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Survivor stories

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They went from house to house. Tormenting. Butchering. Slaughtering. Looting. Torching. Kidnapping

  • Aviv C.'s story

At night, I dream about terrorists breaking into my house, shooting and killing me

On Friday, October 6th, I went to Kibbutz Nir Am to meet a friend. I spontaneously stayed over for dinner as my parents were abroad and my siblings weren't home. It was wonderful and delicious and very cozy. We drank wine, and even talked a bit about politics. After dinner, we stayed to chat, listen to music, and laugh. Because I drank alcohol I decided to stay over. Their extra bedroom was the house’s safe room.

At 6:30 in the morning, we woke up to the red alert siren. I'm not a stranger to sirens after my service in the regional council of Eshkol, but this time it felt like an unusual rocket barrage. For a whole hour, the sirens didn't stop. After the first siren, I managed to send a text message to the family group that we were okay and that I was in Nir Am (I didn't even text them the night before that I'd be staying over spontaneously). Right after that, all the electricity in the kibbutz went out, along with the cell reception.

Sometime around 7:15 am, we started to hear sounds of gunfire.

Within the kibbutz WhatsApp group, questions started surfacing about "why are we hearing gunshots?" (We sometimes hear gunshots in the kibbutz due to proximity to the border, but this time it was quite strong). Between sirens, we left the safe room, and because there was no reception, internet, or electricity, we solved crossword puzzles. We made coffee on the stove top and I amused myself with the wordplay of "coffee on the fire" (in Hebrew it means “coffee on the stove top”) or "under fire". All the while, there were sirens and sounds of gunfire.

At 10:30 am, one of the neighbors we had contact with said there was a bit of reception outside, so we went out. I texted that I was okay again after seeing that Hadas had sent me several worried texts. Suddenly, rumors started coming through - terrorists entered the surrounding kibbutzim. A second later, we heard the neighbor next to us crying; she heard about the head of her council, Ofir Liebstein, who was murdered, and that terrorists had entered the kibbutzim and managed to kill civilians. Shortly after that, we heard very loud gunfire and the sounds of explosions nearby, so we hurried back home. Again, we were without reception and connection to the outside world.

"It turned out that Hamas announced that morning that they had taken over Nir Am, the kibbutz where I was staying."

At 12:30 pm, the electricity and reception came back. By that point, the entire country had begun to understand the dimensions of the tragedy, and we were suddenly exposed to everything all at once. Horrific headlines arrived - about dozens of casualties in different kibbutzim, entire military bases that had been overrun, the fact that we were essentially deep within enemy territory. We couldn't believe this was happening. We couldn't grasp the enormity of the event. It turned out that Hamas announced that morning that they had taken over Nir Am, the kibbutz where I was staying. I can only imagine what Hadas and my family were thinking. We didn't realize that just 100 meters away from us, the amazing rapid response squad of the kibbutz had been fighting dozens of terrorists for our lives. And we had no idea.

Aviv C.

I received an automatic message from the IDF reserves that I must report. I broke down in tears. I realized we were in a war, I immediately thought of my friends. My worst fears had always been entering a war, losing more friends. Since then, I haven't been able to cry.

We immediately lowered the shutters and locked the door (only after reception returned did messages arrive in the kibbutz group about what needed to be done). We spent the rest of the day obsessively watching the TV, running to the safe room and trying to figure out how we could lock it. In the background, the gunfire, explosions, helicopter attacks on the breaches on the border… It didn't stop. All this time, there was fighting outside the kibbutz for our lives.

"There were barely any other kibbutzim where civilians weren't affected."

In the late afternoon, they announced that "the event outside the kibbutz had ended," meaning that the Border Guard forces from Sderot that arrived in the afternoon, managed to kill all the terrorists in the kibbutz vicinity. We realized that by some miracle, and with a lot of luck and determination of the rapid response squad and Border Guard, we were spared. There were barely any other kibbutzim where civilians weren't affected. A miracle.

At 2:30 am, the residents of kibbutz Nir Am suddenly received a message to evacuate the kibbutz immediately. We tried heading to our private cars to evacuate but had to run back twice to the safe room because there was a red alert siren. After that, we got into the car, and we drove as fast as we could towards my home. I will never forget that drive. My whole body is now shaking from reminiscing. The road from Nir Am to Sderot and even the road bypassing Sderot from the east, was a battlefield. Cars were burnt, flipped sideways, against the flow of traffic, of those who tried to escape the chaos right outside the kibbutz gates, but they didn't succeed. Tanks in the middle of central intersections. Darkness engulfed us. We tried hard not to look to the sides because we all knew there were bodies at the sides of the roads. And it just continues and continues and continues. At 4:30 am we arrived at my house. We settled in and tried to sleep. We survived. Just like that.

The last month continued to be a nightmare. At night, I dream about terrorists breaking into my house. Almost always the dream ends with them shooting and killing me, sometimes they kidnap me. Yesterday, I woke up a bit optimistic as, for the first time, I dreamt that I managed to kill them.

I have no appetite. The ability to enjoy the simplest things has been affected. Most of the last month, I've been either in bed or in the living room, denying my existence in front of the TV. All this is happening to me, and I haven't even been through the worst of it. All this, and I've survived, thanks to I don't know who, and none of my close family or friends were killed or abducted. I can't even begin to imagine the hell people are going through that weren’t as lucky as me.

"At night, I dream about terrorists breaking into my house. Almost always the dream ends with them shooting and killing me, sometimes they kidnap me."

I'm angry. I'm so angry. At everyone. At myself for not being able to go to the reserves right now, even though I really want to. At this country. At this terrible government that knew how to ruin all our lives but now simply doesn't exist. Where the hell are they???

I'm so moved by the volunteering spirit in Israel, and most of the good I've had this month was during volunteering in agriculture. This nation deserves better leaders.

My heart is broken, and it doesn't seem like it's going to heal soon. My two students - Yael Liebshor RIP and Ariel Erez RIP died in battles in the south. Two wonderful people with their whole lives ahead now gone. My thoughts are mostly with my students, or my friends, or reliving that terrible day, or looking for some hope to cling to. I hope that one day I'll get to see the sunset over the fields of Eshkol again. I hope all the abducted people will return to us. I hope one day there will be peace here. I hope we won't ever have to justify the killing of innocent people. I hope they won't kill and chase us. I just hope for peace.

I owe my life to a lot of people - to Inbal Liberman and all the members of the rapid response squad of Kibbutz Nir Am. To the Border Guard soldiers in Sderot. To Matan Avrajel RIP and all his team. To everyone who fought for my life on that day, and I still don't know their names. I promise I'll find ouf. There are no words in the world that can describe the gratitude I owe you.

Aviv C.


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