Meirav Gonen listened in real-time terror as her daughter, bleeding in the back seat of a car and fearing death, described by phone the surprise attack by Hamas on a music festival in southern Israel on Oct. 7.
“Mommy, I’m shot. Mommy, I think I’m going to die,” said daughter Romi to her mother during the militant incursion into Israel, as the elder Gonen relayed to Fox News Digital on Tuesday from Tel Aviv.
“I heard her crying very quietly. I heard the shooting all around them,” said the anguished mother.
Gonen does not know the fate of the middle of her five children. But Romi’s best friend, Gaya Halifa, was killed — apparently in the same vehicle.
If Romi Gonen survived, she’s likely one of about 243 people — citizens from up to 20 different countries, including the United States — believed to be kidnapped and held hostage by terrorists in the Palestinian territory of Gaza.
Bring Them Home Now, a grassroots humanitarian movement with international volunteers, is determined to find every one of them.
“We demand the safe return of all citizens who have been taken hostage by the terrorist group Hamas,” the group says on its website, story.bringthemhomenow.net.
“Mommy, I’m shot. Mommy, I think I’m going to die.”
“We will not rest until every hostage is released and returns home safely,” the group says.
The Gonen family, far away in their northern Israel hometown of Kfar Vradim, desperately tried to contact authorities for help as daughter Romi described the terror of October 7.
But Israeli military and police resources were already overwhelmed by the surprise, scope and savagery of the terror attack.
“When I understood we couldn’t help her, I said, ‘I love you. You’re not alone. I’m with you all the time,'” the mom told her daughter.
Bring Them Home Now sprang up in the immediate hours after the attack that shocked and frightened but unified what had been a nation torn apart by bitter domestic political turmoil.
“People here believe this attack is a threat to the existence of Israel and to the Jewish people,” Rob Anders, the British-Israeli spokesperson for the group, told Fox News Digital in a phone interview.
“This country is united as never before,” he said, referencing Israel.
The attack sparked a sudden awareness among Israelis that the response to the Hamas terror attack would require more than just official government resources, but the volunteer efforts of everyday citizens in the Jewish state and around the world.
Bring Them Home Now formed organically as families met in the immediate hours after the attack in the home of Malki Shem-Tov.
“People here believe this attack is a threat to the existence of Israel and to the Jewish people. This country is united as never before.”
His son, Omer, 21, is believed to be among the 243 hostages. Those held captive woke up on the morning of Oct. 7 in freedom and ended the day in the clutches of a terror organization openly committed to the destruction of Israel.
Malki Shem-Tov tracked his son via cell phone, wondering why he appeared to be fleeing the festival by car toward Gaza. The family later realized he wasn’t driving toward Gaza voluntarily.
“The last they saw Omer was on video with his friends in handcuffs,” Anders told Fox News Digital.
Bring Them Home Now has, in the three weeks since the terror attack, taken over seven floors of an eight-story modern office building in Tel Aviv.
Its international volunteers now number in the thousands and range from family members of terror victims to high-level corporate executives.
Anders himself is a global venture capitalist, born in London before moving to Israel 20 years ago to raise his family with an appreciation of their Jewish heritage — including relatives murdered in the Holocaust.
On Oct. 7, the day of the attack, he was scheduled to attend an event at the World Trade Center in New York City with Mayor Eric Adams.
He never went. He’s now leading international outreach efforts for Bring Them Home Now.
“This is a 360-degree effort started by families to support families. Some of them have babies kidnapped in Gaza and don’t know if they were clothed or fed or cared for last night,” said Anders.
“This is not a political effort or a religious effort. It’s not about land. It is 100% a humanitarian effort.”
Ten of the suspected hostages are 5 years old or younger, according to the Bring Them Home Now website. The youngest is just 9 months old.
Donations, the group says in a statement, “are directed toward advancing all necessary efforts to raise awareness, create campaigns in Israel and abroad, and end the hostage situation in a speedy manner.”
Bring Them Home Now is also combating a global antisemitic storyline that paints Israelis as genocidal killers for responding to the Oct. 7 outrage and portrays its hostages, including many minors, as aggressors.
Israelis and Jews here in the United States and abroad have faced public threats, violence and antisemitic protests.
“If this happened anywhere else in the world but Israel, people would be changing their social media profiles in support of the victims,” he said.
Among other efforts, Anders said, the group is putting pressure on international leaders to aid the hostages.
Yet Anders noted, “This is not a political effort or a religious effort. It’s not about land. It is 100% a humanitarian effort.”
Meirav Gonen recalled the last moments on the phone with her daughter Romi in an additional statement sent to Fox News Digital.
“Suddenly she stops answering me and I hear gunshots and screams in Arabic all around, and the call ends.”
Ben Shimoni reportedly drove the car in which Romi Gonen last talked to her mom.
He became a national hero for returning repeatedly to the scene of the festival to save fellow Israelis, many of them strangers.
“Unfortunately, Ben’s body was found,” cousin Keren Shimoni told The Independent of London.
“He was killed. My family and I are heartbroken.”
The car was found days later, smashed on the side of the road, The Independent reported.
“Israel stands on its values and Israelis have always had the mindset that nobody gets left behind.”
Shimoni’s ultimate sacrifice to save his fellow citizens has inspired countless Israelis to action, such as those behind the Bring Them Home Now effort.
“Israel stands on its values and Israelis have always had the mindset that nobody gets left behind,” and Anders.
“This group will not stop until we bring them home, now.”
To learn more, anyone can visit the group’s website at stories.bringthemhomenow.net.