Update: On Nov. 13, Israeli officials confirmed Vivian Silver had been killed by Hamas militants in Kibbutz Be’eri on Oct. 7.
The last time that family and friends of Vivian Silver heard from the 74-year-old Canadian peace activist in Israel was around Saturday at 11 a.m. local time. She had been sending text messages about rockets and gunfire outside of her home in Kibbutz Be’eri, near the border with Gaza, since early that morning. Ms. Silver was hiding in her safe room, corresponding through a messaging app, and describing in harrowing detail as militants entered her home.
Yonatan Zeigen, Ms. Silver’s youngest son, was speaking with his mother by phone when he quickly realized the violence was intensifying on the streets outside her home.
“I heard shots right outside the window. So we decided it’s better not to speak, so they don’t know she’s there,” said Mr. Zeigen, who lives in Tel Aviv with his family.
“We wrote messages up to the point she told me they were inside the house. And that was it.”
Ms. Silver’s final message to her friend Ariella Giniger was eerily similar: “‘They’re coming in. I’m hiding behind the door of the closet,’” Ms. Giniger said, adding that Ms. Silver said she was shaking as she wrote the message.
“And that’s it, I didn’t hear any more from her,” said Ms. Giniger, who also lives in Israel. Ms. Giniger was at a women’s march alongside Ms. Silver in Jerusalem just five days earlier, she said.
Another friend from Israel, Avital Brown, said Ms. Silver messaged her on Saturday morning. “‘I hear them coming. I don’t know what will happen,’” she said, citing her friend’s text.
“I hope so much that we will meet again,” Ms. Brown said.
Ms. Silver, who was born in Winnipeg and has lived in Israel since 1974, has been cited by former federal cabinet minister Irwin Cotler as being held captive by Hamas after the weekend attack on Israel. The Canadian government said Sunday it is investigating reports a Canadian has been killed in the conflict and two were being held captive. The family and friends of Montreal’s Alexandre Look confirmed on Monday that he was killed in Saturday’s attack.
Israel is not making any effort to negotiate with anyone to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas during attacks by the terrorist group, Lior Haiat, a spokesperson for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said Monday.
Ms. Silver, a lifelong peace activist who promoted equal rights and diplomacy, is a member of a group called Women Wage Peace, which seeks to bring about a political agreement in the Middle East with the full participation of women. She has also volunteered with an organization that drives sick Palestinians from Gaza to Israeli hospitals. Ms. Silver, a widow, is grandmother of four with relatives across Canada. She returned as recently as last summer for a family wedding in Toronto.
While her family is not certain what has happened to her, they believe she may be among at least 100 hostages being held by Hamas militants in Gaza.
“No one told us if Israeli soldiers got to her house yet. So there is the possibility that’s she dead there, inside,” said Yonatan.
“But from what we gather she’s in Gaza.”
Ms. Silver’s other son, Chen Zeigan, who lives in Connecticut, said the family has been in communication with the Canadian government and are trying to find out more details, but the government has not reported back with any news.
He describes his mother’s commitment to a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Middle East as unwavering.
“I’m sure that she will keep advocating even when she comes back. We just want to see again,” he said through tears.
Yonatan said he is calling on Israel to negotiate the return of those who are being held captive.
“I know that they’re not going to stop fighting. But I hope that they’ll negotiate to release all the captive people, at least the civilians, in a diplomatic manner and not try to take them by force,” he said.
With a report from the Associated Press and Ian Bailey in Ottawa
Editor’s note: Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misspelled Yonatan Zeigen’s name. This version has been corrected.