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Evansville couple celebrating release of elderly family member by Hamas

Evansville couple celebrates the release of family member by Hamas

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Evansville couple is celebrating the release of their elderly Aunt by Hamas after she was held captive for three weeks.

Mark Vyvoda and his wife Tory Schendel-Vyvoda were surprised when they got the word that Mark’s 83-year-old Aunt Yocheved Lifschitz, known as Yochke, was released and is well after all that time in captivity.

“It was very shocking,” said Mark Vyvoda.

Vyvoda said the family did not know where his Aunt was taken for some time, but now know she was being held in Gaza.

“There were militant terrorists that barged into their homes and extracted them from their safe zones,” Vyvoda said. “And they were beaten, beaten with sticks.”

Unfortunately, it is not all good news. Yochke was taken hostage, alongside her 85-year-old husband Oded. He was not one of the two prisoners released by Hamas.

“I was stricken with extreme joy with our international family when the news came, but also there is this devastation that is still occurring,” said Vyvoda.

“To have that news come through was a great shock in a good way, but also strange because now you have to reverse mourn the process, which is good,” said Schendel-Vyvoda.

The Vyvodas said Oded and Yochke had health concerns and they didn’t think they would survive.

“We also know that they were treated humanely,” Vyvoda said. “They were given food and they were given medication when they needed it. At least for the two that had been released.”

Oded and Yochke were peace activists in the Nir Oz kibbutz and they worked with many Palestinian people to bring them to Israel for medical care.

“Yochke and Oded were part of the original founding members of the Kibbutz Nir Oz and what that means is they actually worked with Palestinians to buy that land legally and have transactions,” said Schendel-Vyvoda.

Schendel-Vyvoda said she hopes for an end to this violence soon.

“Don’t lose sight of humanity. Don’t lose sight of the dignity and respect that everyone deserves,” Schendel-Vyvoda said. “The issues are complex and the history is complex, but the senseless murdering is not. We don’t understand it and we won’t understand it.”

Mark and Tory said their family members plan to use this platform to continue to advocate for peace in the region.