Freed Israeli hostage Mia Schem has broken her silence to share a harrowing account of captivity in Gaza, following her release at the end of last month.
Schem, 21, spent 54 days as a prisoner in the Palestinian enclave after being shot and taken hostage at the Nova festival massacre in southern Israel on October 7, before finally being released as part of a ceasefire and swap on November 30.
In her first interview since her release, she told Israeli outlet Channel 13 ‘I wanted to project the real situation about the people living in Gaza, who they really are and about what I’ve been through over there.’
‘I went through a holocaust,’ she said. ‘Everyone over there is a terrorist.’
Schem, a French-Israeli tattoo-artist from Shoham in central Israel, claimed that she was held with a civilian family, with children, while in Gaza.
‘It is families under the Hamas regime, you know. I realised that I was staying with a family. And then I start asking myself questions… why am I staying with a family? Why are there children here? Why is there a woman here?’
Former hostage Mia Schem: “I went through a Holocaust” pic.twitter.com/FsTGSd6OX7
— Aviva Klompas (@AvivaKlompas) December 28, 2023
Before she was freed, she was made to film a video speaking about her experience, in which she said: ‘People very good, very kind to me… Food good and the kindness and everything good.’
The report was made headlines as it contradicted accounts of other hostages who recounted abuse in captivity, prompting concerns she had been made to speak against her will.
Mia Schem became one of the most high-profile captives after Hamas released a video in the early days of the conflict showing her recovering from surgery.
In the clip, Schem said in Hebrew that ‘everything is fine’, that she received medical treatment for injuries, and pleaded for her release.
‘Hi, I’m Mia Schem, 21-years-old from Shoham,’ she said in the first clip. ‘Currently, I’m in Gaza. I was seriously injured in my hand. I underwent surgery on my arm at the hospital for three hours.
‘They are taking care of me, giving me medicine, everything is fine,’ she was heard saying at the time.
Upon her release from captivity, her carers raised concerns she had received improper treatment.
‘She is thin, she is weak,’ Schem’s aunt Vivian Hadar told media. ‘A vet operated on her arm. She did not receive physiotherapy,’ she declared.
The nature of the injuries has not been reported, but Schem says she underwent a three-hour surgery in Gaza.
She was seized by Hamas gunmen at the Nova music festival along with her friend Elia Toledano, 27.
The Hostages and Missing Families Forum described Schem as ‘a young woman with an old soul’ who was studying tattooing and worked at a tattoo parlour prior to her kidnapping.
The 21-year-old has since shared pictures of herself on Instagram with a new tattoo reading ‘We will dance again. 7.10.23’
The post, uploaded two weeks ago, read: ‘I will never forget the 7.10.23.
‘The pain and fear, the hard scenes, the friends who won’t come back and the ones we have to bring back.
‘But we will still win, We will still dance!’
Some 240 hostages were taken from southern Israel into Gaza when Hamas launched its sudden assault on October 7.
More than 1,200 were also killed in the attack as armed gunmen struck residential kibbutzim and the Nova music festival near Re’im.
Hamas released more than 100 hostages during a week-long ceasefire at the end of November, most of them agreed as part of a deal with Israel.
A total of 110 hostages had been released by December 1, only women and children. A number still in captivity have been reported dead in the weeks since.
Few civilians returning from Gaza have given extensive accounts of their time spent as hostages.
The reports that have been shared have been somewhat varied.
Israeli captive Ruti Munder, 78, told Channel 13 upon release that conditions were reasonable at the start of the conflict.
Initially, they ate ‘chicken with rice, all sorts of canned food and cheese,’ she said, as reported by AP. ‘We were OK.’
But the menu changed when ‘the economic situation was not good, and people were hungry.’
She said hostages slept on plastic chairs and had limited provisions, some lacking a cover to sleep with at night.