Coffee and a ‘never-ending hug’ at return of mother abducted by Hamas

After 53 days in captivity, Ada Sagi was looking forward to the simplest of liberties: picking her own clothing after taking a warm shower, having her glasses back and enjoying a cup of coffee with her son.

Noam Sagi, who campaigned tirelessly for his 75-year-old mother’s release, was able to give her a “never-ending hug” on Tuesday after she was freed on the fifth day of the truce.

“It was an amazing, amazing moment,” Noam said. “It was a huge relief. It was amazing to feel her skin, her breath and her pulse, and to feel that this is real.”

Ada, a retired Hebrew and Arabic teacher, was abducted from the Nir Oz kibbutz by Hamas gunmen on 7 October. Her home of 54 years was left bloodied, pockmarked with bullet holes and littered with spent casings.

Noam, a British-Israeli psychotherapist who grew up on the kibbutz before moving to London 22 years ago, had feared she was injured.

“In terms of her physical condition, I’m pleased that she’s better than we thought she would be,” he said. “Of course, she’s been through a huge turmoil and trauma, but she’s very sharp. I’m very pleased that she’s now in good hands and they can take care of all her medical needs.”

Ada, a recently widowed mother of three and grandmother of six, has been keen to speak to her family about what she endured.

Ada Sagi in an ambulance
Ada Sagi in an ambulance after her release. Photograph: Abir Sultan/EPA

Noam, 53, does not want to divulge too much about her time in captivity but said: “Seven people took her out from her home and dragged her on a motorbike and got her into Gaza and this is where the ordeal basically started. It was traumatic, it was violent, it was unpleasant. It was a brutal, inhumane experience. That was the lead-up to the next 53 days.”

He said Ada’s captors took away her clothing, jewellery and glasses, leaving her unable to see well. She was given a new set of clothing, which she wore until her release. Noam said his mother, who is being monitored in hospital, was looking forward to having agency over her own life again.

“She wants to go to the toilet without permission, that’s the first thing, just to have a shower and decide what to wear and have her glasses back,” he said.

“People worked all night last night just to make sure she had new glasses. It’s not easy to manufacture multifocal glasses within the space of three hours but people did it and came all the way here and gave it to her and said, ‘No charge, here it is for you.’ It’s amazing.

“I visited her early morning with the best cup of coffee and we shared a good coffee together – it wasn’t the coffee itself, it was having a cup of coffee with her son.”

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Noam said his mother drew strength during her ordeal by thinking about being reunited with her family. “She had a very strong mindset, she was very positive, and she always believed that this moment would come,” he said.

Noam said his mother was not yet aware of the scale of the horrors that were unleashed on what some in Israel now refer to as “Black Saturday”. “She will need to cope with the reality that the kibbutz is gone, the community is dispersed, and a lot of her friends are not with us any more. So there is quite a lot to deal with, but I think the most important part is that we can feel her, she’s here, and we can build from here.”

Noam, who thanked the British people for supporting his family during his mother’s abduction, is continuing to campaign for the release of the remaining hostages as the truce in Gaza draws to an end on Wednesday.

He said: “We are talking because we had a great moment of elation and happiness personally, but I think my main message is that we have to bring the rest of hostages home without any delay. We don’t have the luxury to wait.”