Today, Erez Kalderon turns 12.

But Erez is not home to celebrate. He is one of the 220 civilians, many of them children, kidnapped and held in Gaza as hostages.

Erez’s mom Hadas has penned a letter to her son, praying for his safe return:

Today is a day of mixed emotions. I urge the world to remember this date: my cherished son, Erez, turns 12 today.

Each day, I’ve clung to the hope that on his birthday, Erez would return to my embrace.

This is what I’ve chosen to believe and I remain hopeful that by day’s end, we’ll be reunited to celebrate.

And If not today, then I trust he will soon be back with us, alongside his sister, Sahar, and his father, Ofer.

It feels as though Erez is right here with me. I sense the beat of his heart. He remains a part of us, intertwined with my very being, today and always.

What can one wish for a child in such circumstances? Traditional birthday wishes don’t seem fitting. How can I say “Happy birthday” or “Mazal Tov” when Erez is in captivity?

But in my heart, I say to him: “Erez, you’ve matured over the past year, becoming more insightful and understanding.

Erez, I promise that we will celebrate your special day wholeheartedly upon your return. We’ll mark the occasion with a new bike and memorable rides to wherever your heart desires.

My dear Erez, you were born into freedom, and to freedom, you shall return. This belief resonates deeply within me.

With all my love,