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Rutgers alum, family members among those kidnapped by Hamas

Shoshan Haran, a Rutgers alum and NGO founder, reportedly remains hostage in Gaza among seven of her family members. – Photo by @AlamuFentay /

As several Hamas-held hostages have been released, more than 200 remain captive, including Shoshan Haran, a Rutgers alum and NGO founder, according to an article from The Guardian.

Hamas kidnapped Shoshan Haran and nine of her family members from their home in Be’eri, Israel, burning their house in the process. During the infiltration, her husband, Avshalom Haran, and her brother-in-law, Eviatar Kipnis, were killed, according to the Associated Press.

Shoshan Haran was a Fulbright Scholar during the 1997-1998 academic year from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and served as a Rutgers postdoctoral associate under Ilya Raskin, a distinguished professor in the Department of Plant Biology. Raskin said Shoshan Haran's sister had also died. The Daily Targum could not find an online source to verify this information.

"Those are innocent people, just normal people, but for me, they were extraordinary," said Shira Havron, Shoshan Haran's niece, to The Media Line on October 17.

Eight total family members across three generations remain missing, including 67-year-old Shoshan Haran, her sister, her daughter, her son-in-law, her sister-in-law, her young grandchildren and her grand-niece.

"(My) initial reaction was dysphoria and disbelief," Raskin said. "Because this is a wonderful family. They lost three members, from what we know. It was just total horror. All the events on October 7, particularly because I knew (Shoshan and her family so well) because she worked in my lab for two years."

He said Shoshan Haran was among his top postdoctoral fellows in the more than 30 years he has been at Rutgers, and he had kept in contact with her and her family. He said she was always open to visitors in her home, and Raskin and his family even stayed in Be’eri with Shoshan Haran when he visited Israel.

"(Shoshan Haran's family was) in our house many times, and it's true for all my all my other graduate students and postdocs and with her, particularly, we maintained connections..." Raskin said. "And for my children also, it's just (total devastation) because you just remember that time and the house and everything else and her children with whom they were friends."

Raskin said he learned about Shoshan Haran's kidnapping from his network of graduates worldwide and has since joined a WhatsApp group of those in Israel to stay up-to-date.

Shoshan Haran's NGO Fair Planet trains farmers to build sustainable communities in under-resourced regions. The organization has helped various communities in Ethiopia and Tanzania over the past eight years.

Raskin said Shoshan Haran began working for large seed-producing companies upon graduation but soon changed her career to focus on nonprofit work and donating goods from said companies.

"Her whole mission in life was to help people regardless of religion (and) political beliefs," he said. "She just wanted to help people in the area she was very good at, which is agriculture."

In Raskin's lab, he said Shoshan Haran worked in disease resistance for crops, an important study within plant biology.

Be'eri is located in southern Israel, a few miles from the Israeli-Gaza border, and was one of the towns assaulted on October 7. Be'eri is a kibbutz, an agriculture collective that shares meals, land and wealth among its residents. Shoshan Haran's parents established Be'eri as a kibbutz, and her husband helped manage the community and its businesses, especially the printing company, Raskin said.

Raskin said aiding agricultural communities allowed him and Shoshan Haran to positively impact the world apolitically.

"Scientists, in a way, build the bridges — science unites everybody," Raskin said. "Politics often separates."

He said regardless of political affiliation, during wartime, targeting civilians is unjustified, especially those contributing to peace like Shoshan Haran. Raskin said when he learned about Shoshan Haran's kidnapping, he sent a letter to his department and University President Jonathan Holloway, but has not yet received a response at the time of publishing this article.

When reached out for comment about the letter, Kevin Lorincz, a spokesperson for the University, issued a statement.

"The president has indicated that we hope for (Shoshan Haran) and her extended family’s release and for the release of all hostages as soon as possible," the statement read.

Raskin also said he hopes Shoshan Haran and her family can reunite soon during this violent time. He said he does not know if a family who has lost relatives, friends and their home can ever recuperate.

"(During) battles (and) war soldiers kill each other. This is what they sign up for. But she signed up for a totally different mission," Raskin said. "And she just should not be a part of it. People like her never should be a part of it. It's just incredibly unfair."

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