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In that explosion I felt that I experienced a kind of death

The testimony of Agam Y., who attended the Nova party near Kibbutz Re’im close to the border with Gaza, on…

In that explosion I felt that I experienced a kind of death

The testimony of Agam Y., who attended the Nova party near Kibbutz Re’im close to the border with Gaza, on October 7, 2023, during the invasion of Hamas terrorists into Israeli territory, on the first day of the Swords of Iron war.

The original post was on Instagram.

Warning: Graphic descriptions.

My 7th October.

We arrived at the party. Me, Itamar (my boyfriend), Alon, Segev and Ayelet (Itamar’s friends) at around 05:30. When we arrived, we split up and I went to be with my friends who had arrived in a separate car, from the south. The party was happening as planned. Everything was fine.

Some time had passed and I was talking to Gefen (one of my friends), and she told me that she received a lot of messages from the Israel Emergency Information app that there were “Red Alert” sirens (meaning sirens announcing missiles from the Gaza Strip). Suddenly we started hearing rockets launching and started seeing them above us. This all happened about an hour after we arrived at the party.

I immediately called Itamar and asked him where he was. He was already headed my way with our friends. I saw him, hung up, and we started walking towards the car. My phone accidentally dialed my mother, without me noticing, and woke her up. She immediately called back and asked why I called. I told her that there were alarms and rockets here and that we were going to try and drive away from the area.

I took a picture for a friend of the Iron Dome interceptions and people running. Today I found out that someone who was in that picture was with me in the shelter later on. We all got back in the car and drove to the main road; it was chaotic because of all of the people who were trying to flee. Finally we got back to the main road and we wanted to head north. Policemen blocked the road to the north so we could only drive south. After some driving I said that at the intersection of Kibbutz Re’im there is a bus stop and a Migunit (a small, doorless concrete shelter found along the roads near the Gaza Strip). I thought it was wisest to wait in the shelter so that the missiles wouldn’t hit us and things would calm down. I never imagined a scenario in which hundreds of terrorists would penetrate the border and murder, rape, behead, burn and injure thousands of civilians.

We entered the shelter and slowly many more people started to arrive. When there was a siren we went into the shelter, and when there wasn’t we were outside.I said to myself, “I can’t believe that the residents of the Otef (the Gaza Envelope, towns and villages bordering the Gaza Strip) live like this all their lives here”. We were in a good mood, we laughed and connected a bit.

Suddenly we started hearing gunshots from the direction of Gaza, and we didn’t understand what was happening. There was a very friendly local Muslim with us at the shelter who had only recently arrived. According to him, he was patrolling the area, and said that there was probably a terrorist infiltration.

Someone came to the shelter and told us that his aunt had called him and told him not to continue driving south because there are terrorists shooting at all the vehicles. Then we realized that we needed to enter the Migunit itself. There were two wasps’ nests, dirt, trash and human feces inside. After a few minutes, a Nahal soldier from the Orev Company arrived, Aner (pronounced Ah-ner), and told us that his friends told him that there were terrorists infiltrating the border, but that everything would be fine and that they were relatively far off. In addition, he said that the Re’im army base isn’t far away and is one of the largest bases in the country and we should try to remain calm. I asked, “So why are we hearing the shots so close?” Aner answered that they were shooting in an open area and that’s why we hear it relatively close.

I tried to stay optimistic. Some more time passed and then suddenly he said that they were getting closer and that they were at the next left turn on the road heading south. He was in touch with a few friends from his unit.

We all huddled in the shelter as tightly as we could. There were around 25 people in that small space. I was in the far left corner of the shelter and Itamar was next to me. Gradually we began hearing the terrorists approaching by foot, motorcycles and pickup trucks, shooting and shouting.

Aner being EXTREMELY BRAVE and one of the closest to the entrance took upon himself the task that if they throw grenades in, he will try to throw as many grenades back out, and asked those who were also near to be ready to throw them too, in case he won’t be able to throw all of them by himself. From the moment I heard the voices of the terrorists, I sat down on the floor and closed my eyes and shut my ears as Itamar asked someone who was right on top of me to get off of me because she was choking me. We realized that now something bad was going to happen. I whispered “shhhhh” to myself the entire time to calm my heart, which was racing two hundred beats a minute. We tried to stay as quiet as possible, in the shelter full of people. We heard the terrorists approaching the entrance and someone said, “start saying Shema Israel” which is a prayer.

I heard the Muslim guy rush out and shout to them “I’m a Muslim, I’m a Muslim, don’t hurt them!” There was shouting between them and I don’t know what happened to him.

After that I heard the Muslim guy rush out and shout to them “I’m a Muslim, I’m a Muslim, don’t hurt them!” There was shouting between them and I don’t know what happened to him. The terrorists then started throwing grenades, stun grenades (flashbangs), and even shot an RPG into the Migunit. Some of the stun grenades exploded inside the shelter and everything was kind of in slow motion; some of the blasts occurred near the entrance, some right outside the entrance and some people managed to throw some of them out. I said to myself “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die”.

It was like this for about 8-11 grenades. Aner displayed some of the craziest instincts and bravest acts possible and threw most of them back out, including a regular explosive grenade. Another one or two threw a grenade out. But then one exploded inside.

In that explosion I felt that I experienced a kind of death. I felt that my body was turning into a small creature, as if someone was folding me into myself, and that I was being sucked into a black space. I didn’t hear or see anything but I felt peaceful and I just wondered to myself what was happening in death and when would the part come where my life passes me by. I literally felt my body stop, I didn’t feel any heartbeats. I had voices in my head of all kinds of things that sounded like spirits whispering things to me, I felt that I no longer had a body, everything shrank into nothing. I saw and felt a big spot rise up from the top of my head. It felt like my soul.

Suddenly I could hear Itamar echoing in my head and telling me, “Stay with me, stay with me.” I told him, “Itamar, I’m dying.” He told me, “you’re not, you’re here with me.” When I asked him, “can you hear me?” he said “yes, beautiful, we’re okay.” I told him again “I can’t hold on, I’m dying”. He repeated again, the words, “you’re with me, stay with me”. I told him “I’m afraid that if I come back now, I won’t go back to being who I am.” Itamar barely heard me saying this and asked me to be with him. Then I felt my soul return. I opened my eyes and saw nothing but orange dust.

“I don’t remember what happened first – the kidnapping or the shooting massacre. I think the kidnapping.”

There was a lot of yelling and people who were killed and severely injured. Someone screamed that one woman had no hand. I closed my eyes again. And again, we heard terrorists coming in. They started yelling. I don’t remember what happened first – the kidnapping or the shooting massacre. I think the kidnapping. They took people, dragged them, and told them to get out.

The people shouted that they didn’t want to go and tried to fight them. Then tried to speak to them in Arabic and English, and said “salaam” to them and, “please no”. I tried to keep a low profile as much as possible. One of the girls they took was returned to the shelter later on because they didn’t have room for her on the truck and she ended up surviving. Later I found out that Alon was also kidnapped.

After that, the terrorists came in and shot everywhere. I tried to shrink as much as I could and play dead. I opened my eyes again, and made sure that Itamar was alive and that he was near me. Itamar told me, “my beautiful, I got a bullet in my hand” and immediately pressed onto the open wound, without thinking twice, no matter how much it hurt him. To stop the bleeding. During all of this, rockets were falling outside and terrorists were shooting at people outside. People were yelling, bleeding out and dying.

“Rockets were falling outside and terrorists were shooting at people outside. People were yelling, bleeding out and dying.”

Itamar was shot by a bullet that pierced his arm from one side to the other. I was shot in the leg by a bullet that had probably hit a wall or someone in front of me, so there was a hole in my leg, but not too big. After that, I took off all the jewelry I had because I remembered that there was something to do with the fact that you shouldn’t wear jewelry in such cases, but the jewelry had already burned me. I only forgot to take off the bracelet my mother gave me before I joined the army, because I never take it off. It also burned me, but I’m glad it remained on me.

From that moment we tried to stay as quiet as possible so that the terrorists would not come back and kill us. Every time we heard voices outside the shelter, we lowered our heads under the bodies and played dead. I removed all the blood from my face, took my shirt off and tore it with my teeth. I tried to make Itamar a tourniquet but I’m not skilled enough at that and the shirt tore. Itamar pressed on his wound as much as he could. At first we thought he only had one hole in his hand, but later we realized there were two. Throughout it all, there were bodies on our feet that didn’t allow us to move. Our friends and most of the people we talked and laughed with just a few moments before were lying next to us.

“At first the police didn’t believe us, next they said they couldn’t help us. Then they said they were coming and it gave us some hope, but they did not come.”

At this stage, Itamar could barely hear because of all of the explosions. For many hours, every time we heard someone approaching, we tried to figure out if they were coming into the shelter or just walking outside. We heard dozens of terrorists approaching, talking and shouting. The five people who were closer to the exit of the shelter had cellular reception and they tried to call and call for help through friends and police. They called the police about twenty times. At first the police didn’t believe us, next they said they couldn’t help us. Then they said they were coming and it gave us some hope, but they did not come. There was so much going on all around us that we didn’t know of. During all this time, we tried to be as quiet as possible so that the terrorists outside would not get in.

Our legs were under the bodies and I was sure I had lost my leg. Later when I was able to move it, I realized that I did have a leg and what I thought to be my leg was actually a part of someone else’s corpse that was on top of me. After a few hours we heard a large vehicle approaching and people got out. We heard ambulance sirens and someone yelling, “this is Magen David Adom (Israeli Red Cross first aid). Split into two teams and scan everything. Don’t shoot at anything that moves because there may be people and vehicles of our own here.” We unanimously agreed that we would not leave the shelter in case they were not really Israelis.

A moment after that we started hearing gunshots. I don’t know if it was shots from terrorists or from the Israel Defense Forces, but the shots always came from the direction of the Migunit. We waited ten minutes, then another twenty. Time didn’t move and no one came. During this time we tried to stay optimistic and to take deep breaths; to smile at each other. We had no water at all, the water bottles we kept had been exploded by the gunshots. Itamar and I held the wound tight and stopped the bleeding every time it started to bleed again.

After an hour or so we heard someone from outside say, “brother, do you have a car?” and his friend answering “I can’t find the keys” in the most Israeli accent possible. We still didn’t allow ourselves to go out because we were afraid that they weren’t really Israelis. After about twenty minutes we heard two people talking in Arabic; it was probably them. I kept trying to think like a warrior, what would a warrior do at a moment like this. I thought about my brother, or tried to get into the terrorists’ head, and I saw no reason why they wouldn’t come to verify a kill. After all, they want to kill as many of us as possible.

A few hours later, Itamar told me that he thought his phone was under me somewhere. I looked under myself and found it. I took it and it was full of blood. I cleaned it with our clothes, but there was no reception for a long time. We didn’t understand what was happening outside, complete helplessness and lack of information about the situation. I was sure that if I went out of the shelter, I would find Hamas occupied territory.

Suddenly, for a second, the phone started receiving messages. Messages from concerned people who thought we were safe in Tze’elim or Sa’ad, based on false lists that had been distributed. We couldn’t write back because there was no reception, yet we sent messages and snapshots to my mother and Itamar’s father and Itamar’s friends from the army, along with personal information, so that if by chance the messages got through, they would understand that it was us and not Hamas. We asked whoever was closest to the entrance of the shelter to hold the phone for a few minutes but the messages were not sent.

We tried again, and after a few minutes the messages started sending. Lots of people, friends of Itamar, mine, and our families asked where we were and asked us to send a location. It was difficult to send a location because there wasn’t much reception and we couldn’t talk on the phone because we were afraid the terrorists outside would hear us. People inside didn’t want us to talk on the phone either.

We tried to explain that we were trying to get us all rescued. All the while – dozens of cars passed by us. We occasionally heard single shots and lots of loud booms and Red Alert sirens. We tried to write our location to as many people as possible, to explain our position and the number of people there. At some point, I heard a woman scream. I think it was from the kibbutz.

While this was happening, I heard strange sounds from outside, of someone walking by the entrance of the shelter or of some animal that sounded like they were tearing up newspapers or dragging branches and trees to the entrance of the shelter. At that moment, I told Itamar that I was afraid they were going to set us all on fire. So every second counted.

After half an hour or so, a car arrived and then we heard footsteps. We did what we always did when we heard footsteps, which was play dead. Then it was quiet for a second. Next, we saw a hand slip in to insert a phone into the shelter but quickly take it out in case there were terrorists inside. Then he peaked in, and asked if anyone was here. We raised our heads, and we all started crying.

There were seven survivors that I know of, including Itamar and myself. I think that only Itamar and I were injured and all five other survivors were not seriously injured physically, but I’m sure they are scared mentally. Everyone who was able to walk, left the shelter on foot. The whole shelter was full of grenades, with corpses, blood and body parts; there was a terrible smell and many flies. We didn’t know if the grenades could explode at any moment or if they had already exploded.

Me and another girl couldn’t get up. My leg hurt terribly from the impact of the bullet. I managed to get it out from under the bodies but couldn’t get up, and another survivor’s legs were under the bodies too. I held her hand and told her that we are here together and everything is fine. While this was happening, we heard gunshots outside and were afraid that they were shooting at us again and that we would not get out of here alive.

Eli (pseudonym), a civilian, and someone else, a colonel, said it would all be fine.

The colonel lifted me into the car; I was topless. He immediately gave me a shirt and a towel to cover myself. When they took us out of there, I didn’t look left or right. My eyes were only on the vehicle. They drove us to a gas station at the Be’eri intersection where the survivors and the wounded were gathered. While driving, I asked Eli if there was a terrorist there when they arrived or if it was one of our soldiers. He said it was a terrorist. Good thing we didn’t leave when we heard them speak Hebrew.

All along the way, we saw open cars and dead bodies next to them. I felt like I was in a horror movie. When we arrived at the gathering point, a gas station at the B’e’e’ri junction, they told Eli to evacuate us urgently to Soroka hospital. When we got to Soroka, someone took a picture of me, one of the doctors or nurses there. I felt so uncomfortable and started yelling at her to stop taking pictures. They told me it was just for identification but I didn’t care.

After that they took good care of us and did everything to make sure we were okay. My hands were clenched, all my fingers were closed tight, my body was shaking and contracting from the trauma. I couldn’t let go. All along the way, Itamar had protected me with his body. We hid behind people’s bodies. Itamar kept telling me to smile and that everything would be okay. Itamar and I have this thing where we pinky swear for all kinds of things that we want to promise will happen. At the beginning of it all, Itamar made a pinky swear with me that we will get out of it alive, and we didn’t lose hope for a moment.

I felt that people were praying for us, but I had no real hope that they would find us because it felt like none of the rescue forces cared. We were sure we were going to die there without food and water. Now I’m at home, trying to recover from everything and deal with the trauma I experienced. Every time I hear the smallest boom, a car passing, and so many other things, I look to the sides and assure myself that everything is fine and that I am safe. Even now that I have been writing this story for over five days, every time I remember the smallest detail my heart races and my whole body trembles.

I’m only twenty years old. Someone please tell me if it makes any sense that I had to go through what I did, just because I want to live peacefully in my country, and that I will have to deal with trauma for the rest of my life.

It is true that I am usually active on social networks, but never have I shared so much information, feelings and weaknesses about myself. I know that it is important that the world hear what we have been through, and that it is also important for me to process the information and accept what I have been through. I can’t believe that several days have passed since then. It feels like it was yesterday, but now we are surrounded by people who love us, and are happy we’ve miraculously survived. Aner Shapira from Nahal’s Orev Company saved our lives and deserves a medal of valor for being our guardian angel.

Itamar lost two close friends and one of his friends was kidnapped. He is full of shrapnel in his face and body and took a bullet to his hand that came out the other side. He underwent one surgery, and is waiting for another. Both of his eardrums were ruptured. I have shrapnel in my head, neck and back. I have blisters on my hands and a hole in my leg from a bullet that failed to penetrate my shoe. A lot of my hair fell out, both from the trauma and from the blood and dust that tangled it together. People who know me know how much I care and am sensitive about my hair and can understand how hard it is for me.

Of course I am thankful for every moment that I breathe, I have been given a new lease on life. In total, we were in the shelter for seven hours, from 07:20 to 14:19 pm, helpless, without food or water.

I grieve with the great sorrow of the families of all who have been murdered. I hope and pray that the abducted will return home soon.

Ayelet Arnin, Segev Israel Kizner, Aner Shapira, may they rest in peace.

Aloni, I hope you come back to us and to the family and friends who love you so much soon, healthy and whole, and that you remain optimistic and strong and hang in there.

In my story, there are many missing parts. I kept many things to myself, things that people don’t need to know, or it is not my choice whether to share it with the world or not. I did not see everything; I closed my eyes most of the time the terrorists were close to us.

I know that this is not just my story, but also the story of the murdered, kidnapped and survivors. However, that is the way I saw or did not see things.

If you could, please share my story, so that as many people as possible in the world understand what we are going through in Israel.

Agam Y.