Two months after her father and dozens of members of her community were murdered by Hamas, Ela Shani Kozin is channeling her grief into action.
The 14-year-old, who survived the terror organization’s attack on Kibbutz Be’eri in Israel on Oct. 7, was honored at TheWrap’s 2023 Changemakers event Monday night ahead of Tuesday’s Power Women Summit. During her speech, Kozin called for the release of the remaining 150 hostages still captive in Gaza.
“Never again is unfortunately now,” Kozin said, recounting the 11-hour-ordeal that began on the early morning of Oct. 7. The teenager, her mother, younger brother and brother’s friend hid in a safe room after being awoken by the sounds of explosions. Kozin’s family sat in darkness as Hamas terrorists tried to break in five times. During the attack, Kozin tried texting her father Itzik repeatedly. She learned five days later that he had been shot and his body set on fire.
“I really hope he did not have to suffer the terrible pain of being burned alive,” she reflected. “Because he wasn’t burned in his house. I was there. There was blood on the wall and on the door and the floor. But there was no fire. He was dragged out of his house and burned somewhere else. I don’t want to know what happened to him. I hope he was already dead. And I never got to call him dad. I never got to tell him I love him.”
Kozin estimates that 100 people in her tight-knit community of 1200 lost their lives that day. She went into more graphic detail about the horror and atrocities she saw firsthand and ended with a reminder that there are still many families who do not know the fate of their loved ones.
“We should remember and not forget, but I’m here to talk about the hostages. There are about 150 families who don’t know where their loved ones are. And you remember the horrific things I told you these people did? They are the ones in charge of our loved ones,” Kozin said.
“They kidnapped a Muslim woman,” Kozin added, reiterating the fact that the hostages come from multiple religions and nationalities. “And then people say Israel doesn’t value human life when we fight every day to bring that woman back? And I’m here to say bring her back now, along with all the others. We don’t care who they are. They kidnapped her. And people outside of Israel say they don’t care about her because she’s Muslim. I care about her. And I talk to people, all Israelis, they talk about caring about her. It doesn’t matter if you’re Muslim, Christian or Jew.”
Kozin was recently reunited with her cousin Amit Shani, who was kidnapped by Hamas during the attack and turned 16 during captivity. “Five days ago, he came back to Israel. As you can see, I still can’t stop smiling,” she said. “We waited for him for so long. That’s the reason I’m here still. If it was up to me, I’d [be] now in Israel with him in Tel Aviv, squeezing him and not letting him breathe. Because it’s been two months since I last saw him and I missed him so much. But there are 150 more families who are still [there], and that’s why I’m here tonight.”
You can watch Kozin’s complete Changemakers speech above, and learn more about efforts to bring home the hostages at Bring Them Home Now.
For all of TheWrap’s Power Women Summit coverage, click here.