Hundreds Mark 'Saddest Birthday,' a Hostage's First

Israeli family knows little about the condition of Kfir Bibas
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 18, 2024 5:25 PM CST
Hundreds Mark First Birthday of Hamas Hostage
Demonstrators in Tel Aviv hold orange balloons at a rally in solidarity with Kfir Bibas, an Israeli boy who spent his first birthday Thursday in Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip.   (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Between 9 and 12 months old, babies learn to stand, say their first word, maybe take their first steps. As the family members of Kfir Bibas, the youngest Israeli held hostage in Gaza, celebrated his first birthday without him, they wondered which, if any, of the typical milestones they missed during those three months of his life, the AP reports. "They're supposed to see a lot of colors, but instead he's seeing just darkness," said Yosi Shnaider, a cousin. "He's supposed to be learning to walk, but he has nowhere to do it. He's supposed to be able to hold a spoon for the first time, he's supposed to be tasting so many different foods for the first time."

Kfir, his brother Ariel, and parents Shiri and Yarden Bibas were kidnapped Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked Israel. On Thursday in Tel Aviv, hundreds of people gathered for what Shnaider called "the saddest birthday in the world." Kfir has been in captivity for a quarter of his life. The infant with red hair and a toothless smile has become a symbol across Israel for the helplessness and anger over the 136 hostages still in captivity in Gaza. On Thursday, many people wore orange, a color inspired by Kfir and Ariel's hair. They marked Kfir's first year with performances by Israeli children's music stars, who wrote a song in his honor, and released orange balloons inscribed with birthday wishes.

Kfir was the youngest of about 30 children taken hostage. Under a weeklong temporary cease-fire in November, Hamas released 105 foreign workers, women, children, and teens, but Shiri Bibas and her sons were not among them. Yarden Bibas, who was taken captive separately, appears in photos to have been wounded during the abduction. Little is known about the conditions of his wife and children, per the AP. Since video emerged shortly after the attack showing the brothers swaddled in a blanket around their terrified mother with gunmen surrounding her, orange has come to represent the family across Israel. Shnaider thinks about the birthday party they could have had this week, out on the grass of the kibbutz, with balloons on all the trees. "I wish we were having balloons of every color and not just orange," Shnaider said. "I can't even look at this color orange anymore."

(More Israel-Hamas war stories.)

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