O n the table in Ilan Mengistu’s room at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, there’s a stack of flyers detailing the story of his brother Abera. This is the family’s first visit to the United States, and the first time these flyers are appearing in English. In September 2014, Abera (short for Avraham) Mengistu, a young Israeli of Ethiopian origin who is not emotionally stable, crossed the border from Israel into the Gaza Strip. Since then, he has been held hostage by Hamas.

No significant movement has been made toward releasing Abera from captivity. A representative of the Red Cross was not allowed to visit him, Abera hasn’t been permitted to call home, and his family is frantic with worry and longing. Now, they are meeting with senior administration officials in the US to advance the case for his release. In Congress they met with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce, as well as Congressmen Ted Deutch and Brad Sherman.

In addition, they met at the White House with Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special representative for international negotiations. “This was our second meeting with him, and it was a very encouraging one,” Ilan Mengistu told me at the hotel where the family is staying. “He updated us that he is making every effort to help Abera and that he would try and solicit help from others who could be partners to saving a life here. We got the sense that everyone understands the importance of this issue and that they intend to get the administration involved. They understand that there is a civilian with emotional issues who mistakenly crossed the border, and that it’s important to help save him.”

The family’s next stop is the UN headquarters in New York, where they plan to emphasize the human rights aspect of the case rather than its political undertones.

“Every passing day means danger for him,” Ilan explained. “My brother’s been rotting in captivity for three and a half years already and our family is living with the uncertainty. It’s not easy for our parents. They’re not young; they should be enjoying life and the grandchildren. Instead, they have to keep traveling and holding meetings.”

On a positive note, Ilan praised the Jewish communities of Los Angeles and Washington. “This is the first time that I have left Israel in 26 years, and the embrace I got from the Jewish communities here made me feel right at home. This trip has given us reason to believe that there are ways that we can work together. I believe that, ultimately, we will see Abera return home.”

“Similar, but needs work on his form. Has to be done in one single motion & eyes should never leave the camera. But not bad for his 1st time”

—Senator Marco Rubio of Florida jokingly commenting on the “water break” President Trump took during a speech summarizing his trip to Asia. Trump had promised a special announcement but ultimately delivered a summary of his trip sans any new information — so all attention was directed at this pause for a drink. For political buffs, it was perfect fodder for satire, since four years ago Trump had mocked Rubio for stopping to drink during a speech. The senator himself, apparently, hasn’t forgotten, and enjoyed his chance at payback. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 686)