Burned house in south / Dr. Hagar Mizrahi
Burned house in south / Dr. Hagar MizrahiYaniv Nadav/Flash90 / Israel National News - Arutz Sheva

The head of the medical division at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Hagar Mizrahi, tells in an interview with Israel National News - Arutz Sheva about the complex process she is leading to analyze the medical condition of the hostages held captive by Hamas.

"This is a complex and difficult process, but we, the members of the committee, consider it highly important," she says and adds that a few weeks ago, the army submitted a request to collect medical information about the condition of the hostages, which would be given to their families.

In order to reach conclusions regarding the medical condition of the hostages, the members of the committee watched the excruciating videos. "The process of convening the committee was relatively simple because both Dr. Chen Kugel, director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, and Prof. Ofer Marin, director of Shaare Zedek, immediately stepped up, and the three of us sit in each of the discussions, watching videos that were broadcast by Hamas on social networks as well as recordings from different cameras, such as security cameras from the kibbutzim, and we analyze the videos to know where the injuries are."

The careful frame-by-frame viewing of the videos is difficult for the members of the committee: Even though these are three doctors who have been exposed to harsh scenes in the past, it was not at this level, says Dr. Mizrahi. "Personally, I chose not to watch these torturous videos, understanding that they are difficult and may impair my ability to function as required. At the same time, we stepped up for this important task and we constantly consider the families’ wellbeing as of utmost importance."

"We want to give the families true and accurate information at a professional level, based on those videos. We watched each one more than once, analyzed, enlarged the images, saw where the injuries were, looked for anything that would help us confirm signs of life, whether it's eyelid movements, breathing movements, self-defense movements, and only in those cases where all the members of the committee, without exception, determined that there were no signs of life, we were had to determine that that person was not among the living."

Dr. Mizrahi further adds and points out that in some cases the members of the committee used the testimonies of the hostages who were freed in order to reach a conclusion. The information that they brought with them was in addition to the information that the committee accumulated and was helpful to them.

"It is important to note that we took a very expansive and open-minded approach and in addition, similar to the process that has been happening in the army for many years, we added the importance of including rabbis, especially when there is a need to prevent agunot (married women who do not know if their husband has died or not - ed.), the matters were brought to the attention of rabbis led by the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, who viewed the materials, received explanations, discussed data with other rabbis and made decisions that correlate and are completely consistent with our decisions," says Dr. Mizrahi, stating that the rabbis were involved in all discussions regarding civilians. The chief military rabbi and his staff were responsible for reaching conclusive decisions about the soldiers.

A difficult part of the task is notifying the families who want to hold on to every sliver of hope. This procedure, says Dr. Mizrachi, is carried out by teams of military personnel who are in contact with the families. "There is no doubt that this is a difficult and complex stage for the families, there is no doubt that they are entitled to receive a full explanation, and when they ask for it, they receive it. Some families even asked for and viewed the investigative materials. Explanations are given in full transparency by the army, while doctors are present to help deal with the emotional aspects, as this is undoubtedly bitter news to hear. We tried to do our best for the benefit of the families, believing that living in doubt is difficult and it is important for these families to know the status of their loved ones."

Another challenge that Dr. Mizrahi faces is meeting the hostages who were released, and she tells how the State welcomed the each returned hostage with a big embrace. "Each of the involved parties did their best in the given situation. The hospitals were well prepared and provided a medical, psychological, loving and warm response to what the families wanted and what the hostages requested, all done with extraordinary effort."

"The relationship with the community was built already in the first stages at the hospital, because this relationship is going to last the longest. We contacted social and welfare authorities, social security, nurses at the HMOs, etc. The nurses received the list and a nurse was appointed to accompany each returned hostage and their family in providing a quick response to all existing medical needs. We continue to follow up the process to make sure that they are taken care of and that everyone gets what they deserve. We will be here for them for many years, through the health insurance funds with medical, mental and psychosocial care given with great love and dedication."

Naturally, Dr. Mizrahi does not elaborate on the situation of the freed hostages, and from us, the people of Israel, she asks for "great patience towards these families. Do not overload, give them the time they need. In many places they are wrapped in immense love, and it is important that they do not feel suffocated. I know that the intentions are pure and good, but we need to give them their time and privacy," she says, emphasizing that the media's responsibility in this aspect is, "not to cause them unnecessary mental burdens."