A suburban Chicago high school has released a statement after a 19-year-old graduate and her mother are believed to be one of more than 150 hostages held by Hamas following weekend attacks in Gaza that have left more than 1,400 Israelis and Palestinians killed.
Natalie Raanan, a 2023 graduate of Deerfield High School, was visiting family in Israel at the time of the weekend attacks, according to a letter sent to the school community by principal Dr. Kathryn Anderson.
“It is with great sadness that I share we have received word that DHS alumna, Natalie Raanan (Class of 2023), who was visiting family in Israel, has been reported missing,” the letter read in part. “Her family fears that she has been taken hostage 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.”
The full statement can be found below:
Dear DHS Community,
It is with great sadness that I share we have received word that DHS alumna, Natalie Raanan (Class of 2023), who was visiting family in Israel, has been reported missing. Her family fears that she has been taken hostage by Hamas. Unfortunately, we have no additional information at this time. We keep Natalie and her family in our hearts, along with all the innocent lives lost, wounded and impacted by the terrorist attack. 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. In light of this, we want to remind you of counseling services 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. Students can access their school counselor by emailing them, scheduling an appointment, or visiting their counselor during drop-in hours. If a student is in crisis or needs immediate support during the school day, that student should visit the counseling center. If the school counselor is not available, we will make sure the student meets with a school mental health professional. If your student contacts you during the school day and reports they are struggling emotionally, please encourage them to go directly to the counseling center. Parents/guardians can also call the general counseling phone (224-632-3040) and request that a counseling staff member meet with your student.
Dr. Kathryn Anderson, Principal
Rabbi Meir Hecht of Chabad in Evanston said Natalie’s mother, Judith, is a “regular attendee” of the congregation.
“She was really excited, telling us for weeks and weeks about this trip with her daughter Natalie,” Hecht said. “She said it right near Gaza. That kibbutz we know was infiltrated by Hamas, pulling people out their doors, murdering viscously and torturing people.”
More than 1,400 Israelis and Palestinians are among the dead in the fighting, which began Saturday when Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers — a group designated by many countries including the U.S., the UK and Canada as a terrorist organization — attacked Israel by air, land and sea.
Monday, President Joe Biden announced that at least 11 Americans have been killed in the country. Biden also believes Americans are among those being held hostage by Hamas.
“It is an outrage, and we will continue to show the world that the American people are unwavering in our resolve to oppose terrorism in all forms,” Biden said in a statement.
Michael Traison, who divides his time between Chicago and the Israeli city of Petah Tikva, said that he’s been told to prepare equipment that will keep him safe for up to 72 hours, gathering everything from first aid kits to water and even cash.
“This is not army against army. These were terrorists who were attacking families,” he said. “This is not just another country. This is a country built on the ashes of humanity’s worst tragedies.”
Tuesday, Jewish and state leaders including Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Rep. Brad Schneider, State Comptroller Susan Mendoza and Jewish United Fund President Lonnie Nasatir will speak at a JUF Israel Solidarity Event open to the public at 10 a.m. Tuesday at North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, at 1185 Sheridan Rd.
“I condemn the horrifying attacks on Israel by Hamas and extend my support for those whose families and loved ones have been killed and injured in this terrorist attack today,” Pritzker said in a tweet Saturday. “In Illinois and across America, the people of Israel are in our prayers.”