In a video call with Katie Couric, Abbey Onn emphasized the importance of freeing all hostages before any further action is taken in the Israel-Hamas war. (Credit: Katie Couric Media, YouTube)

A U.S.-born entrepreneur who has been living in Israel described the heartbreaking moment she realized five family members had been taken hostage:  “The nightmare became crystal clear.”

Abbey Onn, who was raised in Virginia but now serves as co-founder of the nonprofit Nevo Network in Tel Aviv, told Katie Couric Media that she only realized that her relatives had been taken when she saw a video uploaded to social media.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” she told Couric, of the emotions she’s felt since last weekend’s surprise Hamas attack. “Insane, absurd, horrific. It feels personal, it feels national and it feels cultural on behalf of the Jewish people.”

Onn said her family’s 80-year-old matriarch, Carmela Dan, was kidnapped from her home along with her 13-year-old granddaughter Noya Dan, who has autism. Onn also said Carmela’s son-in-law Ofer Kalderon was taken from his home along with his two children, 16-year-old Shar and 11-year-old Erez. 

“Hamas uploaded a video of Erez in their hands – in the hands of terrorists,” she said. 

In recent days, Onn says her family has gotten conflicting reports from the Israel government about which hostages are still alive. “We’re honestly not sure what to believe, so we’re believing all of it,” she said.

Onn, who studied at George Washington and Brandeis universities,, has been living in Israel for eight years. Having grown up with the idea of “Never again” after the Holocaust, she said she could not believe the support Hamas has garnered. Last week, after a former Hamas leader called on supporters to partake in a “Day of Rage,” protests broke out all across the Middle East and beyond. While “Death to Israel” chants echoed throughout rallies in Lebanon, protesters in Iran set fire to Israeli flags.

“I think that this reads in the rest of the world as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is complex and complicated,” Onn told Couric. “But this isn’t that, this is terror.”

Terrorists, she said, are the ones to blame for this hate – not Palestinian civilians. “I don’t think that an ordinary mother sitting in Gaza hates me and wishes me dead, as I would never wish anyone else that.”

As citizens of Gaza continue to flee south in preparation for an Israeli ground invasion, Onn wishes them “nothing but peace,” saying they are “being ruled and represented by a terrorist organization that is being funded by a number of foreign governments…and there is a massive web that has to be broken.”

Onn revealed she had the opportunity to meet with President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Anothony Blinken and Senator Chuck Schumer to discuss how the United States And Israel can join forces. But before any negotiations of aid or resettlement can be reached, she said the main demand is to release the hundreds of hostages being held in Gaza. 

“There has to be a response,” she said. “But that response cannot be built on the backs of women and children and elderly.”