A loving father who returned home in time for his daughter’s birthday found all three of his children and his wife missing – kidnapped by Hamas.
Avichai Brodutch, 42, was not at the family kibbutz when terrorists spread out of Gaza on October 7.
When he returned, he discovered that wife Hagar, 40, and her children Yuval, eight, and Uriah, four, were missing along with Ofri – they were due to celebrate her 10th birthday the next day.
Trying not to give up hope, he said her cake remained in the fridge, ready for a rescheduled party when she was finally released.
And knowing that media-savvy Hamas was likely keeping an eye on the international press, he made a direct appeal to his family’s kidnappers via The Sun.
He prayed that it would reach the terrorist group and said, “Please don’t hurt them.
“Take care of her and please let her go.
“You can look into my children’s eyes and know that they are innocent.
“They are just children and have never hurt anyone. You don’t deserve to be in this position.
“When you look into their eyes, I know you know what’s right.
“My wife is a loving and caring person, she has no hatred in her.
“I hope you take good care of her.
“I don’t see how anyone can harm them, and I’m sure you won’t either.
“I hope you take care of her until the day you finally let her go.”
At first, Avichai feared that his family was among the 1,400 murdered because he could not find them on Kibbutz Kfar Aza.
But he later learned that they were among 229 hostages who were kidnapped and returned to Gaza.
He is holding a one-man vigil in front of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, trying to pressure the Israeli government to do as much as possible to bring the hostages back alive.
Desperate relatives have put up hundreds of posters with photos of the hostages.
It is a wall of hope and sorrow.
One snapshot shows a nine-month-old boy named Kfir holding a toy with the words “Kidnapped from his home by Hamas.”
Next to it hangs a poster showing 80-year-old Carmella Dan.
Heartbreakingly, the word “kidnapped” had to be scribbled out with a marker and replaced with “murdered.”
Avichai, who worked as a farmer before training to be a nurse during his mid-life crisis, fought back tears as he looked at the A5 posters of his wife and children on the wall.
He told how he and his wife, the head of their kibbutz, had planned a memorable day for Ofri.
He said: “It was Ofri’s birthday the day after the attacks, but we planned to celebrate with cake on Saturday, the day of the attack.
“The cake is still waiting for her in the fridge.
“She loves to play guitar, so I brought her guitar with me and now I play it and I really miss her.”
Of his youngest Uriah, he bravely joked: “He looks good here, but he usually just makes a lot of noise and breaks things.”
Avichai is particularly afraid for his son Yuval.
He explained: “He’s a really sensitive kid so I’m a bit worried about him – he’s the sensitive type so I hope he’s okay.”
“He loves football and playing on his X-Box.”
The father continued: “I love my wife very much.
“We have known each other for 22 years and she means everything to me.
“Everyone who ever met her always loved her.
“The whole kibbutz misses her and wants her to come back soon.
“She’s strong and I know she’ll pull together for the kids and they’ll take care of her too.” He continued, “I’m on a mission to bring her back.
“I concentrate on it and everyone gives me a lot of strength.
“I miss my wife and children so much and I want them back.”
Also featured on the billboard are Yosi Sharabi, 52, the uncle of Noiya, 16, and Yahel, 13, whose funerals The Sun attended last week after they were murdered along with mother Lianne, 48.
The site, at a major intersection, has become the public focus of the campaign to free the hostages.
Drivers honk as they drive by while volunteers wave signs and tie yellow ribbons to cars’ side mirrors.
Gran Dafna Sheer, 70, said: “I can’t imagine what it must be like for the families.
“That’s the only thing I can think of to help them.”
Some families have criticized the Israeli government for not doing enough to ensure the release of the hostages.
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They also fear their lives are in even greater danger since Israel began increased shelling on Friday evening that has not let up.
But officials insist the welfare of those abducted remains a priority.