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Survivor stories

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

  • Aiala M.'s story

Gunshots persisted for hours, and we sat in the safe room, whispering to avoid detection


This is my story, the tale of my Kibbutz - Nir Yitzhak.


On Friday evening, after only getting back from being abroad 2 days earlier, I found myself driving towards Kibbutz Be’eri for a special event called “Bein Hakolot” [Through the Voices]. The theme for the evening was “Childhood in Be'eri.”


It was a special occasion, bringing together members from various communities to share personal stories and sing related songs, fostering a unique sense of connection. That night, we were 300 strong, creating an atmosphere that was both powerful and extraordinary. The evening ended with a thunderous applause, leaving me on cloud nine.


After the event, I received messages from two participants, but I was too exhausted to reply. I decided I’d respond the following day.


Saturday morning arrived abruptly.


At 6:30 a.m, sirens and rockets blared across the kibbutz. I rushed to the safe room with my parents.


By 7:10 a.m, I quickly made a trip to the toilet, filled a large bottle with water, and returned to the safe room.


At 9:00 a.m, the sound of gunshots, disconcertingly close, sent shivers down our spines.


"One of our neighbors informed us that terrorists had entered her daughter's house"


Our kibbutz's WhatsApp group buzzed incessantly. We were urged not to leave the safe room until the next update. One of our neighbors informed us that terrorists had entered her daughter's house. This neighbor was like family to me, and her daughter lived just ten meters from our home. She could hear Arabic being spoken outside her window.


From the WhatsApp group, we pieced together that the terrorists were trying to break into the houses and doing all they could to break in to the safe rooms (the doors couldn't be locked, therefore it was a power struggle over who could control the door handle).


As neighbors stopped responding in the group, every second dragged on like an eternity, filling us with dread for their safety. Gunshots persisted for hours, and we sat in the safe room, whispering to each other to avoid detection from outside. The television was off, and we ignored phone calls. It suddenly hit me that my parents' lives were in my hands.


I couldn't fathom why the terrorists missed our house. Thank goodness for that stroke of luck.


A picture of Aiala M smiling on the beach

"It was at that moment that I realized the gravity of the situation. One family was unaccounted for, six members of the kibbutz guard squad were missing"


At 2:00 p.m, different gunshots echoed, but this time, they were from our own army. Gradually, I began to catch my breath. The gunshots dwindled, leaving us in suspense. We were unsure who had emerged victorious, and apprehension grew as we contemplated what awaited us once we left the safe room. I warned my parents that, though we were safe for now, that feeling would change once we ventured out.


I later learned that it took the army three rounds to regain control of the Kibbutz. To my understanding, there were 30 terrorists roaming the Kibbutz, some were apparently kids on bicycles or motorcycles, attempting to steal or vandalize anything they could find in our homes.


By 6:00 p.m, the army was conducting house-to-house searches, informing us that only one member of each household could collect supplies, such as food and water, with the rest remaining in the safe room. My parents and I received this confirmation at 8:00 p.m, and we decided to venture out together, though we were all gripped by fear.


We emptied the bottles we had used for urine, gathered some food and a small amount of water, and returned to the safe room.


At 8:10 p.m, I had my first meal of the day.


By 9:30 p.m the army assembled all members of the Kibbutz in a few fortified houses.

80 of us were there, people of all ages, some with dogs.

I managed only two hours of sleep that night, with my mother and our two puppies on a yoga mat. My father slept on a baby changing table.


It was at that moment that I realized the gravity of the situation. One family was unaccounted for, six members of the kibbutz guard squad were missing (one of whom was a dear friend), and one soldier from the kibbutz had vanished.


"Later that day, I received the heartbreaking news that a missing soldier had been found dead"


The next day, Sunday, dawned, and the air was heavy with chaos, silence, and fear. My appetite waned, and I could only manage a few bites of potato. The support of family and friends from the Kibbutz became an invaluable source of strength. Later, we received the devastating news that two members of the Kibbutz guard squad had been found dead, one of whom was the brother of a close friend.


At 9:30 p.m, the army let us return to our homes for an hour and a half to prepare for evacuation. I finally had a chance to shower and get rid of the odors of urination from the previous day.


At 11:30 p.m they started evacuating us by buses. The process was excruciatingly slow, including a four-hour wait in Beer Sheva.


On Monday at 9:00 a.m we finally reached a hotel in Eilat. I hadn’t slept much by that point, but once we arrived, I broke down.


Later that day, I received the heartbreaking news that a missing soldier had been found dead. He was the brother of a close friend, and his family had already buried him in the Kibbutz cemetery. Another Kibbutz member who had gone missing was discovered dead on that day, and his funeral was scheduled for the following day.


When friends and family asked where we were, I could only respond that I was in a hotel, and we were alive, healthy and all in one piece. There are thousands of overwhelming moments that I haven't even begun to process. This is far from over.


The losses were staggering, affecting people I had worked with, studied alongside, learned from, as well as fellow participants and crews from the “Bein Hakolot” event. The list seemed endless.


On Friday evening I decided to organize an impromptu “Bein Hakolot” event in the hotel.


Describing the experience is impossible. It was a moment of profound pain, sadness, fear, and hope. Our only solace lay in faith.


Aiala M.


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