It is Saturday morning. A week has passed since the tragedy of October 7th. I feel like my brain has acknowledged that a week has passed, but I literally can’t comprehend what happened.
6:30 AM: My phone is vibrating non-stop. I slowly wake up and realize that something odd is happening. I jump out of bed, get dressed quickly, and text my brother Nati to check if he is okay.
My brother moved just a month ago to Kibbutz Meflasim (originally from Be’er Sheva) with his two girls in order to live in a calmer and more pastoral place. He replies that everything is fine down there, and they are sitting in their safe room. I am now relaxed.
While receiving alerts about barrages in Kibbutz Be’eri, I immediately texted my beloved friend Rinat, a resident of Be’eri. She tells me she is safe and has immediately entered the safe room with her partner and four sons.
She was our angel and savior this last year when she devotedly cared for my young son and became both me and my wife’s soul mate. We would meet with her on a daily basis, chatting and hanging out together often.
“What is happening?!?!!” she asks on WhatsApp. I answer that it may be another beginning of fire exchanges with Hamas. I didn’t realize at the time the magnitude of the events that were about to come.
I finish getting organized, kiss my wife Natalie goodbye, get in the car, and drive as fast as I can towards Sderot.
While driving, reports are coming in that hundreds of barrages are flying all over the place. I am contacting other friends of mine who live in the Gaza border region. I drive past Beit Kama, turn right towards Ruhama, reaching the Eivim junction, turn left towards Sapir College, and reach the Shaar HaNegev junction.
I glance to the right and notice a group of Israeli soldiers and a military jeep blocking the road towards Yad Mordechai. I turn left towards Gevim and observe the hills on the Gaza border region.
The Elonit gas station is deserted. I quickly unload the equipment from my car, turn on the camera, and begin to broadcast live. Within a minute, chaos begins.
Kornet missiles and machine guns are rocketing towards the intersection that I had just left a minute ago. I see major fire and smoke around and non-stop gunfire in the background. Although I see it all in front of my eyes, I find it hard to believe what is happening.
I suddenly hear voices shouting behind me, “Stand still!! Don’t move!! Hands up!!” I turn around and see police special forces fighters with masks aiming their guns at me. I stutter and tell them I am from the press, the Kan 11 channel. They quickly grab me by the shoulder straps and tell me not to raise my head because terrorists surround our location.
Suddenly, I notice that next to me lies a bleeding soldier with a bullet in his chest. While receiving first aid from his friend, I saw one police force van being hit in many places by bullets, and its tires were completely punctured. I then noticed another vehicle that appeared to be in good condition. I hear the communicator cry for help for the wounded citizens and guns firing from all around.
At a certain point, the fighters get up and continue fighting all around, and I am left alone with the wounded soldier, reaching out to him and keeping him awake and alert. I pull out my gun, slowly digesting the magnitude of the event.
Meanwhile, I look at my WhatsApp again and check how Rinat is doing in Be’eri. She tells me that terrorists are near her house, and she hears them speaking in Arabic from the other side of her door. Her shock and horror give me chills, but I still believe that our army will arrive in a matter of minutes, and this will be over soon enough. After all, the army is surely prepared for a scenario of terrorist infiltration, and we shall see planes in the air, tanks entering with full force, and the event will be over. I am deeply optimistic.
In the meantime, I continue talking to the wounded fighter next to me to make sure he stays awake and alert. I look up a little and see the other fighters shooting all over the place. I hear in the communication that officers are injured, the vehicle is unprotected, and an urgent evacuation is needed ASAP.
My camera is still filming towards the junction, and the bursts of fire are still heard from all over. The minutes pass. I lose track of time; it feels like an eternity.
I look at my WhatsApp again, waiting for good news from Kibbutz Be’eri. Rinat replies that no one has come to their rescue, and the terrorists continue to shoot towards them and try to enter the shelter.
I am texting my colleagues and forwarding Rinats’ and others’ messages to show them that this scenario has lost control and that there are still no soldiers of ours in the areas surrounding Gaza.
At the same time, I’m texting a good friend of mine, Naomi, who is staying with her family in Kfar Gaza. She confirms these events at her place as well.
A long time has passed, and the special forces return, acknowledging that no one is coming to evacuate the injured fighter. They help him into the police van and race to the hospital.
I am now alone at the Elonit gas station, and the firing is still ongoing around me.
“The sights from my car window on the way are with me to this day. Soldiers lying on the road, cars on fire, terrorists lying among the soldiers’ bodies.”
Time goes by so slowly, and I can already imagine that the terrorists are moments away from me. Luckily, my extra cartridge is with me. In a quick calculation, I have 24 bullets. Once they get close, I’ll need to act wisely. I look again at my WhatsApp and see a message: “They are burning our house!” I’m struck with fright, checking if there are any troops heading there or if anyone is reporting any good news. I’m hearing the gunshots and trying my best to identify a plane, helicopter, or drone, but I hear nothing.
I’m unsure how long has passed, and at one stage, I realize the firing has slowed. I decide that I am not staying here anymore, so I go to my camera, throw all the equipment into the car, and leave the gas station. I take a right towards the Sha’ar Hanegev junction.
The sights from my car window on the way are with me to this day. Soldiers lying on the road, cars on fire, terrorists lying among the soldiers’ bodies. For a moment, I forget that I am in the middle of this crisis and struggle to continue driving. I pull myself together and continue driving like crazy towards the Eivim junction and from there to Beit Kama.
I reach the junction covered in cold sweat and with fast-paced breathing, as if I just completed a long run.
Itzik informs me that he is getting on a flight from Greece and is on his way to join me. I continue checking up on my friends from the border region. I tried calling Roey, a dear friend and photographer for Ynet News who lives in Kfar Aza, but there was no answer. I then try calling Yaniv, another dear friend, and photographer for Israel Hayom, but there was also no answer.
I try Rinat, my friend from Be’eri once again, hoping she would answer with “We are okay,” but it seemed like she was screaming for help in her texts. She texts me that they are burning her house down and that they are suffocating from smoke in their safe room.
F***! Where is the army? I ask furiously. I continue texting my friends. Naomi informs me that their situation is awful. They are still in their safe room; terrorists are shooting all over the place. I suddenly recall Micah is in the town of Nativ HaAsara. I hope everything is okay down there, but sadly, he answers that it is very bad.
She tells me there aren’t any of our soldiers there, only terrorists. I’m reassuring her while I lie to her and myself; “They’ll be right there, I’m positive.”
I am feeling a sense of horror inside. I call my wife and tell her to lock the windows and prepare our safe room for her and the kids. She tells me that they are nowhere near…. I warned her to please be prepared. I receive reports from Sderot and Ofakim that enlarge the magnitude of the atrocity, but I refuse to accept it.
I remember that only in the last few weeks, we stood meters from the border behind the Nahal Oz Kibbutz and took pictures of the protesters across the fence. I remember that they sent me a picture of us on the hill in front of our border taken from the Gaza side; we giggled and laughed about it. I also remember that a few days ago, they fired rockets across the border near the town Nativ HaAsara. It was just a drill, they told us. Hamas is under control; they are not interested in escalation, only in money. We will bring in a few thousand more workers from the Erez crossing border, and then quiet will be restored.
Rinat texts me: “We ran out of the safe room, we couldn’t breathe, we were suffocating.” She asks again where the forces are. She tells me there aren’t any of our soldiers there, only terrorists. I’m reassuring her while I lie to her and myself; “They’ll be right there, I’m positive.”
Itzik informs me that he has landed and is on his way to meet me at the Gilat junction. I hear that there was an infiltration of terrorists into the city of Netivot as well, with many casualties. I also hear the report about Sderot from Roni and Iko from Channel 12. They let me know that they entered Sderot, and there are terrible tragedies there. They are hiding now in citizens’ houses.
I’m surrounded in despair. I’m no longer optimistic.
14:46 PM: Rinat sends me a selfie of her hiding behind the bushes beside her burning house. Her kids are sitting beside her. She is looking at me through the camera. She has a dead look on her face, with a hint of horror and despair staring straight at me.
I refuse to believe that this is how it will all end. I’m screaming in anger.
My brother, Nati, informs me that he is leaving Kibbutz Meflasim with his family and is headed to our parents in Meitar. I am thinking of the images I saw this morning at the Sha’ar HaNegev junction. My brother has to drive through the junction in order to get to my parents. I think of the pain and horror I have been through and pray that they won’t see any tragedies around. I later found out they had seen much worse sights.
I continue searching for my friends in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, Kibbutz Nahal Oz, and in the town Nativ HaAsara. Roey and Yaniv aren’t answering (I later got the bad news that they were murdered, along with their families).
“Unit 669 is here!” Rinat texts me. I feel like she is about to collapse. She can finally let her guard down. For a moment, I felt joy. I text her back, wishing for more good news. I see on WhatsApp she received the message. I am calm now but still continue to stare at my phone.
15:00 – I text her: “Give me a sign that everything is ok.”
15:01- I text her: “”.
15:17- I text her: “”.
15:24 – I text her: “Answer me please.”
15:32 – I text her: “I hope someone came to rescue you.”
15:45 – I text her:“”.
Hours later, Rinat’s brother called me and told me the bad news. Terrorists murdered Rinat and her entire family.
I feel like I can’t recover. My heart can’t find rest; frustration and anger that I wasn’t able to help her. The anger towards the army, the country, the world, absolutely everybody.
P.S. Yesterday, Natalie, my wife, found some pictures of Rinat’s arm tattoos. The tattoos tell the story of who Rinat was.
I feel like my brain has acknowledged that a week has passed, but I literally can’t comprehend what happened. I am heartbroken .
Rinat’s tattoos: “Breathing is enough”