Thursday, January 18, marks “the saddest birthday in the world,” as redheaded Kfir Bibas turns one-year-old while being held captive in Gaza, said Jimmy Miller, first cousin to Kfir’s mother, Shiri Bibas.
- The only celebrations taking place will be without the birthday boy, who, along with his 4-year-old brother Ariel, and their parents, Shiri and Yarden, has been held hostage by Hamas in Gaza since they were all abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7.
The extended Bibas family and supporters are to gather at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv at 3 p.m. on Thursday, where they will be joined by major Israeli children’s entertainers to help bring attention to the ongoing trauma of the Bibas abduction.
- Other entertainers, along with Miller and several Bibas relatives, have recorded a song about Kfir, “They Call Me Gingi,” the Hebrew term for a redhead, released for his first birthday.
- The Kibbutz Nir Oz community on Tuesday put together a typical daycare birthday party, complete with an arch of orange balloons and a cake — all without baby Kfir, his Batman-loving brother Ariel, and their parents.
- Instead, the Bibas family and friends posted photos of the birthday party to social media to remind the world that Kfir, Ariel, Shiri and Yarden were brutally taken hostage from their home by Hamas, during the terror group’s rampage across communities near the Gaza border on October 7, in which around 1,200 people were slaughtered and some 240 abducted.
The world is now familiar with the Hamas video that captured Shiri’s look of sheer terror as she gripped her two boys close to her chest.
- Yarden was taken separately and apparently hit on the head with a hammer en route to Gaza.
None of the Bibas family members were freed during a weeklong truce at the end of November, when other hostage mothers and children were set free. At the time, Hamas claimed that Shiri, Ariel and Kfir were being held by another terrorist organization.
It later said they had been killed in an Israeli airstrike.
Released hostage Nili Margalit, who spent nearly 50 days in Hamas captivity, revealed that she was with Yarden Bibas when Hamas terrorists told him his wife and two young children had been killed and ordered him to film a video in which he blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for refusing to bring their bodies back to Israel.
The IDF has said that the claims made by Hamas regarding the Bibas family have not been verified, and described them as “psychological terror.”
A state of shock
With Kfir Bibas marking the first year of his life while in captivity in Gaza, the wider family is in a state of shock and inertia, said Miller.
- “We’re like robots now,” Miller told The Times of Israel on Wednesday. “We’re doing whatever we can to move things because we see things are not moving. We waited and waited and waited and we’ve met with everyone, with actors, famous people, thinkers, and they all hug us and listen to the story with empathy but we don’t feel that anyone’s doing anything.”
Miller and Shiri Bibas are first cousins; their mothers are sisters.
Her mother and father, Margit Shnaider Silberman and José Luis (Yossi) Silberman, both in their 60s and residents of Nir Oz, were murdered by Hamas gunmen on October 7.
The red hair of the Bibas boys comes from Shiri’s father, said Miller. “It skipped a generation” and landed squarely on the heads of Ariel and Kfir.
- Miller, who lives in Tel Aviv, last saw his cousin on the Shavuot festival, at the end of May, at the kibbutz, where there’s always “a major celebration” for the harvest festival, he said. “That was the last time I saw them.”
He and their other first cousin, Yosi Shnaider, who lives nearby in Holon, went together to Nir Oz.
“We always go,” said Shnaider, whose father is brother to Miller’s mother and Bibas’s mother. “It’s very celebratory and pretty on Shavuot.”
Since October 7, Miller and Shnaider have become two of the familiar faces in the battle to bring home the Bibas family and the rest of the 136 hostages still held captive in Gaza.
Miller is onstage every Saturday night at Hostages Square and during other rallies, usually in an orange shirt symbolizing his young cousins’ bright hair, along with two other family friends, often leading shouts of “Achshav,” (Now!), in response to the call, “Bring Them Home!”
The immediate family, Shiri and Yarden’s siblings, along with Yarden’s parents, have less energy to stand and shout onstage, said Miller.
- “I yell, I bring it all, but we’re at such a problematic stage,” he said.
- “They have to come to a deal [for the release of the hostages]. It’s what they have to do; they have to save those souls.”
At the start of this past week, in a speech as the Hostages and Missing Families Forum marked 100 days of the hostages’ captivity with a 24-hour rally at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, Ofri Bibas, sister of Yarden, yelled at the government, “Did you give up on them?”
- “You don’t have a mandate to give up on them,” she charged.
- “Your obligation is to bring them home. They’re dying in captivity. 136 coffins is not a victory. Listen to the public.”
No one is doing enough, said Miller. People are empathetic, but it doesn’t seem to help.
“They invite us everywhere, to England, to Brazil, to Argentina, to Germany,” he said. “They hear the story, they really identify with it, but then they go drink their cup of coffee.”
Shnaider said he asks himself every day why they keep shouting and talking.
- “Then I tell myself that it’s not the time to hold hands and sing songs,” he said.
- “It’s time to yell and demand to bring them back. The issue is that no one really hears. We’re telling their story into the air. It’s very complicated.”
“The person who holds the joystick is the one who decides,” said Miller, referring to Netanyahu.
- “We’re in the 103rd day of fighting,” said Miller. “Except for one soldier” — referring to Ori Megidish, rescued in late October — “who figured things out and sent her location, we haven’t succeeded at all in rescuing any hostages. Every day we’re losing people. The hostages will not survive if there is no deal.”
- “Kfir and Ariel aren’t enemies of Hamas,” he added. “The world is creating a legal precedent that allows the abduction of babies from their land, from their homes.”