BLOOMFIELD, Conn. (AP) — A 35-year-old father who grew up in Bloomfield is among the 199 hostages taking during the Hamas attack who are being held captive in Gaza, according to his family.
The hostages range from babies to retirees. Most are civilians.
Some of their families received frantic phone calls or texts during the attack. Others heard nothing and later saw video evidence their loved ones were taken. For now, they wait, desperate to find out whether the hostages are even alive. And they tell their stories.
Sagui Dekel-Chen is a builder of things. He’s as gifted with his hands as he is at managing community development projects, his father says.
Early on the morning of Oct. 7, Sagui was tinkering with an engine in the machine shop at the kibbutz of Nir Oz, in southern Israel, when he saw intruders on the grounds and sounded the alarm. After running home, he rigged the door of the safe room so it couldn’t be opened from the outside, kissed his pregnant wife and told her to lock herself and their two daughters inside.
Then the 35-year-old father borrowed a gun and tried to protect his community. He hasn’t been seen since. His family believes that the Israeli-American, like several members of the kibbutz, was abducted by the Hamas militants.
“This is a guy who has so much to give,” said his father, Jonathan Dekel-Chen. “He’s already proven it. Ironically not just to Israelis and his family, his children, but to all of our neighbors.”
Sagui Dekel-Chen is a project manager for the U.K. branch of the Jewish National Fund, organizing the construction of schools and youth centers in the underdeveloped Negev Desert. That included collaboration with both Jewish and Muslim nonprofits that worked in Arab communities near the kibbutz.
“Every day was something different. Every day he was helping other people make their nonprofit goals come alive,” his father said.
The work was an avenue for Sagui Dekel-Chen’s “extraordinary creativity” as he advised non-profits, launched his own projects and built coalitions to get things done, his father said.
“It is a crime that Hamas has made it so that Palestinian people will never be able, I fear, to benefit themselves from my son and people like him because their brains have been poisoned,” he added.