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Survivor stories

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  • Maya A.'s story

Between all the bombs, gunshots and screams, the birds were still singing

I don’t usually share on social media but after running for my life, being shot at and hiding amongst shrubbery for six hours, I have realized that some things are worth sharing. I’m sharing my Nova story, without judgment of what’s right and what’s not, just my perspective based on my own personal experience.

Heaven and hell are choices. They are states of mind that we can choose. I’ll spare you the details and graphic descriptions. I was in the heart of the war zone. For the six hours I hid in the bushes, two kilometers from Kibbutz Be’eri, I heard thousands and thousands of gunshots from machine guns coming from the villages around me. I knew full well that terrorists were massacring innocent children, men and women.

Maya A.'s story

I saw the people who were with me get shot at, as we ran for our lives together. I also saw the smile the terrorist had on his face as he shot the girl who was with me and she fell to her death. I saw the fear and worry and the amazing strength of the soldiers who helped rescue me from the shrubbery where I was hiding, and took me to safety. They knew they were on a mission to save all the families getting massacred, and that they might lose their lives in the process. I will be forever grateful to those brave souls for their sacrifices in helping me and every other person there escape that hell.

"I also saw the smile the terrorist had on his face as he shot the girl who was with me and she fell to her death"

Through it all, surrounded by a living hell, so much death and hate, I sat in the shrubbery smiling, breathing, praying, in my own way, for myself, for peace and for love. I realized that between all the bombs, gunshots and screams, the birds were still singing. Behind all the smoke, the sky was still blue. And I kept focusing on that. Whenever any thought of stress, fear, anger or revenge came to my mind, I stopped, took a breath and gave gratitude for at least three things in that moment: “Thank you for this shrubbery that is keeping me safe, thank you for the birds singing to me, and thanks to myself for doing such a great job in this situation.”

That was the only way I could live inside that chaos. Because if I didn’t have control over what was happening around me, I decided to take control over what was going on inside me. That was all I had.

Now, at home with my family, safe and sound, my heart and soul can’t even begin to imagine the horrors that the kidnapped children, men and women are going through in Gaza. Nor the unimaginable things our brave soldiers are going through at this very moment, including my own brother, who was fighting and saving people in the village closest to me without even realizing his sister was right there in need of rescue. I think that what I’m trying to say is that I don’t have any answers to how to bring about world peace, but I was able to bring peace and paradise to myself in the heart of that living hell.

As long as we are breathing, we are winning. Literally. So many friends and family asked how they can support me best, and here is how:

  • Stop watching the news so much. Be here, be present with yourself, your family and your loved ones. It’s called the present because it’s a gift.

  • If you don’t have anything smart to say please don’t say anything at all, especially on social media. Our words have so much power, please use them wisely.

  • Every time you have a thought that comes from fear, anger, hate or revenge, stop. BREATHE it out and replace it with three things you are grateful for. If you can’t be grateful about something in your present moment, it can be for something from your past or future. Just give thanks.

Keep choosing and acting from a place of love, not fear. That is the difference between living in heaven or hell. As long as we are breathing, we are winning.

As important as it is to acknowledge the horrors that happened. As a country and a community, let’s put our focus and energy on how we are all uniting together. Every single person in Israel right now is helping in their own way, giving gifts to the world right now. There is no more me or mine - we are all giving to whoever needs it right now and that is something that no one can take away from us. The strongest weapon in the world is our collective consciousness. Let’s put it to good use together.

“In the end, the people who rescued me from the war zone were Israeli Arabs”

In the end, the people who rescued me from the war zone were Israeli Arabs, who took me from the shrubbery [where I was hiding] all the way to my dad’s arms and to safety. This war is not Jews against Muslims or Arabs. Israeli Arabs are our friends. This war is every living being against HAMAS. And it doesn't matter how much the media tries to twist reality and cause more fear, we know our truth and we will keep believing it.

I’m not saying I’m right or wrong. I’m just sharing my experience and what worked for me. I’m sending love and strength to the families who have lost their loved ones. Sending prayers to the people who have been kidnapped [and taken to] Gaza, to our brave soldiers and to every living being on this earth. Please keep breathing, keep choosing love every second of every day.

For my brothers and sisters who were there at the massacre or any one experiencing stress, I would like to share a breathing method that calms nerves that I used a lot when I was hiding and after. It’s called Savitri (it’s not for children!):

  • Breathe in and out through the nose.

  • Inhale slowly, counting to 8. Hold your breath, counting to 4. Exhale, counting to 8. Hold without breathing, counting to 4.

8-4-8-4. The longer you do it, the deeper the relaxation. 21 minutes is very healing.

And one more thing that helped in the last week, and might sound a little weird, but our emotions and traumas are stored in our hips. Dance, twerk, shake your bodies and booties, don’t let that trauma get stuck in your body!

Loka Samastah Sukinho Bhavantu: may all beings be happy, may all beings be free, may all living beings all over the world be forever happy and free.

(A video I took one hour before being rescued)

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