A 17-year-old girl, who is a recent Deerfield High School graduate, and her mother are both reportedly still alive after being taken hostage by Hamas while visiting family in Israel.
Deerfield High School Principal Dr. Kathryn Anderson sent a letter to the school community on Monday.
Anderson said it was in “great sadness” to share that Deerfield High School alumna Natalie Raanan, who graduated just months ago, was reported missing.
Natalie Raanan, 17, and her mother, Judith Raanan, who are both Evanston residents, went to Israel to visit family.
The two were taken hostage by the Hamas militant group following its attack on Israel over the weekend.
In a social media post published early Sunday morning, the father of Natalie Raanan announced his daughter and her mother had been captured by Hamas.
“We keep Natalie and her family in our hearts, along with all the innocent lives lost, wounded and impacted by the terrorist attack,” Anderson said.
Natalie, who is almost 18, and Judith were last heard from Saturday afternoon. The two were in Nahal Oz, which is near Gaza.
“Sadly, we know that many students and families have been impacted by the tragic events in Israel. We come together as a school community to support each other during this difficult time,” Anderson said in the letter.
A vigil was held Thursday evening in Evanston for Judith and Natalie.
Sarai Cohen, Judith’s sister, said her sister and niece were visiting to celebrate their mother’s 85th birthday and to spend time with family during the Jewish holidays.
The family said the Israeli government confirmed Judith and Natalie were taken hostage.
Avi Zamir, Judith’s brother, told the Chicago Sun-Times that the mother and daughter are alive but their condition was not known.
“We hope they are well, and we hope they are together,” Zamir told the Sun-Times. “We are just praying for their well-being and pray for them to have courage,” he added.
U.S. President Joe Biden said that he spoke Friday morning with family members of Americans who are still unaccounted for following the attack in Israel.
“I assured them of my personal commitment to do everything possible to return them to their families. We won’t stop until they’re home,” Biden said.
The Deerfield High School principal said counseling services are available to all students when they require additional support.
“While our counselor team works with students on academic and post-high school planning, school counselors are also trained mental health professionals who are here to support students with their social-emotional needs,” Anderson said.