Cindy Flash, US advocate for Palestinian rights detained by Hamas

By Esther Muhozi
On 12 October 2023 at 12:40

In Shefayim Kibbutz, Israel, a distressing story unfolded as Cindy Flash, an American, and her Israeli husband, Igal, seemingly disappeared amidst the chaos, believed to have been abducted by Hamas. In the wake of Hamas’ attack on Israel, over 100 Israelis, along with numerous foreign nationals, are feared to be held captive in the Gaza Strip. This situation has already claimed the lives of at least 14 U.S. citizens, with several more unaccounted for.

Cindy Flash, aged 67 and originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, resides in Kfar Aza, a kibbutz located in southern Israel, near Gaza. It’s in this region that some of the most heart-wrenching and grim accounts have emerged in recent days.

According to media reports, the final messages from Cindy included distressing pleas to her daughter, Keren, 34, as she detailed the imminent breach of their safe room by assailants. Keren was in touch with her parents from a neighboring house.

Describing her mother as someone with an exceptionally compassionate and caring nature, Keren, who works at a local college, spoke of Cindy’s lifelong dedication to advocating for Palestinian rights, including those living in Gaza – the very place where she might currently be held captive. Cindy had emigrated to Israel many years ago after falling in love with the kibbutz system during her college visit.

Cindy and Igal’s home in Kfar Aza was situated right next to the Gaza security fence, which Hamas militants breached during their attack on Israel by land, sea, and air. The couple had recently renovated their home, necessitating a temporary move away from the kibbutz. Despite their proximity to Gaza, the family had always felt secure and appreciated the lush surroundings, tranquility, and strong sense of community in their area.

The Flash family had anticipated a different Saturday, planning a family picnic and an afternoon of kite-flying on the local soccer field as part of a yearly community event. However, their day took a tragic turn as they woke up to alarms and the sounds of explosions around 6:30 a.m.

Keren and her husband, Avidor Schwartzman, along with their 1-year-old baby, Saar, took shelter in a reinforced room. Simultaneously, Cindy and Igal secured themselves in their own safe room. The sounds of explosions soon transitioned into the rattle of automatic gunfire as Hamas militants encircled Kfar Aza, going house to house in search of people.

Keren and her family were eventually rescued by Israeli security services. They lost contact with numerous individuals in various WhatsApp groups during the ordeal, hearing reports of injuries and then sudden silence.

Disturbingly, Israeli media reported that the bodies of 40 children and babies were discovered in Kfar Aza, with some having been beheaded. An IDF spokesperson described Kfar Aza as a "massacre," although declined to comment on the beheadings. The death toll from the Hamas attack in Israel has now exceeded 1,200.

Despite the lack of information from both U.S. and Israeli authorities about her parents’ whereabouts, Keren remains hopeful and anxious for any news, her heart sinking each time someone contacts them with no new information.