‘’All of them came back extremely underweight, which means most of the children and the adults lost between ten to 15% of their weight,’’ said Dr Efrat Bron-Harlev, CEO of the Schneider medical center, the largest chidlren’s hospital in Israel where several children who were released from captivity in Gaza were brought.
She spoke at an online briefing for journalists organized this week by the Europe Israel Press Association (EIPA) and the European Jewish Association (EJA).
‘’Let’s say that a child weighed 20 kg. Some of them lost 15% of those 20 kg. So you can imagine how skinny they got once they lose that much of a weight. They all came very pale. And we know that many of them were at least some periods of time, and some of them most of the time underground. We know what they ate and they ate very little. And it’s unbelievable to hear those hostages saying very difficult things about the people that were holding them, but they would also say: ‘you know, they were not eating a lot as well’. Which is just unbelievable to me to hear a 14 year old child saying after 50 days in captivity saying that other people are not eating as well.’’
‘’The first thing that I saw when the children arrived at the hospital after being brought by helicopter, is shadows of people, people completely turned off, not smiling, having almost no mimics, of course, not laughing, but also not crying, not shouting, being very, very quiet. So imagine this three year old child after this horrific event, not crying, not screaming, not smiling, just very quiet,’’ recounted Dr Harlev, a specialist in pediatrics.
‘’Some of their parents told us that the kids are only whispering,’’ she added.
‘’They had to obey this request not to cry, not to speak, not to stand. Many of the older, the adults or the older children that are usually very strong children, it took them a while to stand on their feet because they hardly stood during these 50 days. So they’re extremely weak. When they get up from a chair, it’s like an old person that it takes them time to get up from the chair because they hardly use their muscles.’’
‘First, let’s say twelve or 24 hours after their arrival at the hospital, they were, as I said, like shadows. And then suddenly you start seeing a child. You start hearing a small laugh. You start seeing them walking around the ward, having a bottle of chocolate milk or something else, and then playing with something. Asking their grandmother to read them a story, sitting by the teddy bear if they’re very young, or just talking to their friends on the phone if they’re older. And you suddenly see them getting back to life. They are receiving a a lot of energy from us, but are actually giving us as well. It’s amazing to hear very innocent stories of those children, even the young ones, of what they’ve had to do or shouldn’t have done. So simple questions like, can I look out the window? Can I open this drawer? Can I step out of the room? And they are asking permission for those things, even though they are in a very safe place.’’