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regular-article-logo Thursday, 29 February 2024

Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger meets hostage families, lends support

Declaring himself 'a big friend of the Jewish people and Israel', Schwarzenegger said he wanted to amplify the message of not abandoning those who remain captive

Reuters Santa Monica, California Published 03.12.23, 07:11 AM
Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Holocaust Museum in Beverly Hills

Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Holocaust Museum in Beverly Hills Reuters file picture

Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday met relatives of three people seized by Hamas in Israel and now held in Gaza, lending his celebrity to support those whose loved ones are still unaccounted for following the October 7 attack.

Schwarzenegger gave bronze eagle sculptures to his visitors at a video production company in Santa Monica, just west of Los Angeles. In turn, they presented Schwarzenegger with “Bring Them Home” dog tags.

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Declaring himself “a big friend of the Jewish people and Israel”, Schwarzenegger said he wanted to amplify the message of not abandoning those who remain captive.

Israel says Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, took 240 hostages in the October 7 attack that also killed 1,200 people and set off a Middle East war.

During a seven-day pause in fighting that ended on Friday, officials said 110 hostages — 86 Israelis and 24 foreigners — were released in exchange for Palestinian detainees, while the bodies of two hostages were recovered by Israeli troops.

“This is where I come in because when you’re a celebrity, then you have a certain kind of a power to communicate to the mass because you have a lot of cameras show up,” said Schwarzenegger, the former champion bodybuilder and Hollywood screen star whose show business career was interrupted by his time as governor from 2003 to 2011.

Among those meeting the Terminator star was Bar Rudaeff, 27, whose father Lior Rudaeff, 61, was taken from the Kibbutz Nir Yitzchak. He said Schwarzenegger was one of his father’s favourite actors.

“I remember watching a Terminator movie with him in the living room. And I know that when he comes back, it will put a smile on his face,” Rudaeff said.

Schwarzenegger also met Jacob Bohbot, 36, whose brother Elkana Bohbot, 34, was taken from the Nova music festival in Israel near the border with Gaza, and with Ella Shani, 14, whose cousin Amit Shani, 16, was kidnapped in the attack on Kibbutz Be’eri, taken to the Gaza Strip, and released on Wednesday. Ella’s father, Itzik Kozin, was killed in the kibbutz attack.

The meeting was arranged by the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem.

No Christmas tree

There will be no Christmas tree in Bethlehem this year as the traditional site of Jesus’ birth holds pared-down celebrations “without the fanfare and without too many lights” in the shadow of the Gaza war.

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