always play with her, dress her up, do her hair, dance with her,” Adva recalled, reminiscing together with her sisters and parents in their pastoral home in Kfar Bin Nun, “We would take her and [our youngest sister] Netta out in the rain in the winter, wearing our bathing suits and rain boots, and jumping in the mud. This was our childhood growing up on the moshav.”

This was the childhood that any mother would want for her children, and Yaira Gutman could not have imagined a more perfect place to raise her four daughters.

Today, the atmosphere of the Gutman family’s home has taken a dramatic turn, and the personal safety that the Gutmans had so fondly remembered from their childhood has dissipated.

DRASTIC TURN: (L to R) Ella; Netta; mother Yaira; father Dudi (holding Ella’s baby boy); Adva. (credit: CHEN SCHIMMEL)

Tamar’s face shines from posters displayed around the moshav, playfully sticking out her tongue through her bright smile, representative of her dominant, fun-loving personality, a bleak reminder of the darkness that has emerged in the month since her disappearance from the Supernova festival on October 7.

“She grew up so happy and content, and even as the older girls grew up, got married, and moved out, Tamar would always be the one to keep us together.”

Maybe sometimes a little too much, as Adva added she was a bit of a nudnik [pest].

“Yeah, she would call every two days because she had stomach pains.” Adva and her mother had even joked that if someone kidnapped her on the side of the road, they’d only last half an hour before returning her to her parents and paying them a ransom.

Despite her outward smile and playful attitude, Tamar has suffered for years from debilitating Crohn’s disease, often calling her mother or sisters to come pick her up from work or from friends’ when her stomach pains became too much to bear.

“It was important for her to be out, travel, and see friends, but every night she needed to come home,” Adva explained, cracking a smile, even though it often fell to her to drive across the country to pick up her beloved sister.

“Once we understood that it was truly difficult for her, we would go to pick her up. It wasn’t because we would coddle her, it was the opposite. Tamar would make the effort and try to get out [of the house], and instead of her simply not leaving, we would go to get her.”

In recent years, Tamar struggled to overcome these challenges, even braving an overnight camping trip once or twice a year with her friends. She is the only one of her sisters to have moved out of the moshav, living on her own in a neighboring community, surrounded by several close childhood friends.

While she has spent many years in and out of surgery and long hospitalizations, she possesses true inner strength – and a big personality, despite her petite stature. She continued to work full time before the pandemic, pushing through her pain, but was forced to leave her job and return home for health concerns.

Against all adversity, Tamar ventured to live on her own after the height of the pandemic, recently starting her second year as a law student, much to her family’s surprise.

“She really succeeded, even with a surgery in the middle [of the school year], and she finished her first year,” Yaira said. They all understood that for Tamar to succeed as a lawyer, she would have to overcome the challenges she faced working full time.

“We saw how she was enjoying her life and her understanding that she can take care of herself.”

Overcoming sickness, only to meet a tragic fate at the hands of Hamas

WITH A new outlook on life and a whole world in front of her, Tamar mustered immense inner strength to commit to attending the Supernova festival with her best friends. Yaira was understandably shocked when Tamar announced her plans, noting that only Adva would be home, studying for medical exams, so she would have nobody to pick her up if she needed help. Determined and undeterred, she bravely told her mother, “Don’t worry. This time, I will manage on my own.”

Yaira shared how excited and happy she was that her daughter would go do something normal with other young people, how her sisters and father were proud of her for overcoming another personal obstacle and challenging herself. She has been so optimistic and upbeat in recent months, and to see her blossoming into a more independent woman was a sign of good things to come.

Remembering last minute that the night before the festival was the eve of Simchat Torah, Tamar insisted on celebrating the holiday by having dinner with her father, Dudi, who was home alone, as Yaira was abroad.

“It was just the two of us, and we ordered Tamar’s favorite meal, sushi. We ate a lot of sushi,” Dudi remembered fondly.

“It was a typical dinner with Tamar. She just kept talking while I listened, with her jokes and humor, and then she went to see Adva, and that was it. It was just a regular meal.”

Tamar stopped briefly at her sister’s to gather some camping supplies, the last time anyone would see her, before heading down to the festival with her four best friends. Yaira was on a cruise, and Netta, had just landed in Boston to spend a year traveling in the United States.

Neither had any idea of the horror that was unfolding at home.

When alarms started blaring across Israel at 6:30 a.m., Adva’s first instinct was to check on her sister. In a reversal of roles, it was Tamar who reassured her older sister that everything was fine, that they were with the police, but that the roads were blocked. Around 7:30 a.m., Adva received a final message from Tamar, telling her that she would update them as she headed home.

WITH TWO of Tamar’s friends confirmed killed in the massacre, Adva frantically searched for Tamar through the hospital network, finding no sign of her sister. With their options quickly thinning and receiving no additional information from Israeli authorities, the only saving grace was to assume that she was among the more than 230 hostages abducted by Hamas.

As the weeks passed with no news, it was that hope that kept them going, worrying whether she had access to her much-needed healthcare and if her abductors were providing her with food she could eat. But for Tamar’s family, like so many others, that hope is quickly fading each day.

As the sounds of rockets echoed in the valley surrounding their peaceful home, Adva, at this point numbed to the ongoing war taking place over their heads, stated clearly: “The world made us a promise 75 years ago: Never again. The world needs to understand that this is the time to stand by that [promise]. They are demonstrating that when Jewish blood is spilled, it’s okay. When thousands of Jews are murdered in their homes, it’s okay to say ‘but…’ I didn’t hear anyone say after 9/11, ‘Oh, they destroyed the Twin Towers, but…’ or after the terror attacks in Paris in 2015.

“Why is our blood any different? Why whenever they talk about us, it’s different? The Western world leaders have been very supportive, but you see what’s happening in the streets… To say ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine must be free’ is to call for genocide.”

AS FRIENDS and family continued to support the Gutman family through their most trying ordeal, they maintained their position that their daughter would soon be returned to them.

However, as new evidence from body camera footage from the October 7 massacre surfaces, Tamar’s family has surrendered to their greatest fear that they have kept subdued for weeks – that Tamar was among those who were massacred at Supernova. Her body has not been found, and they cannot bury her, mourn her, or grieve.

The fading hope that the Gutmans kept alive for weeks, and the grave conclusion to which they have surrendered, echo the looming dread of so many other families, who continue to find the courage to get through each day, hoping their loved ones will still return to them. 

The Jerusalem Post and OneFamily are working together to help support the victims of the Hamas massacre and the soldiers of Israel who have been drafted to ensure that it never happens again.

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