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Canadian Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver, feared to be held hostage, confirmed killed in Hamas attacks

Canadian Israeli humanitarian Vivian Silver, 74, was believed to have been taken hostage during the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel. Her family has confirmed her death. (Submitted by Yonatan Zeigen)

Canadian Israeli humanitarian Vivian Silver, 74, was believed to have been taken hostage during the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel. Her family has confirmed her death. (Submitted by Yonatan Zeigen)

Photo: Yonatan Zeigen


74-year-old born and raised in Winnipeg dedicated life to building peace

Vivian Silver, a Canadian Israeli peace activist whose family said they believed was taken hostage from her home in southern Israel when Hamas-led militants carried out a surprise assault on Oct. 7, was killed in the initial attacks, her family confirms.

Silver's son, Yonatan Zeigen, confirmed his mother's death, telling CBC News on Monday that the 74-year-old's remains had been found earlier at Kibbutz Be'eri, where she resided, but were only identified now, more than five weeks after the attacks.

At least 120 other men, women and children were killed in the community of about 1,100 people located just kilometres from the Israel-Gaza border.

The family of Silver, who was born and raised in Winnipeg, initially believed militants had been holding her hostage in Gaza for the past five weeks, along with more than 200 others kidnapped that day.

The Israeli government says militants killed about 1,200 people, including civilians and soldiers, in raids and rocket attacks on Israeli communities on Oct. 7. The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza reports that more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli bombardments and ground assaults in the weeks since.

Silver in contact with son on day of attack

Last week, Zeigen told CBC Radio's Day 6 that he had been in contact with his mother on the phone and via text message the morning of the attack. The last he heard from her was at 10:54 a.m. local time.

She knew very early on that Hamas, the militants, came into the kibbutz, but she didn't know the scope and we couldn't understand the magnitude, he said, explaining Silver was gathering information via messages from other people in the kibbutz.

Although his mother could hear gunshots and yelling, he said they were talking as if it would be over soon.

As of last week, when he spoke with Day 6 host Brent Bambury, Zeigen said he still believed his mother was alive.

While her house had been burned to the ground, a body hadn't been found at that time, he said, and there was no evidence there of a struggle or bullets, leading the family to believe she had been taken hostage.

Life dedicated to peace

The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg mourned Silver's death in a Facebook post (new window), expressing devastation at the loss of a renowned pacifist who tirelessly advocated for peace and the improvement of the quality of life for Palestinians. 

Silver moved to Kibbutz Be'eri, just kilometres away from the Israel-Gaza border, because she wanted to be a part of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

She always believed that people, if you take away the agendas and politics and the [ideologies], were the same, Zeigen told Day 6.

He previously told CBC News that his mother went to Israel in 1973, shortly after the Yom Kippur War. The war, which was sparked by a surprise attack on Israel by a coalition of Arab militaries, began on Oct. 6, just one day earlier than the Hamas-led assault 50 years later.

Silver had been an active member in a variety of humanitarian groups. She was a founding member of a movement called Women Wage Peace (new window), which advocates for an end to Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for women to be involved in the peace process.

Our hearts are shattered, the organization said in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

She was also the co-CEO of the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development, which describes itself as an Arab-Jewish organization dedicated to social change and a former board member for the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem.

Silver also volunteered with Road to Recovery and drove Palestinians to Israeli hospitals from Gaza until recently, Zeigen said.

She was a very busy woman doing good, and she was also a wonderful mother and grandmother, Zeigen said in an interview with CBC News last month.

WATCH | Vivian Silver was a well-known peace activist: 

CBC News