We at least have a confirmed sighting of Berkeley native Hersh Goldberg-Polin still alive after being taken hostage by Hamas in Israel, as CNN’s Anderson Cooper realized he had video footage of Goldberg-Polin in captivity while he was interviewing the hostage’s parents.
In the wake of the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, which has brought so much more bloodshed since, we had early word that one of the more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas was Berkeley native Hersh Goldberg-Polin. The 23-year-old Goldberg-Polin, who was born in Berkeley but moved to Israel when he was seven years old, was attending the music festival at the Israel-Gaza border that was attacked by Hamas.
According to messages his parents received, Goldberg-Polin had his arm blown off attempting to throw a grenade back at the attackers. But the last those parents had heard from him were WhatsApp messages saying “I love you,” and “I’m sorry” on that fateful Saturday morning.
Those parents, Rachel Goldberg and Jon Polin, have been talking to the media throughout the ordeal. In one of their interviews with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Cooper actually realized that he’d acquired video of Goldberg-Polin after the attack, and had it on his phone. The parents agreed that they wanted that video to be public, and we’ve embedded it below.
(Note: The video is graphic and disturbing. Goldberg-Polin’s left hand and a portion of his arm are blown off as he’s placed into the back of a truck by armed gunmen. Another wounded hostage is dragged by their hair, among other depictions of cruel treatment by the captors.)
The CNN anchor Cooper describes realizing he had the proof-of-life video while he was interviewing the parents. “When we showed a picture, this picture of Hersh, I realized I actually had seen their son, and had a video of their son on my phone,” Cooper explains in the segment above. “It had been shown to me by a soldier. We recorded it off his phone, I had permission to do so.”
Cooper says he did not want to shock them by revealing this during their interview. “So I called Rachel and Jon immediately (after the interview) and I sent them the video. And it was their son Hersh,” he says.
This is not confirmation that Goldberg-Polin is still alive at the moment. But it does prove that he survived that attack, and was taken hostage. So there’s a good chance he’s still alive, though obviously, with a brutal arm injury that would pose medical risks to his ongoing survival.
And in a separate interview with ABC News, the parents say they were inspired to see that Goldberg-Polin had survived, and the fashion in which he did so.
“Knowing that he spent an hour to an hour and a half being subjected to this massacre, and that he then gets up with an arm freshly blown off, and walks on his own two feet, under his own strength, towards this truck, and uses his weak hand — his only hand now — to pull himself onto the truck while bloodied, but looking sort of composed," Polin told that network. "It gives me a sense of, he's got a perseverance and a fortitude that we hope carries him through this."
And Goldberg acknowledges they don't know if their son survived. "Many times a day you stop and say (to yourself), 'Did he die five days ago? Did he die this morning?,'" Goldberg told ABC News. "We live in a parallel universe to other people now."
Despite the emotional agony they’re going through, the parents are still calling for more humanitarian aid to Gaza. Polin told ABC News "we should all be screaming" for more humanitarian aid to the region.
According to the latest updates from ABC News, four hostages have been released, and at least 218 remain in captivity.
Image: @MightyOakTree2 via Twitter