Freed Hamas hostage celebrates 'special' 18th birthday ahead of return to Evanston

Judith and Natalie Raanan are on their way home to Illinois after being held by the militant group Hamas for two weeks. To make things even more special, Tuesday is Natalie's 18th birthday.

The mother and daughter had been vacationing in Israel for the holiday season and were last seen staying near Gaza when the violence started on Oct. 7. Hamas launched an unprecedented surprise attack on Israel, resulting in the abduction of 59-year-old Judith and her daughter.

The Ranaan family, politicians and the Jewish community rejoiced when the pair was freed by the terror group last Friday night.

"I'm going to hug her and kiss her, and it's going to be the best day of my life," Natalie's father, Uri, said at the time.

"I haven't been sleeping for two weeks. Tonight, I am going to sleep good. I spoke with my daughter earlier today. She sounds very good, she looks very good, she was very happy and she's waiting to come home," said Uri.

Family Rabbi Meir Hecht joined Good Day Chicago on Tuesday morning to talk about how the community is feeling in wake of their release.

"The news that we received on Friday, of course, was overwhelming," Hecht said. "[We have] a tremendous amount of gratitude, gratitude for all those who helped make it happen and an incredible gratitude to the almighty God for a miracle that's beyond belief. So we are so happy, so overjoyed for this." 

Hecht said they will make sure Natalie is celebrated on her 18th birthday with a special gift on the way.

"On behalf of our community, we're going to make sure that Natalie gets something very special delivered to the door wherever she is. We know where that is but it's going to be delivered to her today," Hecht said.

Statements of support poured in from around the United States, with President Joe Biden and Gov. J.B. Pritzker expressing their relief at the hostages' release.

Shortly after their release, Biden personally spoke to Judith and Natalie. A photo released on Friday showed the moment he called the mother and daughter, and on Saturday, the President released video of the phone call.