A Deerfield High School graduate, who just turned 18, has arrived back home in the United States after she and her mother were taken hostage by Hamas last month.
Yinam Cohen, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, confirmed on Monday that Natalie Raanan had returned to Chicago.
“Her family members have been anxiously waiting for her return, and today I am sharing their happiness,” Cohen said.
Cohen said 239 hostages, including babies, children, women, and the elderly, are still being held by Hamas in Gaza.
“This week, family members of those still held hostage by Hamas will be in Chicago to share their stories and call for their immediate release,” Cohen added.
Natalie Raanan, 18, and her mother, Judith Raanan, 59, went to Israel to visit family last month.
They were taken hostage by Hamas following its attack on Israel on October 7.
Judith and Natalie, who are Evanston residents, were in Nahal Oz, which is near Gaza.
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.
Judith and Natalie were the first hostages to be released by Hamas. Their release was announced by Hamas on October 20.
“In response to Qatari efforts, Al-Qassam Brigades released two American citizens (a mother and her daughter) for humanitarian reasons,” the militant group said in a statement.
Hamas said they also released the two to “prove to the American people and the world that the claims made by Biden and his fascist administration are false and baseless.”
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said in a statement that he was “incredibly relieved” that the mother and daughter were released.
“In what was supposed to be a visit to their loving family in Israel, they were violently abducted by a terrorist organization,” Pritzker said.
“I cannot wait to welcome them back home after demonstrating immense strength and bravery in the face of unthinkable terror. We must continue to advocate and pray for the safe return of those still held by Hamas,” Pritzker added.
The governor said the two were receiving necessary medical treatment. Natalie is a recent graduate of Deerfield High School, according to the school’s principal.
U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Judith and Natalie following their release. The president said he let them know that “their government will fully support them as they recover and heal.”
“Jill and I will continue holding close in our hearts all the families of unaccounted for Americans,” Biden said.
Judith Raanan did not return to the United States alongside her daughter. She remains in Israel.