GThere are exactly 54 days between the worst day of Alon Gat's life and the best day so far. “It was overwhelming,” he says, showing a photo of his beaming little daughter Geffen hugging her mother in a Tel Aviv hospital. The picture is dated November 29th, the seventh and final day of the hostage deal that Israel had recently agreed to with Hamas. More than a hundred women and children who the terrorists kidnapped into the Gaza Strip during their attack on Israel on October 7 were released. Alon's wife, 36-year-old German-Israeli Yarden Roman-Gat, was one of them. “Geffen has her mom back,” Alon whispers, as if he can hardly believe it himself. “54 days in darkness, 54 days in fear of death. But now she’s back with us.”

There is a light in the young man's exhausted eyes as he describes the day of their reunion. The relief when the first blurry photo of his wife was released shortly after she crossed the border into Egypt. The longing wait for the first call after setting foot on Israeli soil. And finally, the almost unbelievable anticipation of the three-year-old Geffen, who was waiting with wide eyes for the helicopter that was supposed to take her mother back home.

They had waited until the last second to tell the little girl about Yarden's return. The fear that something could go wrong was too great. “There were so many emotions,” says Alon as he recounts the moment his wife finally entered the hospital room where the whole family was waiting for her. “She was still Yarden – that strong woman with the big heart,” he says. Then he pauses for a moment before continuing in a quiet voice. “And yet nothing will be as it once was. The time before October 7th will never come back.”

Yarden Roman-Gat welcomes her three-year-old daughter Geffen and her husband Alon after 54 days of captivity in Gaza.

Yarden Roman-Gat welcomes her three-year-old daughter Geffen and her husband Alon after 54 days of captivity in Gaza.

Image: Reuters

Alon talked a lot about that day, the most terrible day in the lives of the Roman-Gat family and thousands of other Israelis. He has spoken about it in interviews with television channels and newspapers, and in meetings with Israeli, German and American politicians. And yet his voice fails again and again when he describes the horror that still stuns him to this day.

“The day that tore our family apart forever”

Together with his sister Carmel, his wife Yarden and little Geffen, Alon went to his parents on Kibbutz Be'eri in the south of the country on the evening before October 7th. The next day his brother Or was also supposed to come. They had planned a big meal, they had been looking forward to it for weeks. Carmel had just returned from a long trip to India, Or from a business trip in the USA, Alon, Yarden and Geffen from a vacation in South Africa. “There was so much we had to tell each other,” says Alon. “It should have been the day when we celebrated a big reunion. And then it was the day that tore our family apart forever.”