By Mariannette Miller-Meeks
In a kibbutz in southern Israel, there is a community of almost 400 people. It is a close community that knows all too well the dangers of living in a war zone due to its location near Gaza.
But on October 7th, nothing could have prepared the Kibbutz Nir Oz community for the merciless surprise attack by Hamas terrorists. According to reports, 38 people were killed and 75 were abducted.
As we enter the fourth month of the Israel-Hamas War, the number of Israeli and American hostages looms, and Americans remain held captive by Hamas.
Stories like the massacre of Kibbutz Nir Oz are heartbreaking, and earlier this month, I witnessed the ravaged community first-hand as I joined Senator Joni Ernst on the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional Delegation to Egypt, Israel, Qatar, and Bahrain.
Being in the Middle East during this time was important to not only dovetail my work to safeguard Jewish communities here at home through my resolution to establish a commission to combat antisemitism, but it was also essential to go directly to the region and advocate for the Americans that are held captive by Hamas.
While in the region, we heard from family members, released hostages, and we also heard from leaders on the global stage about the escalation of crimes committed by Hamas against women and potential paths toward the immediate release of American — and all — hostages.
In Israel, we met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. We met with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and Intelligence Director Abbas Kamel in Egypt and discussed the crucial role that Egypt plays in the effort to release hostages held by Hamas.
In Qatar, we urged Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani to call for the return of the six American hostages, and our delegation met with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in Bahrain to discuss the US-Bahrain strategic relationship while working to bring hostages home.
We also had an opportunity to visit Iowans stationed in the region to thank them for their service.
Overall, our high-level meetings with leaders in the region were productive, and our tour of the Kibbutz Nir Oz was eye-opening.
This bipartisan and bicameral Congressional Delegation trip made it clear that our efforts abroad are linked to our efforts here in the US. Therefore, I will remain committed to calling for the safe return of all the hostages held by Hamas, and I will continue to work to establish the commission to combat antisemitism and ensure that our Jewish communities in the United States are protected.
Mariannette Miller-Meeks currently represents Iowa’s First District in the United States House of Representatives.