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  • Anna Z.'s story

I carried a butcher’s knife and pepper spray, as if that would help

I wanted to tell my story. There are definitely many holes in this story, and I’m still having flashbacks…

Every month, I drive to visit my mother in Sderot. I drove to my mom’s on this past Friday, October 6th, with my children, so that my mom could see her grandchildren: a 4 year old girl and a 1 year old boy. We went for a walk in the park on Friday, and on Saturday at 6 in the morning, we woke to rocket alarm sirens. After some time, we received a message that there was a terrorist infiltration in Sderot.

From this point, my world shattered. I didn’t know what to do. We immediately locked the doors, closed all of the blinds in the house, turned off the lights, and placed a table against the door to at least try to stop them from entering. I tried as much as I could to keep everyone quiet, but I have small children. Don’t forget that I have a daughter on the autism spectrum who doesn’t understand situations, and a one year old baby who is a troublemaker in his own right.

We received pictures of people who had been murdered. My mother began to cry when we received a photo of my her downstairs neighbor who had been killed.

October 8th, 2023: I called Magen David Adom to evacuate him [the murdered neighbor from downstairs] because he’d been there, cast aside, for more than 24 hours. They dismissed the request, and told me that there was nothing they could do: All of the nearby towns were in the same situation, and they were only evacuating those who were injured. Those who were murdered would be evacuated at some later point.

"I was terrified to discover the horrors [on the streets of Sderot]. Abandoned cars filled with the blood of innocent people"

It was an inconceivable situation - that people who had been murdered were left in the street. I thought they would take his body to Gaza, because they already took so much. His wife downstairs didn’t know. She thought, but I didn’t know if she knew… Again tears flooded my eyes. This man had just gone to work. In the morning [on October 7th], my mother saw him from the window and said, “Are you actually going to work?” And he said, “What can we do? We have to work.” He didn’t return.

His wife is waiting for him at home. He was over 60 years old.

When I fearfully went out to find an open supermarket, I saw his car, but I didn’t see his body…and I was relieved. At least they took him after 48 hours, because 24 hours prior my sister’s friend said that he was still there, covered with a sheet. Absurd, right? But that was the reality of the situation. They left so many people outside in so many towns because this country fell asleep at the wheel, while for hours, Gaza treated our country as they pleased!

For two hours, they walked to and from the border unhindered, spraying people with bullets. No security forces or troops arrived, with the exception of some brave police officers who risked their lives and were alone in this battle! Civilians with gun licenses, heroic civilians with no ammunition at all were just trying to save their families! Until the government could be bothered to come and “gain control” after many hours!

In these towns, people won’t forgive the government until our loved ones are returned home healthy and with their souls intact. It will take a lot of time to return to the “quiet” that was before!

How the f*ck do I find a way to get my kids out of Sderot? I started to contact every organization possible as well as family members that were in the center of Israel. Another day passed, and we were still left uncertain. I ran out of food for my kids, and decided to go out to look for an open supermarket, despite the danger. Afraid, I went with my sister’s friend and carried a butcher’s knife and pepper spray, as if that would help.

"My sister, carrying a knife, went outside with her friend. After 20 minutes she returned because she was afraid for her life"

I was terrified to discover the horrors [on the streets of Sderot]. Abandoned cars filled with the blood of innocent people, bus stops riddled with bullet holes, cars that had been completely destroyed. The horrors there can’t be described, and I simply can’t bring myself to write the details. I don’t want to close my eyes and see the horrors there, the same scenes I know were left in all of the towns nearby. I can only speak to what I saw myself in Sderot.

There was a power outage from the morning until 8pm. Let's see you manage to keep your kids busy without light, without anything, in complete darkness. We didn’t have any cell phone battery or reception, and there were constant suspected terrorist infiltrations in Sderot. I was scared to death, and my daughter didn’t understand why there wasn’t electricity, so I decided to go to the car to charge my phone. This was terrifying, because of the suspected infiltrations, but what could I do? We needed to get in touch with our family in the central Israel.

My sister, carrying a knife, went outside with her friend. After 20 minutes she returned because she was afraid for her life. This girl who is not afraid of Qassam rockets is afraid of terrorists. The former was a reality she had been accustomed to, the latter - this "new reality" - was not. Terrorists. How could you possibly walk around Sderot as if everything is okay, as if there isn’t someone hiding out in a house? As if there isn't the possibility a terrorist will emerge to take your life? How do you do that?!

This country betrayed us. How does the government allow this kind of thing to happen? Someone needs to give answers and fast. There are families that are sitting at home and crying for their loved ones whose fate is unknown!! Yesterday [October 8th] they said that there are more terrorists in Sderot. I started to cry - I couldn't take it anymore.

I want to go home, I want my husband, I want my bed, I want the safety and security of my house, and I don’t want to have to think about the awful things that could happen to my children.

"The telephone rang, and I was told to come downstairs. I was afraid that it could be terrorists calling"

October 9, 2023: On Monday, our family got in touch with “Brothers and Sisters in Arms” who said they were on their way and that we should get ready quickly. They asked how many people were with me and whether I had a car. I said yes, and that six people could squeeze into one car, because I wouldn't have us separated. My littlest could sit on my sister’s lap until we arrived at the destination they directed us to.

The telephone rang, and I was told to come downstairs. I was afraid that it could be terrorists calling, because it seemed impossible to know what would happen. I went downstairs with my husband on the line. There were two cars waiting. He told me his name - Erez - and the names of the people that were with him. Four people, in total. He explained how we would proceed in a convoy – a car in front, me in the middle, and another car behind me – until Beit Kama. From Beit Kama, the road would be secure for us to travel on our own.

I brought the kids downstairs quickly, along with my mother and my sisters, and we set off. The whole way I was worried that they were going to capture us, regardless of their “Brothers and Sisters in Arms” shirts. It seemed impossible to know who is who, or what, or where, impossible to trust anyone, especially in that situation.

I had two small children with me, and my only concern was their wellbeing. I would have preferred to die so that nothing scary would happen to them. My sister, my mother and I cried the entire 20 minute drive to our destination. Only when we got there I realized that everything was okay, that we had arrived at the “Brothers and Sisters in Arms” base in Beit Kama, and finally I could take a deep breath.

Anna's little son is sitting on a swing

Anna Z's little daughter

They brought Lian water and some sweets, and something for us to eat, and we sat to rest: everything was okay. They brought so many people to Beit Kama.

We waited for my husband and brother-in-law. When my husband arrived, I ran to him with Aviv in my arms, gave him a huge hug, and cried like I never had before. I had not felt chills like this in a long time. Then, very quickly, we went to the cars: the one we had arrived in and the one they brought. We split the family between our two cars and continued the journey home, to a safe place. After a nerve-wracking 45 minute drive, we finally arrived home! I gave a huge hug to my mother-in-law, and cried uncontrollably – tears of happiness – because I didn’t believe we would actually make it, accompanied by indescribable chills.

"hundreds of men, women, and children were murdered in cold blood at the hands of a murderous organization"

I realized that there really are good people that actually helped people to “escape from hell”. I want to send a huge thank you to “Brothers and Sisters in Arms”!! You helped me save my family and my children.

And thank you to Yahaloma and Yaniv for helping me to get to them – it’s good to have family. Huge thank you to Hila.

I want to tell you to appreciate every moment in life. After all, I went to spend a weekend with my mom so that she could enjoy her grandchildren, and I got stuck in a warzone. I didn’t think I would escape from her house, if at all.

It’s incredibly sad that all of the South [of Israel] is enduring this terror, one way or another. This is a different kind of terror, that killed hundreds of innocent people – hundreds of men, women, and children were murdered in cold blood at the hands of a murderous organization that only knows death. Hundreds of men, women, and children were taken captive by Hamas. And Hezbollah, who knows exactly what’s going on…

The Israeli government doesn’t have answers. Just helplessness and complete uncertainty!!!

I only went through a fraction of what residents of the South go through, and it needs to be put to a stop. Just fed up living like this.

Anna Z.

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