Lawmakers meet with freed Israeli hostage Mia Schem

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Lawmakers met on Capitol Hill with Mia Schem, a French-Israeli hostage freed from Gaza last year, ahead of Schem’s appearance at Thursday’s State of the Union address as a guest of House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA).

While lawmakers have spent months meeting with the families of hostages, watching footage and hearing firsthand accounts of the Hamas attack, the conversation with Schem was a unique opportunity for them to hear firsthand from a freed hostage about the ordeal that she endured.

Multiple lawmakers told Jewish Insider they were particularly struck by the details of Schem’s story —she was held by a Gazan family with young children in their home, where she said she underwent constant psychological and emotional torture, and was denied food.

“I think what was so disheartening was the inhumanity of this large extended family who tormented her mentally, psychologically and taunted her every day,” Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), who co-hosted a meeting with Schem, told JI. “To think that there would be no humanity from a family —that she was clearly a victim, who was innocent of anything — is disheartening and discouraging for the future.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) who co-hosted the meeting with Schem for several lawmakers, likewise described the family’s involvement in Schem’s captivity as particularly “searing.”

Schem, who was shot in the arm before being kidnapped from the Nova music festival, was also denied treatment for her arm — which lawmakers said had been nearly severed and will take years to fully heal —and assistance with basic tasks. Schem, they said, has not been able to return home from the hospital in the months since she was released. And, they added, she will likely face years of recovery from the psychological trauma she endured.

Schem was relocated near the end of her time in Gaza into a Hamas tunnel, where she was able to speak with some of the other hostages, who had been sexually abused. The lawmakers said that Schem found herself unable, emotionally, to recount those stories to them.

Wasserman Schultz said that Schem’s testimony emphasized the need to “make sure we keep the attention focused front and center on the absolute necessity to release the hostages and that the world cannot be allowed to move on.”

“These people went through sadistic torture and are still going through that sadistic torture,” she said.

Manning added that it “continues to disappoint me that theres not more outrage among Americans” that more than 100 people, including Americans, remain captive.

Rep. Greg Landsman (D-OH), who also attended the meeting with Schem, praised her “enormous amount of courage and strength” to share her story.

“There’s just clearly parts of this that she’s not able to talk about, because it’s so awful. She’s here because she wants all of the hostages to come home, she wants to make sure she’s doing everything in her power to get everyone home,” Landsman said.

He said that it’s “entirely on Hamas” to release the hostages and agree to a deal, already approved by the other regional parties, that would allow for a cease-fire.

Manning and Wasserman Schultz said they hope President Joe Biden in his address — where family members of hostages will also be in the audience — will emphasize the need to pressure Hamas to release all of the hostages.

Schem also met with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). The meetings were facilitated by the Orthodox Union.