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We heard Arabic while receiving messages from the parents’ group: terrorists are inside homes

October 7, 6 a.m. Red alert. Damn, why so early? Especially on a Saturday? I had been debating since last…

We heard Arabic while receiving messages from the parents’ group: terrorists are inside homes

October 7, 6 a.m.

Red alert.

Damn, why so early? Especially on a Saturday?

I had been debating since last night whether to attend the Simchat Torah celebrations at my grandfather’s synagogue in Omer. Well, I guess that’s settled now.

Danny and I jump out of bed. He turns right to go to the safe room with Yatir, and I turn left to wake up the girls so they can run to the safe room. On my way, Tavor runs past me in the opposite direction, having been woken by the sirens. I continue to Arbel’s room. As I open the door, I find both Arbel and Yatir sound asleep (turns out he slept there). I wake them up saying, “Red alert,” and we all hurry to the safe room. The door and steel window close behind us, but the sirens persist. I initially think it will soon be over and we can return to sleep. Staying in the safe room for an extended period isn’t comfortable, and I long for my bed.

Arbel immediately begins to shake uncontrollably. As I comfort her, Tavor consistently reassures her: “God is watching over us, I’m sure. Don’t worry, He’s with us.”

Not much time passes before we hear gunfire outside our window. The sound is distressingly close. It’s clear this isn’t a typical infiltration. Danny and I exchange terrified glances, careful not to voice our fears in front of the children. I assume there must be an exchange of fire between the terrorists and soldiers because the idea that only the terrorists are firing, unopposed, is too horrifying.

As time drags on, I realize I left my phone in the bedroom. Meanwhile, Danny’s and Tavor’s phones are inundated with messages. The persistent gunfire feels as though it’s right outside our door.

Standing by the door, Danny firmly grips the handle, remaining calm and composed. We communicate silently. I message our neighbors, Rotem and Idit, who share that they hear Arabic voices outside their safe room. My fear grows, and I hope my daughters remain unaware, knowing they’d instantly understand the situation if they heard.

As more time passes, my father and then my brother call (Danny had retrieved my phone earlier). They tell us villages in the Otef have been infiltrated. I want to convey that the threat is right outside our house, but I’m wary of the children overhearing. I try to hint at it. Both my father and brother understand and are deeply concerned.

The elongated stay in the safe room starts to challenge us. The children need to use the restroom, so we improvise with Yatir’s garbage bin. Messages continue to flood in from the parents’ group: terrorists are inside homes, houses are burning, and people are crying for help. My heart shatters at the thought of our neighbors in distress, so close yet unreachable.

Eventually, I start to feel unwell. After some persuasion, Danny opens the door, allowing me to use the restroom. While there, I hear distant shouts in Arabic. The realization hits hard: the terrorists are here, and we’re on our own. Returning to the safe room, I quietly suggest to Danny that we should have a kitchen knife for protection. He quickly retrieves one, and we seal ourselves back in the safe room, now without any food or water.

Hours seem to pass, and I again need to exit the room. I convince Danny to let me out a second time. Taking advantage of the moment, he fetches some water and a snack. Upon returning, I see Yatir eating, and I marvel at his resilience.

By now, Tavor understands the gravity of our situation. Her initial optimism gives way to fear. I try to comfort her, but she’s visibly shaken.

Eventually, soldiers enter our home around 2:30 p.m. They allow us a brief respite to fetch food and water before instructing us to return to the safe room. We bring the cholent, but none of us feels like eating.

By 4:30 p.m., Lee from the community patrol arrives, instructing us to quickly head to the community center, where the rest of the Kibbutz has gathered. Once there, the horrifying news hits us: Mor, 17, and her father were killed in their home. The jovial girl who had dined at my house and stayed up with Tavor until 3 a.m. the previous night was gone. Roy, our kind-hearted neighbor, was also lost. Some Kibbutz members had been kidnapped. The incomprehensible reality of the situation begins to settle in.

I come to appreciate the miracle that we experienced: our home was left untouched when almost every other house in the neighborhood had been entered and vandalized.

A day later, we were evacuated to Eilat.

Thank you to everyone who read this.

Special thanks to the heroic community patrol members who confronted the terrorists and saved our lives.

In memory of Mor Meir, Doron Meir, and Roy Poplevel. May God avenge their blood.

Maayan P.