Israel-Hamas War Live: Latest News and Gaza Updates

The video of Noam Or is remarkably unremarkable.

“Um, guys, I just wanted to say,” the 17-year-old says on TikTok, pausing to turn his phone to his friends at a noisy restaurant, “Thank you for all of the messages you’ve sent me, I really appreciate it.”

He looks back at friends and then again to the camera. “I’m OK,” he said, nodding and giving a thumbs up. The video so far has been viewed 1.5 million times.

Noam and his sister, Alma Or, 13, were released from Gaza on Nov. 25 after being held hostage for 50 days. He is one of the many young hostages who has posted on social media since returning only to find they are now followed by many who are eager to see how they are coping.

Their videos and voices have been sprinkled with humor and sadness, with sarcasm and hope. Many remain shocked by the sheer volume of attention they have received.

Not everyone has a personal connection to the hostages who have been released, but their names are familiar, and the faces of those still held hostage blanket lamp posts, billboards, the facades of buildings and entryways of grocery stores.

Israelis were glued to their televisions as hostages walked from Hamas custody to the white International Committee of the Red Cross vans. They anxiously watched the vans drive away and waited for official word that hostages were in the custody of the Israeli military. They spent hours refreshing local news pages until hospitals released family-approved photos and videos of reunions with loved ones.

In the days since Hamas released 105 hostages in exchange for 240 imprisoned Palestinians over a weeklong cease-fire that ended on Dec. 1, most of the hostages released have maintained a relatively low profile, something many psychologists and trauma specialists have recommended.

Few of the released hostages have spoken at public events or given media interviews. Instead, some have spoken on their own terms on the platform of their choice. In doing so, they have maintained control of their stories.

In another TikTok video, Sahar Kalderon, 16, posted the audio she said played in her head when she was released from Hamas captivity. As she dances with a friend, laughing and making faces, audio from the television show Gossip Girl blares: “Welcome back, queen Serena.” She was released from Hamas captivity on Nov. 27. “If we don’t cry, we’ll laugh,” the caption of the TikTok reads.

Sahar and her 12-year-old brother, Erez, were seized from their family home in Kibbutz Nir Oz with their father, Ofer Kalderon. He is believed to still be in Gaza.

Most hostages returned to Israel without having much knowledge about what happened to anyone else on Oct. 7, or what has happened since. Noam and Alma Or learned their mother, Yonat, had been killed and their father, Dror, had been kidnapped separately. He is believed to still be held in Gaza.

Alma Or, whose TikTok profile picture is now an image of her father with the hashtag “Bring Or Home Now,” posted a video dancing with a friend to the “roses are red” trend (the text overlay, which reads “roses are red, this trend may be over, but I was just released from Hamas captivity” rhymes in Hebrew). The video has 1.5 million views.

Another set of siblings who were held hostage, Dafna Elyakim, 15 and her younger sister, Ella Elyakim, 8, danced to the same song as Alma Or using the same “roses are red” trend, with a caption that mirrors Alma’s. “The best week of my life,” Dafna wrote in her caption, with the hashtag “released from captivity.” The video has 1.3 million views.

Their father, Noam Elyakim; his partner, Dikla Arava; and her son, Tomer, were all killed in Kibbutz Nahal Oz on Oct. 7.

Liam Or, a kindergarten teacher in Kibbutz Be’eri, was released on Nov. 29 to learn that his best friend and neighbor had been killed on Oct. 7. Two days after he returned home, the 18-year-old posted a tribute to his lifelong friend on Instagram.

A week after Mia Schem, 21, returned home, she posted a photo on Instagram lighting candles with her family. She was abducted from a music festival where at least 260 people were killed on Oct. 7.

“I’m thankful for the privilege of celebrating this Hanukkah at home with my family,” she wrote in the caption.

Two days later, she shared an image of a new tattoo. “We will dance again,” it reads, with the date Oct. 7, 2023. The post has been liked more than 200,000 times so far.

The support and recognition has been overwhelming for many of the young hostages as they ease back into their former lives as ordinary teenagers with social media accounts. Noam Or included.

“I really did not expect this,” Noam wrote, adding he wanted to use his TikTok platform to say thank you, and “to show everyone that I’m OK and I’m starting to kind of get back to a more normal life,” he wrote in text overlaying the video.

“There’s another family member of mine that has yet to return,” the text continues, “But until then, we will be strong and we’ll get through everything.”