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

  • Yuval S.'s story

I got shot. I totally embraced death

It’s been 120 hours since I was reborn.

The moment that my life was over and then handed back to me.

After so many thoughts, crying, nightmares and pain, I decided to tell. To tell and give the world an idea of the darkest day that I, and we, have ever experienced in our lives. and still are.

We left my house in Rehovot and headed over to the rave. Tomer L. and Ron W. came to my house to use the bathroom and to remove the fishing rod from the car and leave it at my place. After all, we had a 50 minute drive at 01:00 AM ahead of us.

01:55 am - Turning left at the sign, “Reim”, towards a vast ground, dozens of cars, thousands of people. We go through severe security screenings and head towards a friends’ booth, to hang out with 20 other people.

We go to the bathroom before dancing, I then see my friend, Matan Z. The laughs we have. I just love this guy. Long minutes of fun, we take photos, we dance together. He’s from Dimona, and we spent most of our army service together and it’s a unique opportunity to see each other.

We laugh about how with our luck, there will be rockets flying above us anytime soon. I go back to the sit-down.

"Thousands of people are running everywhere. Real panic. Strong boom sounds near us"

Ron, Tomer and I are really happy. It’s crowded, but so good. We dance and go back to sit down, dance and sit down again. It’s 06:10. Ron decides to stay on the dance floor, it’s his first outdoor rave and since I gave him my ear plugs it looks like he’s having a great time. I get it. Tamir and I sit down, we are waiting for 06:30, for the sunrise DJ set, just like everyone else, I guess. We talk, we laugh. Tamir is my best friend and every moment spent with him is pure joy.

06:30. We see spotlights in the sky. Five more, ten more. I turn my phone on - sirens in the center. This sucks. This party is done. We get down on the ground, the music stops and the DJ says: “There are sirens, code red alerts, lay down on the ground.”

Ron lays down, away from us and Tamir and I don’t understand what’s happening. Thousands of people are running everywhere. Real panic. Strong boom sounds near us. Then another boom, and another one.

A cop goes up to the microphone and says: “Dear friends, you only have 15 seconds, run as fast as you can and get away from here.” Some people right next to us are wondering - is running the right thing to do? We were always taught that in moments like these we should stay put, not run. The cops insist. Ron runs towards us, I put a sweatshirt on, Tamir his hat, Ron his shirt.

Everyone is folding everything, people are panicking next to us, everyone’s anxious, some are screaming. We all let our families know that we are alright, although the boom sounds are constant, the missile drops are near and so are the sirens. We start running towards the car. None of us can even imagine the nightmare that began that instant, for life.

On the way to the car it’s pretty chaotic. People are running towards cars that aren’t theirs, cars reverse over people, people are crying. Quickly we reach our car, load the trunk. Ron asks me to go sit in the front, he takes the back seat and we drive. We are queuing in a huge line of cars and we’re nowhere near the access trail yet.

"The car is jumping up and down hills and we are at the road, the Death Road"

Two minutes. No progress made. Suddenly I see a clear pathway between cars on the last parking lane. I tell Tamir to go there, he hesitates and I get it because it can damage the car, after all it’s a "Nisan" that’s been holding up since 2009. We decided to go for it. The car is jumping up and down hills and we are at the road, the Death Road, Murder Road, Road 232. Two police cars are blocking the road to go up north. We’re losing it, why??? How??? Most people go north from here! We ask them and they yell at us to start driving the other way immediately.

06:49 - We are southbound. Tamir yells “we need to call the police”, but they’re not picking up. What does that even mean? They are the police. No one answers the phone. Again and again. We are driving south. Kfir, who is now in Thailand, keeps texting me that we are making a mistake and we need to stop at a bomb shelter. I agree, that is what we were taught to do, each and every one of us. When the rockets are flying non-stop and land not far from you, and the sirens are ongoing - you stop, you wait. But there was some kind of instinct that held me back from hitting the breaks.

Every Migunit we pass (a small concrete doorless shelter) I tell Tamir to stop, but he goes on. Then he asks me if he should stop and I say move on. We passed dozens of Miguniot on the side of the road as we sped up. Ron calls his friend Johnny, tells him he cannot believe that that is how his first rave ends and how much he loved it and how crazy this is. I’m keeping my eyes on Waze and I see that we are going 120 km/h, headed south, light years away from Rehovot and headed in the opposite direction for 10 minutes now. Waze keeps saying to just turn around, but there is no other option.

I look back - the road is empty. Ahead - empty. No one is following us. That’s weird, thousands of people were at the rave, where did they run? This must mean that they opened the road to the north. I knew we should have waited. I say so to Tamir and Ron and they agree. We turn into one of the kibbutzim, turn around and start driving north. We’re going and going. After five minutes, a white police Toyota Corolla passes by. I relaxed and let my sister, my friends and my partner know that we’re fine and we’re headed home.

"I open my window, see a terrified face and he screams: 'There are terrorists coming at you, terrorists! Turn around!!!'"

Suddenly the police car slows down. 120 km/h, then 90, 60, 30...

Tamir gets mad - we need to get out of there, the rockets are flying and I’m starting to feel uneasy again. We’re not sure what to do, honk twice and decide to cross to the opposite lane and pass them. Suddenly the policeman knocks aggressively on his own car’s door, stretches his hand out of the window and knocks again on his car’s door. We stop next to him, I open my window, see a terrified face and he screams: “There are terrorists coming at you, terrorists! Turn around!!!” I said: “What?” He yells from the top of his lungs again: “Terrorists!!!”

Tamir reverses, quickly. I look to the right. Three armed motorcycle riders are headed towards us, a few hundred meters away. We drive south again, I’m shaking, terrified. Ron, in the back, doesn’t understand what is happening, Tamir and I are holding hands. I’m calling the police again, 07:05. No answer. We can’t see the policeman behind us anymore, it seems that we drove far away from them. Maybe we are saved?

Two minutes later, while we’re driving, our hands still clasped together, Tamir notices some people ahead, we don’t really understand. He asks me: “Are these terrorists?” I say I have no idea and he screams: “Terrorists!”

Suddenly life stopped. From the opposite side of the road came blazing eight motorcycle riders, two ATVs and a pick up truck with a submachine gun. We are lowering our heads, and they are shooting at our car from a 50 meter range. My head is down and I embrace death completely.

One second later Ron says the hardest thing, he says “I am dying! I’m dying, man.” I won’t ever forget that. Tamir and I are still with our heads down, Tamir is looking at him.

They shoot hundreds of bullets at the car. Hundreds. Metal clanks, glass breaking, all the windows are shattering, bullets hit the padding, right above my head. It felt like eternity, the seconds before death.

Suddenly we look up and the road is clear. There are no mirrors to check on the terrorists behind us. I scream at Tamir to drive, Ron groans in pain, and then the bad news: Tamir says that the car isn’t working. I ask him- what does that mean? and he says - no breaks, no gas pedal, no steering wheel. Nothing. That was when I embraced death for the second time. He shifts the car into parking, pulls the handbrake. We slide and creak until we reach the margins.

And then there is that terrible moment. To get out of the car into this battlefield, this Death Road. I will never forget that moment.

I look through the back window, Ron is just dead. He is bleeding to death, helpless. We unbuckle. We get out of the car. The terrorist squad is coming back towards us from the north, this time it’s six motorcycles and a pick up with a submachine gun. We see them headed towards us, sniping at the other cars on the road, people are screaming and crashing their cars. From the south five more motorcycles are coming at us, fast. We look towards the fields- two terrorists are still shooting at the car.

This is what happened. We are under fire. In my IDF service I was in a combat intelligence collection unit, never on the battlefield.

Tamir and I are standing on the road - and the fire resumes. Shooting at us from everywhere. Dozens of bullets are whistling from every direction. Every direction. Every direction. We start running towards the fields, like ducks in a shooting range. A minute of running through neverending fire.

I totally embraced death. Life flashes before my eyes. To be honest, it’s not a cliche. It’s the truth and this is life.

"A terrorist is coming closer. He is standing 20 meters away from me, looking right at me"

Tamir shouts out to me and I to him. He runs faster than I do. I realize that if I don’t fall right now, they will catch up to me. They are coming after me from all directions. I fell on the ground, playing dead. Tamir yells with everything he’s got towards me and sees me go down. I see the terrorists advance towards him, shooting in his direction. He disappears.

As far as I know, he’s killed.

I pretend to be dead. And Tamir is gone. And I’m alone, Tamir and Ron are not with me and I’m alone in the world. All alone. A terrorist is coming closer. He is standing 20 meters away from me, looking right at me. Divine power, and only that is helping me and he doesn’t shoot me to make sure I’m dead. He doesn’t fucking shoot me. He walks back to the road.

I look at the road. More and more motorcycles, more and more shooting, screaming in high decibels. I am laying on the ground as if I was dead. A few minutes later I pick up my phone and text everyone, anyoneI can. I send my location and pray.

I cry, wow how I cried. Everyone’s dead and I’m alive. And then it comes, the third time I die. I feel a very sharp pain in my back, a cruel pain. Then I check and I take my sweatshirt off. A pink sweatshirt. Not anymore, I guess. It’s all bloody. All of it, all of it, all of it. I take off the shirt - 2 holes in the middle of my back and the shirt is all bloody.

I thought this was the end, this time for real. I lay my head back on the ground. I guess you don’t pray for anything in moments like this. You’re just empty. Hollow.

I wait a few more minutes and I get up, breathing heavily, and I call Noa, my partner. It’s the hardest call in the world, you’ve watched those on TV.

Imagine one just like that. She’s fighting for me to live and I breathe heavily and feel that this is the end.

I get to an internal road, pass the greenhouses, take my bloody sweatshirt off and call my sister, to let her know. Our parents are overseas and she’s everything I still have here.

My friends are babbling, texting and saying how we’ll get through this together. I didn’t believe them, but I wanted to, so badly.

A car passes by, the driver opens the window, I yell: “Please help me, I’m going to die, I need you to get me away from here.” He drives on. Must think I’m a terrorist.

I keep shouting and he comes back. He gets out of the car, draws his gun, aims at my head. “What’s your name?” he asks. “Yuval from Rehovot,” I tell him. I walk towards him, begging. He aims closely at my head. He helps me into his car.

It’s a nine-second drive, precisely. I get off at yet another Migunit. I limp in. It’s just me and a foreign worker there. Then a 50-year-old guy is running in our direction, all bloody, screaming that his whole family is shot and that they are dead. I’m torn inside, realizing how bad things are. We’re probably done here.

I hug him and I ask him to look at my back. Two entry wounds, two large splinters. One from a shot and a smaller one from a glass shard. I’m probably doing the wrong thing here, but I didn’t know what to think at this point, and he pulls both out and applies pressure on the wounds with the bloody shirt.

The pain makes me scream, but is it the pain? I don’t know. We were there for 35 minutes, looking at more terrorists shooting from far away. Barely breathing.

The bleeding stops. No soldiers, no ambulance, no police. And then he came. Erez G. Yogev, my beloved friend, sent him to pick me up and take me to a shelter in Yesha.

I get there and I hide there with everyone else. And I scream, I scream and scream. I got there at 08:30. I spent two hours under fire on the battlefield. Hundreds of shots, submachine guns, rifles, murderers Then Tamir calls and I realize he’s alive. That’s when I got it, I think. That I am actually alive myself. Tamir told me that I was alive and I told him that he was. Apparently he took an entirely different path, but ended up only 200 meters away from me. I got my friend back, my hero. We are both crying our hearts out for Ron, who was killed next to us, behind us in the car.

Those were my next 24 hours. Screaming, endless crying, terrorists all over, rockets. Body aching terribly, but the pain was insignificant compared to the heartache and the fear. There is no way for me to describe the next 24 hours that lasted longer than eternity.

We tried escaping in every way, but failed.

It took an entire day for my sister, my partner and all of my friends and relatives to get us out.

A car drove us to my cousin and we escaped to Asaf HaRofe hospital.

I thought that it was over. And then it hit me. Matan Z., my friend from the army, was killed.

The tragedy is neverending. The heart is torn. All we’ve experienced together, all the conversations we’ve had, all those moments together, my beloved friend.

Yesterday I sat down with our friends from the army unit and together we sang songs of love in your honor. Songs of longing. I am certain that your sweet smile will remain forever in front of my eyes. Dancing with you that night, these were our last moments of happiness together, my brother. What more can I say man, what more.

I’ve been in the same state of mind ever since. I cry, I sleep a little and mostly I think. How was I saved? Why me? How did I make it out alive when hundreds of shots were fired at me?

How is that battlefield, where I was, where dozens of terrorists aimed guns at me from different directions, how was that battlefield real? This is where I finish writing and I keep thinking.

I sit here, with dozens of survivors at the healing space in Beit Itzhak. The safest place there is. I talk, I breathe, I value every moment being alive.

And I live. I am alive.

When I was ten years old, I thought I would die in an accident that I had and I screamed “I am alive”.

Here I am screaming again. I can live and I want to live. Here I am, reborn.

I was born on 7.7.2000.

I was born again on 7.10.2023.

Where do I go from here? What do I choose?

I kinda feel that I know. I want to live for people. To work for the world, not for myself. To live for the world, like I’ve been doing until now. To focus on my NGO, Djesta (Tribute), the place I founded for the world and to give more and more.

One thing’s for sure, I don’t feel like a hero. I feel like a survivor. And we did survive. But without Ron.

Our beloved Ron Weinberg didn’t make it. The man with the smile. The charisma. Love at first sight.

Your funeral was the most spiritual moment. Really spiritual. Escorting the coffin at Kibbutz Ein HaShofet, crying on Tamir’s shoulder. Thoughts of you, thoughts of how it could all turn out differently.

Matan and Ron, I will live for you. Every day.

Tamir, you are my soul person. I know you don’t know that I wrote this, but you are everything to me.

Suddenly you realize how insignificant everything is. It’s only the people, only the love, only together. I’ve always believed that, but now I believe it more than ever.

I am thankful to my partner, who is there for life. She was there for me in every moment, went through everything with me.

My incredible sister, who showed me the light in the darkness of death. My best friend who saved my life. Everyone who was there with me, thank you. I owe life to so many people and I only have one life. I hope you understand.

Tamir, I love you so much. I love you so much. You are everything to me. I guess we will be together forever. You are my hero and I am yours.

Sadly, no one helped us, not the police, not MDA (emergency services), not the hospital.

It’s you and me against the world. With the amazing people surrounding us.

You are all my life. Thank you for being alive, I am going through this with you. And I cry with you. I hurt with you.

Yuval S.

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