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Another group of terrorists arrived - with a pickup truck to take us back in

  • Nadav T.'s story

Bursts of gunfire, explosion, more gunshots, yelling, explosion. An infiltration. Horror

October 7, 2023 Nahal Oz.

At 6:30 in the morning, I woke up in a panic to a familiar sound.

Red alert. I automatically ran to the next room, brought Tom-Tom the dog quickly into the safe room, locked the door and got back into bed, under the covers, back to sleep. “Again those troublemakers have started” I thought to myself. Saturday morning, it’ll pass soon. More alarms and a sea of alerts, we were under fire.

With one look at each other, Rotem and I realized that something unusual was happening. Only two months ago, he took on the role of managing the community’s emergency response and now he needed to go into action. He sent a message [to the kibbutz]: “Enter a safe room, lock your house, and don’t leave until you receive another message.”

The safe room was dark, and everything was uncertain. Ilan (may his memory be a blessing), our amazing security coordinator (who coordinated with the army) and Rotem’s right-hand-man in this role, reported that terrorists had infiltrated the kibbutz and opened fire, and then we lost contact with him.

“There were more than a hundred armed terrorists. This is an invasion.”

Bursts of gunfire, explosion, more gunshots, yelling, explosion. An infiltration. Horror. It was happening, what we thought could happen, was happening. “Scoundrels, b*stards, how did a few terrorists manage to get into the kibbutz?” I thought to myself. Not much time passed before I realized that they are not few or far between. There were more than a hundred armed terrorists. This was an invasion.

I was sitting on the floor, with my head against the bed and started to cry. “I’m in Protective Edge (the 2014 Gaza war)”, I repeat over and over. Rotem put his hand on mine. After a minute of crying, I took a deep breath. Something within me screamed “You don’t have the privilege to feel these things right now, you’re in a war of survival! Get up right now and get yourself together.” I wiped my tears, took a deep breath, and stood up decisively.

“Listen,” I say to Rotem, “Our house is very easy to break into, our safe room is designed to protect us from blasts and not from infiltrations. Our chances aren’t good.” He looked at me in confusion and asked, “I don’t understand, what are you planning to do?”

“You’ll manage here doing your job [as security coordinator]. I’m taking a knife and preparing for an ambush from inside the house. I want to see them before they see me. All you need to do is be ready to escape. If they enter from the front, we’ll escape from the back and vice versa. I’ll also put chairs under the windows so we’ll have a few options. Additionally, I’m going to the back patio and piling up the sofas to block the sliding glass door to give us time if they come from there.”

“The bullets pierced the walls of the house and the windows and shutters like lethal metal raindrops. The battle cries were clear.”

At that moment, Rotem realized that I was in combat mode. After seven years together, he knew the look in my eyes. I went into the fight, my past and present a clash of giants. For several hours, I lurked between the living room and the kitchen, knife in one hand and rolling pin in the other. If it wasn’t terrifying, it would have been hilarious. Alarms, rocket barrage, explosion, gunfire, yelling, explosion, gunfire. It was getting closer, now in our neighborhood.

The bullets pierced the walls of the house and the windows and shutters like lethal metal raindrops. The battle cries were clear. Like in a video game, the space around us is shrinking. “Listen,” I say to Rotem for the second time as he takes a deep breath. “Our best chance to save ourselves is to break the door handle of the safe room, and slam the door behind us with the handle inside. We’ll be blockaded in. They’ll have to work hard to get to us.”

“I peeked carefully through the front door, and ran as fast and as low as I could. The sound is impossible to forget.”

The tools were in the garden shed, of course, behind the house, but survival is the most important thing right now. I took off my shoes so they wouldn’t slow me down. We took a deep breath together and I peeked carefully through the front door, and ran as fast and as low as I could. The sound is impossible to forget. “Where is the screwdriver??” Found it.

I run back to the house, release the air from my lungs, and start working on the door handle. It’s not working. I need an allen wrench. “I have to go again, this is our best shot.” Bursts of gunshots, explosion, yelling… damn. Return, take it apart, success!! The handle was off. Quickly went to the fridge – a bottle of water, a bowl of granola, two handles, slam, silence. “This is the best we can do, from here it’s out of our hands.”

“Messages, voice notes, phone calls from our community – horror upon horror without end."

It was 10:00 am. Messages, voice notes, phone calls from our community – horror upon horror without end. The voices, the fear, the breakdowns, the courage, the mobilization. And one message: “Save us.” “Hello? Is there an update? Did someone save you?” Silence.

I sent a message to my two close friends in Kfar Aza and Nir Oz: “Send me a sign that you’re okay, please!” One replied. The second didn’t… A phone call from my brother, a call from my dad, a message from my sister. My whole family is in the arena - my dad, my brother, and my sister in Sderot. Everyone checked their pulse every few minutes. They barricaded themselves on the roof of the house, while below them terrorists on pickup trucks shot rounds in every direction.

My other sister who was celebrating the holiday in Ofakim wasn’t responding. At 2:00pm she finally sent a message - her husband’s brother was killed. “Terrorists broke into our house. We hid on the roof for a few hours. There were grenades and gun battles. They fired an RPG and blew up the house. We escaped through the window with the kids but he was the last one. The terrorist shot him. This isn’t normal, this can’t be real.” Later on, it became clear that he stayed in the room until everyone else was out in order to be sure that they would survive.

I look at Rotem and blurt out, “I don’t believe it, I just don’t believe it. What is happening here?” I feel the struggle within me and it’s enormous. Give up, let the fear take over, close your eyes, disassociate. Or be alert, continue to function as much as possible, be vital, somehow. Long hours pass. When we needed to use the bathroom, we relieved ourselves in a potted plant in the room, quietly. We whisper.

From time to time, we heard noises from inside the house and I went over to pet Tom-Tom to calm him down, and also if necessary to put my hand over his mouth so that he wouldn’t growl or bark and give us away. But Tom-Tom is completely disconnected, sleeping most of the day, as if he understands that this is what he needs to do, even though it’s in complete contrast to his usual behavior.

“A voice note in a whisper: “They are outside the door and we’re here with our kids. We need help now.””

“They’re at our house.” “They’re here again, where are the security forces??” “They’re destroying our home!” “They’re trying to open the safe room.” “They’re speaking Hebrew, are they from our side?” “Don’t answer and don’t open the doors. These are not our forces!” A voice note in a whisper: “They are outside the door and we’re here with our kids. We need help now.” So helpless. Working with what we have.

Rotem receives a report that another house has been infiltrated. I mark the location of the house on my phone, and send it to Rotem to forward to the security forces in the field. Again. And again. And again. I’m trying to function as much as possible. “Consolation of fools,” I think to myself. I hope that this will help someone. We are alone, no one is coming. And Rotem, this man of mine, is managing a mega event – comforting, calming, giving hope, coordinating security teams, revealed in all his glory.

Night fell. We still could not leave. IDF forces arrived and began a meticulous rescue mission on foot. “How do you know that they’re from our side?” “They’ll yell ‘IDF!’” “But the terrorists also did that.” “Right.” “So we’ll ask them to tell us the name of their unit.” “But how will we hear? The safe room is completely sealed.” “Right.” “So we’ll try to listen carefully.” “Please make sure they don’t forget us.” “No one will be left behind!”

It was 1:30am. Loud knocks on the door of our house. “IDF!” “That doesn’t help me, what unit??” “Givati brigade.” For the first time since the morning, I went to open the door to the safe room, but stayed ready to slam it closed. I tried to listen. “Cover me here, at the far end of the path.” Hebrew. Relief. I went to the door and opened it cautiously. Seven young soldiers tore through the house and scanned it in seconds.

We had less than a minute to organize a bag for both of us and Tom-Tom. What do we take? For how long? “Have something to drink,” I said, opening the cupboard. I almost started to cry when I saw the soldiers pouring themselves cold water. In a lightning flash - the house was still standing, there were soldiers here drinking, we were alive. F*ck, f*ck, f*ck, what is happening here??

3 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, 3 pairs of underwear, and flip flops. We went outside. The smell of smoke, a crushed car in the bushes, large flames in the background, shattered car windows, the sound of armored vehicles, pressure, cold, the middle of the night. We got into the hummers, it was a one minute drive on the kibbutz main road. “Don’t look to your right.” “Now don’t look to your left.” And of course I looked…

Bursts of gunfire were heard from a distance, and the Hummer convoy reached a distant point in the kibbutz. A community of refugees, on a caravan of buses in a dark rescue operation towards a safer destination. From there, a caravan of buses to a farther safer destination.

Back to the present: I’m sitting in a library that has been turned into a disaster recovery center in the North of Israel, a moment before the Sabbath begins. I’m writing all of this as a testimony, so that I won’t forget, so that no one can ever tell me otherwise in another few weeks. So that no one will ever forget.

Nadav T with his dog Tom-Tom

Funeral Notices

This is a Holocaust. Great darkness descended on the world in the form of monsters. Day after day, I cry and grieve for my neighbors, my friends, for all of us. Extraordinary men and women who filled our world with goodness and light. Who were murdered. Who were saved. I also want to write about moments of heroic rescue. But as we point out at the end of every conversation these last few days: now is the time to cry. How do I release words like this into the world? Is it appropriate? Did I capture everything? I don’t have any answers, like most things at the moment. The rest will come in time, as part of my testimony, as part of my healing process.

Nadav T.