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'I can't believe this is reality': Woman from Toronto shot near Gaza border in Israel missing

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A woman from Toronto and her husband who were both shot near the Gaza border as Hamas militants invaded Israel last Saturday have been missing for over a week, according to their daughter.

“We have no idea if they were kidnapped to Gaza. We don't know,” Iris Haggai Liniado said.

Her parents, Judih Weinstein, 70, and Gad Haggai, 72, were on an early morning walk near Kibbutz Nir Oz, their home of nearly 30-years in southern Israel, on Oct. 7.

Just before dawn, Hamas – designated a terrorist organization by the Canadian government – fired rockets into Israel.

In a family WhatsApp group chat shortly after, Weinstein wrote to her kids, “We’re laying facedown in the fields. Rockets are overhead. We see hundreds of them.”

She sent a video of rockets, reviewed by CTV News, heard raging in the sky above the field to another group chat with fellow English teachers near 7 a.m.

“You could hear the gunshots in the distance and the incoming rocket alerts and this is apparently the last recording of their voices their children have of them,” Adele Reamer, a neighbour and member in the group chat, said.

Then, silence.

Haggai Liniado, who lives in Singapore with her husband and three children, began to panic, calling anyone she could contact.

The only inch of information she got about her parents was from the kibbutz paramedics. They said her mother called for help, saying she’d been shot and her husband was badly wounded.

That was the last communication from her mother.

Judih Weinstein and her husband Gad Haggai in a photo at Bayview Village Park in Toronto (Supplied). “When I tell you this, it’s hard for me to even grasp that this is real. I feel like I am talking and it's a script in a movie,” Haggai Liniado said.

Since then, she has spoken to every authority in Israel, Canada and the United States, where her mother was born. Haggai Liniado said she has exhausted her search.

“I’m trying not to cry. I can’t believe this is reality,” she said.

Speaking in Jordan on Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly confirmed four Canadians have been killed and three are still missing as the war between Israel and Hamas continues. The four Canadians were all killed following Hamas' attacks on Israel.

Canadian Judih Weinstein Haggai, a retired English teacher, was on a dawn walk with her Israeli husband Gad last Saturday when the couple received a red alert on their phones. The red alert came from the Israeli government warning residents to barricade themselves in their safe rooms. Her kibbutz confirmed Thursday that she and her husband did not survive. (SUBMITTED)Joly said she would not disclose missing Canadians’ names. “Families have themselves identified (loved ones),” Joly said.

President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York Robert R. Kovach confirmed Weinstein and her husband have been missing since the attack. “We are heartbroken. We pray for their safety,” he said.

'KINDEST PEOPLE'

Weinstein and Haggai have lived on Kibbutz Nir Oz in the southern Israel desert since 1995, both heavily into mindfulness, plant-based diets and daily morning walks.

Weinstein was born in the United States and her family moved to Toronto when she was three years old. When Weinstein was around 20 years old, she travelled to Greece and landed in Haggai’s kibbutz in Israel.

Since teaching together in the early 1980s, Raemer said she has been friends with Weinstein, who heavily believes in the value of mindfulness in the classroom, especially for kids living in areas of Israel who face trauma and violence.

On Weinstein’s personal website, which describes her as a meditator for over 40 years, working in education and therapy, she writes, “Together reinforcing the idea that we can disengage from all past concerns, detach from future worries and simply allow ourselves to rest in the present moment.”

“Judih is one of the funniest people, the kindest people,” Raemer said. “That smile that you see on her face, that just says it all.”

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