U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.) hosted Israeli families of hostages abducted by Hamas terrorists and members of the Israeli Knesset, including Speaker Amir Ohana, for a bipartisan press conference to discuss the urgent need to bring hostages home.
“We stand here united– across party lines, across countries – for one cause: bring our hostages home,” said Senator Ernst. “For 124 days, Hamas has held innocent Israelis and American citizens captive. These families live in agony every day – uncertain if their loved ones are dead or alive. We must do everything we can to bring them home. Every second counts.”
“The purpose of this delegation is to show the world and to show America that we are united, unlike what Hamas intended,” said Speaker of the Israeli Knesset Amir Ohana. “We are united for three main goals. Number one is returning the hostages to their families as soon as possible. Number two is very clear: total unmitigated defeat to Hamas, and we cannot stop before that happens. And number three is to strengthen and deepen the relations between America and Israel even further. On this we are all united.”
“I think that the first step to be with us is to close your eyes and to think about your loved ones being in a dark tunnel without air, without food, without water,” said Tzvi Mor, father of Eitan Mor. “It’s very, very difficult for us to think about our son, our hero son, that rescue dozens of people at the Nova Festival sitting there in the tunnels without food and water and with these animals of Hamas. We know that you are with us all the time in your hearts and your prays, and we came to ask you to keep stand with Israel.”
“The last sentence of the American anthem is, ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave,’ and Romi is the bravest person I know. 124 days in a tunnel. And she must be free,” said Eitan Gonen, father of Romi Gonen.
“Now time is really, really critical. Every minute of every day, every day of every week, every week of every month. There can’t be another month. They will slowly be dying… Almost every parent in the shopping center or on the beach, or whatever, has lost their child for a minute. Do you remember that panic? Where the hell are they? You go nuts. Where are they? Screaming, shouting frantically. Now multiply that by all this time. That’s unimaginable, and that’s unbearable. Please help us get them back now. Bring them home,” said Thomas Hand, father of Emily Hand, who was returned after being held by Hamas for 50 days.
Watch the full press conference here.
In the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks on Israel by Iran-backed Hamas, Ernst met with the hostage families in Israel and has remained in close contact with them.
In October 2023, Ernst led a bipartisan group of her colleagues urging President Biden to focus his full attention on freeing American hostages taken by Hamas. In December, Ernst led a bipartisan letter calling on President Joe Biden to leverage the U.S. diplomatic relationship with Qatar to secure the immediate release of the remaining hostages.
In January, she returned from leading a bipartisan, bicameral delegation to Egypt, Israel, Qatar, and Bahrain solely focused on securing the immediate release of American hostages and continues her work to bring them home.