December 3, 2023 - 5:21 pm
The expiration of the Israel-Hamas truce has left 137 hostages still in captivity, the Israeli military says.
Among them is Itay Chen, a 19-year-old Israeli-American.
At 5-foot-9, Itay Chen is short by basketball standards. But he earned his minutes on the court by being fearless and taking the big outside shot.
It’s a character trait Ruby Chen said his son needs in captivity. Itay was taken captive while on military duty.
“He needed to be spunky. He used it against larger kids,” Ruby said of his son’s time on the court. “He never backed down. He always had the fight in him to do what he can.”
Maybe it came from what Ruby called the “New York tough” attitude he sought to instill in his son. Ruby, who grew up in New York, nurtured grit in Itay with frequent trips to the city, visiting Coney Island and Madison Square Garden. Dad was a Knicks fan. Itay idolized Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
He’s still just a kid, Ruby said. He wasn’t a commando attacking enemy positions the day of the Hamas attack. Just a teenager doing his mandatory military service. Not that long ago, he was a Boy Scout.
Itay wasn’t even supposed to be on duty when the onslaught began. He had switched weekends with another soldier so he could attend his brother’s Bar Mitzvah, the ceremony marking a Jewish boy’s passage into manhood.
The family insisted on going through with the service a week after the attack. It was cathartic and spiritual. There are plans for another celebration when Itay returns, Ruby said.
“You cannot stand still because if you stand still in hell you get burned,” Ruby said. “So you need to keep on walking.”