Living a peaceful life in the quaint suburb of Evanston, Chicago, Judith Raanan, a 59-year-old devoted artist, and her ambitious daughter Natalie, 17, had their lives abruptly turned upside down on a fateful day during their visit to Israel.

Judith, a woman of faith, was a regular at her local synagogue every Sabbath, while Natalie, a recent graduate from Deerfield High School, harbored dreams of carving a niche for herself in the worlds of fashion, interior design, or tattoo artistry. Their plans for the year were filled with promise, including a summer and fall voyage that would take them to the heart of Italy before heading to Israel to celebrate family ties and heritage.

Their journey led them to the serene kibbutz Nahal Oz in Israel, where they planned to reconnect with relatives, celebrate the Jewish holidays, and mark the 85th birthday of Natalie’s grandmother. However, on October 7, their safe haven was disrupted when terrorists stormed the kibbutz, taking them hostage.

IDF Reports Two Hostages Released by Hamas

The nightmare lasted nearly two weeks before their eventual release on a Friday that brought tears of joy to their loved ones back in the States. Natalie’s stepmother, Paola Raanan, took to Facebook to share the joyous news, thanking everyone for their prayers.

Uri Raanan, Natalie’s father and Judith’s former spouse, was a bundle of mixed emotions when he briefly talked to his daughter post-release. His words encapsulated relief as he mentioned how Natalie “sounded good” and was “very happy and waiting to come home,” although no details were shared about their treatment during captivity.

Back in Bannockburn, Illinois, amidst a crowd of well-wishers and reporters, Uri hoped for a heartfelt reunion on Natalie’s upcoming birthday on Tuesday. Those close to Judith and Natalie describe them as kind-hearted and creative souls. Judith’s friend, Chavah Rochel Golden, reminisces about how Judith would look after the elderly in her community. Rabbi Meir Hecht from Evanston Chabad shared how much Judith, a native Israeli, was looking forward to the trip, which was a testament to her deep-rooted love for her culture and family ties.

While Judith’s spirituality found expression in her community service and synagogue attendance, Natalie, born in Chicago but raised in Israel for a significant part of her life, aspired to blend creativity and wanderlust, seeking a career that resonated with her artistic inclinations.