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Survivor stories

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The terrorists were at our doorstep. I sat there with my son, petrified

  • Yuval U.'s story

I felt a sharp, explosive pain. BOOM - they hit me

We arrived at the festival around 4:00 AM and settled in a small tent.

An intense barrage of rockets bombarded the area at around 6:00 AM. The sky was full of rockets. We thought, “Should we stay or go”?

We decided to go home, packed our stuff, and started driving.

There was a blockage at the exit to Sderot. Later, we realized it was a roadblock set up by the terrorists. They had murdered the police officers, forcing everyone to turn back towards the festival, onto the “road of death.”

As we drove back to the festival, it dawned on us that something terrible was happening – terrorists had infiltrated the area. Soon, it became clear: they were right there, flanking the road on both sides.

Netanel shouted at Avi to speed up, and he drove as fast as he could at about 150 km/h (over 90 mph). We ducked down as gunfire erupted from all directions. Suddenly, I felt a sharp, explosive pain. BOOM - they hit me. I screamed, “They shot me, they shot me!” Netanel jumped over me to find the bullet wound. My blood covered him, and I shouted at him to grab something to stop the bleeding.

We drove on, trying to figure out where the nearest hospital or ambulance might be. I asked them to do something to save me because I was sure I was going to die. Netanel yelled that ambulances were back at the festival, just to our right. We returned to the festival, not knowing we were back to hell. We spotted an ambulance near the road. We rushed to it and shouted that I was injured and needed evacuation.

"The terrorists had us surrounded. We heard gunfire nearby"

Once in the ambulance, they hooked me up to an IV and gave Netanel gauze to compress my wound. The paramedics wanted to evacuate me but were notified via the transceiver that there was no way out. The terrorists had us surrounded. We heard gunfire nearby, so they moved me on a stretcher to a tent repurposed for emergency medical care. A few minutes passed, and then bursts of gunfire started there too. Bullets rained down from all directions, and everyone started running.

Netanel and I, along with two others, didn’t know what to do, so we stayed inside the tent. My head was racing with thoughts. How much time do I have left? How much longer can I hold on like this with a bullet in my body and nonstop bleeding?

I noticed Coca-Cola refrigerators, and I suggested hiding behind them so they wouldn’t see us. So we lay there, bullets constantly tearing through the tent. I peeked through the tent and saw everything. I thought that if they came here, they’d find us for sure. But it was a miracle that no one entered. They moved on.

Everything went quiet for a few minutes until someone shouted from outside, “Anyone still here, run over here! There's a police command post.” At that moment, I stood up and said: “Get up! We've got to run there, now!’”

We looked outside and started to run. Gunfire was coming at us from the left, and we ran right to escape the shooting and continued. We found a trailer, not protected by any means, with about 20-30 people and some police officers who froze and didn’t say a word. They were in total shock! We were all lying on the floor. I felt increasingly tired and weak and struggled to breathe. I wanted to close my eyes. Netanel maintained constant pressure on my wound to stop the bleeding. Two girls held my head and talked to me to keep me conscious. They told me I was brave and that I would get through this.

"We were afraid to let a sound out of our mouths. We could hear their footsteps outside as they circled the trailer״

Heavy gunfire erupted towards us, and we all lay flat, piled on each other like dead bodies. Bullets pierced the trailer, and we were all shaking because we thought this was the end. They had found us. The trailer's walls were getting riddled with bullet holes, yet inside, there was absolute silence. We were afraid to let a sound out of our mouths. We could hear their footsteps outside as they circled the trailer. We were waiting for them to open the door and fire a burst of gunshots that would kill us all. I was expecting a bullet to tear through my back any second. I already felt it. I was sure this was the end.

People sit on the floor of trailer

It was another miracle! They walked away without opening the door. We were all shocked.

The police officers picked themselves up and checked through the window that the area was clear. Then they opened the door and yelled at us - “Run... run everyone, save yourselves.”

Everyone else ran off quickly. We lingered in the trailer with two others to think what our next step should be. Then we heard a shout from outside: “Anyone still here, come this way! I’ve got a big car.” Looking out, we saw a police officer inside a white Savana. We decided to run to his car, but just as we reached it, they started shooting at us. We took cover behind the vehicle. There was a brief moment of calm, and then I yelled to Netanel, “Now!” We hurried around the car and jumped inside. In front sat two people, while four of us crammed into the back, yelling to the driver to start driving! We struggled to shut the door as the van moved. Shots rang out from every direction, with rockets and blasts all around. We were in a warzone, no matter where we headed. On the way, we found three people who were running away. We stopped to let them jump in the back with us.

Where are we going? We tried Google Maps when suddenly more gunfire burst around us, shattering the windows. I felt a searing pain in my left thigh and screamed, “They shot me again!” Right after, Netanel cried out; he got shot, too. I saw him covered in blood. He began checking for my second gunshot wound, but there was no blood; the bullet had just grazed me. Others in the back were also yelling that they got shot. Someone shouted: “They’ve taken off my arm! I need a tourniquet!”

We shouted at the police officer to keep driving. We couldn't stop for tourniquets; they were shooting at us from every direction. We had to keep moving. Every one of us in the car had been hit, blood everywhere, but we had to escape.

Suddenly, we saw an army tank in the distance. Should we head towards it? Or is it too risky? We had no choice; this was our only chance. Reaching the tank, the police officer talked with others, trying to figure out our next move. Injured people were scattered around, but the tank was empty — no soldiers in sight.

And then - BOOM. I barely remember, but I suddenly found myself standing, surrounded by smoke. It was an explosion. I couldn't hear anything but the ringing in my ears. Everything had burst into flames around me, and my hair caught fire. I thought, “No way am I dying in a fire. I'd rather get shot than burned.” I started screaming, patting out the flames with my hands. I couldn't see a thing. They'd hit us with an RPG, and it had struck right on the car's hood. After a few minutes, someone opened the doors, and we rolled out. We were all still alive!

"They were sending voice messages to their parents, saying they love them and that they’re sorry"

We spent the next four hours lying in the sand beside the tank. Some people around us had armed themselves with weapons, either found in the tank or picked up along the way. Bullets flew towards us from every direction, and we fired back so that they knew we had force with weapons here. The rockets kept exploding right next to us, probably targeting the tank. One guy with us took charge, grabbed a helmet and binoculars, and scanned the area the whole time. We were trying to get forces to come and rescue us. Injured people lay around, shaking, crying, not talking, some with insane anxiety. They were sending voice messages to their parents, saying they love them and that they’re sorry.

People hide behind a white van and sit on the ground

People hide behind a tank and lie on the ground

I started speaking to God. I asked, “Is this my time? Are you taking me now?” But on the other hand, I told Him that he couldn’t make my family mourn a loss from terror; they couldn’t bear it. I tried to pray, reciting every prayer I knew.

I also talked to Shahar, my friend who died in the 2014 Gaza War. I told him I had seen everything, just like he did on his last day in Shuja'iyya. I know now what he experienced, and soon I will join him, wait for me.

"Just keep praying, because I don’t know what will happen next"

I saw people around me making phone calls to their families. I borrowed someone's phone and called my brother Alon. My parents were abroad. He was very stressed when he picked up. I told him that I was alive. My family had been frantic and wanted to come to rescue me, but I told them it was impossible—I was right in the middle of a war zone, surrounded by thousands of terrorists and missiles everywhere. He insisted, but I told him, “I'm alive. I’m injured but alive. Just keep praying, because I don't know what will happen next.”

Throughout all this, I'd wet myself 5 or 6 times. It was a horrible feeling.

Four hours later, military vehicles arrived. I watched as the combat soldiers leaped out, rushing toward us. They surrounded us and ensured that no one got hurt.

It was the most emotional moment I've ever had in my life. I cried my heart out. I cried like never before. I knew it was over! We survived! We were alive!

They began moving us out in military vehicles, prioritizing those injured. I couldn't stop asking whether the vehicle was bulletproof; I was scared. We passed the road of death, and I saw dead bodies everywhere, fire and so much smoke. I didn’t understand where I was. Along the way, we encountered a line of ambulances. Our driver, a soldier, blocked the road to signal to them that he was carrying wounded people in his vehicle.

We stayed alive! We managed to save ourselves! We had providence! We had miracles! Miracle after miracle.

October 7, 2023. Black Saturday.

It’s over, but not done with!

May the memory of all those murdered be a blessing. 💔

Yuval U.

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