Judith Raanan and her daughter, Natalie, had been living a typical American life in the Chicago suburb of Evanston for many years before the unthinkable happened.
Judith, a 59-year-old artist, never missed a Sabbath service at her synagogue. Natalie, 17, had just graduated from Deerfield High School and hoped to work in fashion, interior design or tattooing following her summer and fall travel plans, which included visiting Italy before heading to Israel for the Jewish holidays and her grandmother’s 85th birthday, NBC Chicago reported.
It was there that Judith and Natalie were taken hostage on Oct. 7, when militants stormed kibbutz Nahal Oz where they had been staying with relatives.
The American Israeli citizens were released Friday after a nearly two-week ordeal.
“Thanks for your prayers. They have been released,” Natalie’s stepmother, Paola Raanan, posted on Facebook.
Uri Raanan, Natalie’s father and Judith’s ex-husband, said he briefly spoke to his daughter by phone after their release and she “sounded good, looks very good, and she’s very happy and waiting to come home.” She did not say anything about how they were treated during their time in captivity, he said.
Speaking to reporters in Bannockburn, Illinois, Uri Raanan, 71, said he expected them to return home in time to celebrate Natalie’s birthday Tuesday.
“I told her, ‘I love you and I miss you very much,'” Uri Raanan said.
Loved ones describe Natalie and Judith as kind women who are both talented artists in their own right and always willing to lend a helping hand.
“She would take care of elderly people who were lonely in their house and bring them food, make food for them,” Chavah Rochel Golden, Judith Raanan’s friend, said.
For months before the mother-daughter trip, Judith, who was born in Israel