Parents say Berkeley-born son's arm blown off before being taken hostage in Israel

The parents of a Berkeley-born 23-year-old spoke publicly Tuesday in Israel hoping that their son would return home safely after his arm was blown off and he was taken hostage.

Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who moved to Israel from Berkeley in 2008, had attended the Saturday music festival with three other friends near Kibbutz Re-eim by the Gaza strip, when they were all taken by Hamas militants, his parents said.

Four days later, they still haven't heard from him. 

Speaking at a news conference at the Carlton hotel, his father, Jon Polin, said his son and friends fled to a bomb shelter when the "masked gunman attacked." 

And then he and best friend helped save lives, his father said, by throwing grenades back out of the shelter.

"As grenades were being thrown in, they were tossing them back out," Polin said, adding that they were told of his son's actions by other eyewitnesses.

His parents said that he was injured in the bomb shelter when Hamas militants came in with grenades and machine guns. 

"We know his arm was severed from the elbow-down, blown off," his mother, Rachel Goldberg, said.  "They were fish in a barrel." 

His mother said they were told that he tied a tourniquet around his arm with a shirt.

And then Hamas told the group in the bomb shelter, anyone who can walk, let's move, his mother recounted.

Her son and others were "put on a pickup truck and driven away by Hamas," she said. 

His last-known cell phone signal was on the border with Gaza, she said. 

But as for his exact condition now, his parents have no idea. 

Goldberg described her son's last words, albeit written in a text. 

"I love you," he wrote to her on Saturday at 8:11 a.m. And then immediately after, he wrote: "I'm sorry." 

"And so I knew immediately," she said, "wherever he was, it was a terrible situation." 

His parents described their son as a smiley, fun-loving guy.

He had been saving his money post-military to go on a big trip. 

The Polin-Goldbergs were joined by other family members in Israel, whose relatives were also missing and taken hostage. 

One man tearfully described how his mother was grabbed by militants, and how he was upset that there has been no information disseminated by either the Israeli or American governments.

At the same time, there is another link to Berkeley and the war in Israel. 

On Monday, Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Yonatan Cohen said his 19-year-old nephew was killed when his military base came under attack. 

This story was written in Oakland, Calif.