At 6am on Saturday a massive explosion flung open the door to the upper floor, where my brother and I had been sleeping. “Do you want to go down to the safe room?” Ori asked me. “It sounds like our air force is striking [in Gaza].”
That’s what we both thought. I sloppily closed the screen door and locked it with the plastic latch. I went downstairs in my Goofy pyjamas (carrying my infamous water bottle – if you know you know). Luckily I put on my sandals. I left my bag upstairs, and in it my gold jewelery, keys, wallet, ids, photos and the trinkets that I carry with me everywhere.
In the beginning we heard a few explosions and were told to remain in the safe room. My mom still had time to drink her coffee and smoke a cigarette. We entered the safe room as the second round of sirens started wailing. Our dog Luna refused to come with us.
We were inside the safe room when we got the message that terrorists were infiltrating our Kibbutz. We locked and sealed the door, and my genius brother blocked the entrance with a small dresser.
A short time later we heard yelling in Arabic on the top floor. A short time after that there were “Allahu Akbar” screams right outside the safe room window. My brother said we should move the piano to further barricade the entrance to the safe room.
I’m going to relay this concisely to prevent the flashbacks. The terrorists tried to enter our house and kicked at the locked door. Eventually they somehow blew up a part of our house and entered through the bathroom. (Grenade? Kicks? RPG? I have no idea. One of the downsides of not seeing anything is having to rely on my hearing).
At that moment I asked everybody to send for help – in the Kibbutz chat group, friends, relatives. “They’re inside our house! Help us. Send help.” I’m quivering just writing that. I couldn’t think of anything. I just wanted to get out of there and be rescued.
The terrorists started kicking the door of the safe room. We remained completely silent. They started shooting at the door. I hid under the piano, my mom under the bed, and my brother hid between the piano and the wall. I lay curled up in a ball, gradually soaking in a mix of urine, sweat and tears. They’re going to kill us. They’re shooting at us. I’m going to die.
They failed to open the door so they lit the house on fire. When the smoke started drifting into the safe room we covered our faces with wet gauze. Later on we covered our faces with wet T-shirts, and my brother covered the vent with a wet tshirt too. As the safe room filled with smoke I suffered a panic attack. I panicked about my mom, about myself, and the brutal reality of that moment. We were going to die there.
“Do you want to get out of here?” my brother whispered – knowing that terrorists were on the other side of the wall. “Should we leave the safe room?” “No.” I said, “I want to live. If we leave now they’re going to kidnap us to Gaza and rape us and slaughter us all.” The realisation that I want to survive together with my brother’s resourcefulness, and the fact that my mom kept us silent for hours and hours are the things that saved us.
My phone battery died at around 11:30. Some time after 12:00 they blew up our bathroom wall and got into the house. For hours they entered and left as they pleased, all the while yelling and shooting at the safe room, at the walls of the house, at the window of the safe room. Wrecking the house, looting and screaming in Arabic, playing music, laughing and cursing at us.
Those sons of bitches felt at home. In MY house. They poked at my nieces’ and nephews’ board games, they broke every item in the house and then set it on fire. For two hours they smashed our house to pieces and no one came to rescue us.
At 15:00 we could hear the first gunshot battles between our forces and the terrorists. We heard a Hebrew name being called as they built an offensive structure around our house. “Jacob! Jacob!” That was the first Hebrew voice we’d heard from outside the safe room since 6am.
After two and a half hours of fire exchanges, of terrorists walking freely in our home, we hear Hebrew voices and a strong knock on the front door. “There’s a dog here! There’s a dog here!” The soldiers yelled when they saw Luna. “We couldn’t bring Luna into the safe room without being murdered.” I had to remind myself of that to calm the wave of guilt that washed over me.
“Is anybody here?” someone yelled in Hebrew. Ori asked for identification. “I’m sergeant Almog E. from unit 932. I’ve come to rescue you. I’m here with my squad. Is somebody here?”
We yelled at the top of our lungs. They didn’t manage to get us out through the main entrance, so we were evacuated through the window.
I will never forget what I saw outside that day. Flames blazing from the houses around us, our house – just extinguished – was soaking wet. The sunset was beautiful, as it always is in the Kibbutz, but my mother’s lovely neighbourhood resembled a war zone in Iraq. Everything was burnt, broken or aflame. Next to the tank that covered us as we escaped with our rescue unit parked my dad’s car – covered in blood spatters.
We were evacuated to a protected area, then to an assembly zone, then to Tel Aviv. Our bus was shot at by a terrorist squad near Alumim but kept going.
Yesterday I found out that out of the eight families on our street, we are one of three families that survived and were rescued from those horrors.
This text is written in memory of those murdered in the massacre of Kibbutz Be’eri, in prayer for those kidnapped and wounded. I don’t know all of the names of those missing, kidnapped, dead and wounded. The names are published one by one and my heart burns, ablaze with the same flames that burned down my house and my beautiful Kibbutz.
During the first two days I experienced flashback waves and intense physical pain. I managed to break that cycle thanks to emergency EMDR treatment, which is intended as a primary treatment for those suffering from trauma and post trauma. If you can – I urge you to apply as fast as you can to receive mental health aid. It can save lives, and has saved me from days of physical and mental hell. I’m not taking any phone calls at the moment. If anyone wants to reply or talk, you can send me a WhatsApp message and I’ll reply if I feel up for it. OK?
Blessed be the redeemer of prisoners.
I wish for this all to be over soon. Stay safe – hug your loved ones and take care of yourself. Our strength resides in our unity. We will get through this hell. Together, we will prevail.