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I realized that if we stayed there, we would die

  • Roee S.'s story

I heard a volley of gunfire and felt a bullet in my back

Mapal, my girlfriend, had bought tickets two months earlier with a friend of hers, and only when the date of the party came closer did she ask me to join. At the beginning, I told her that it wasn’t really suitable because we had only just moved apartments and financially it was a bit much, and in the evening, one of our friends had a birthday.

In the end, I agreed [to go] on condition that we leave early so we could get to the birthday on time. That was also a bit of luck, because otherwise, our whole group of friends would have come to the Nova party. 

Hilly (Solomon, a close friend of Shalev, who was also killed at the party) was also not supposed to come, but Mapal and I convinced her to. On the way she said to us, “Only the two of you could drag me out to a party.”

We picked her up at 1:30 in the morning and got to the party at 3:30. We drank, we danced, we had fun. At 6:20 in the morning, the entire sky started to be colored with dozens, if not hundreds, of rockets. We weren’t even stressed at the beginning. That’s routine in the south. 

When the barrage began, I said let’s quickly pack up our stuff, and when the interceptions stop, we’ll go, because it’s not smart to drive when the whole sky is filled with rockets.

My sister was also at the party, and she managed to escape to Patish a minute earlier.

She was saved, she didn’t see a single terrorist with her own eyes. 

As soon as the explosions stopped, we got into the car and started driving north. Then a policeman on a motorcycle arrived and shouted that there were terrorists in the north, he told us to turn around and go south. After I drove about a kilometer south, a girl ran towards us, her face covered in blood, and she shouted that there were terrorists shooting from the south. We stopped the cars and started running back to the area of the party. We stopped next to two large containers, and then out of nowhere they started shooting at us, a volley from Kalashnikovs, and hit the container.     

"A grenade was thrown at us and we flew into the air. I realized that we were surrounded."

I grabbed Mapal and Hilly and we started to run. Hilly had a panic attack while we were running, and I picked her up and ran with her. Mapal started to slow down and couldn’t breathe, so I put down Hilly and ran to Mapal. All the while, bullets were whistling past our ears, so much so that I was afraid to turn my head so I that I wouldn’t get hit by a bullet and fall. I wasn’t alone. I had a responsibility to the love of my life and my best friend.

After running for a few minutes, a grenade was thrown at us and we flew into the air. I realized that we were surrounded. I tried to think logically, how could we survive this? Getting under a car seemed to me the most logical thing to do. I told Hilly to hide under a small car, and Mapal and I hid together under a big car. 

We could hear terrorists around us everywhere. Explosions and Arabic, as if we were in Gaza. At around 8:30, a tank came by us and Mapal said to me, “Babe, a tank, let’s get out, it’s the army.” I told her that that wasn’t a good idea, because tanks are always first. In retrospect, it was a tank filled with terrorists. We were so close to going out to the tank and asking for help. Who knows, we could have been held hostage, and then she would have had a chance to live. Every action has consequences.  

“Who knows, we could have been held hostage, and then she would have had a chance to live.”

[Half an hour after the first tank passed, the terrorists reached them.] I told them, “Girls, you don’t breathe, you don’t move. We play dead and hope that they pass by.” Mapal and I lay together under a car, she looked at me and told me, “I love you Roee,” and closed her eyes. One of the terrorists bent down, spoke to me in Arabic, and threw a block at me. I heard a volley of gunfire and felt a bullet in my back. Mapali was hit with one bullet and Hilly with two. 

Credit: Ofer Chen

I waited a few minutes and then opened my eyes, Mapal was in front of me, unconscious. I moved a little to see what was going on with Hilly, I saw where the bullets had hit her and realized that she was also not with us anymore. I fell apart, crying. I went crazy and then I stopped myself. I knew that at that moment, I couldn't change anything and had to survive.

“I took Mapali’s blood and spread it all over myself.” 

After about 40 minutes, another bunch of terrorists arrived. I realized that I had to make them think I was dead. I took Mapali’s blood and spread it all over myself. I closed my eyes, again someone threw a rock at me, and then shot just once at me. More terrorists arrived. I heard motorcycles, pickup trucks, Arabic music. I smelled cigarettes. An atmosphere of victory. With no reaction [from the army], no helicopter, no tanks, no IDF.   

I opened my eyes, once, and saw a terrorist putting his weapon in a jeep. He put the barrel up to the driver and sprayed bullets, went to the back seat, and sprayed bullets at everyone in the car. An hour later, a girl came out from that car that had been riddled with bullets. It was like a movie. She jumped out of the window and ran in the direction of Gaza. I was in a position where I couldn’t yell, “Stop!” I have no idea what happened to her.

Was she kidnapped? Is she dead? Alive? I’ll never know who she was. 

At 11:30, there were explosions in the sky but everything around me was quiet. I raised my head, turned to the left, and about 20 meters in front of me, saw a terrorist sitting on the ground, leaning against a tree, a Kalashnikov in his hand, a Hamas headband around his forehead, smoking a cigarette, looking in my direction, and he was alone. I didn’t know if he was looking at me, or just staring straight ahead. Slowly, I turned my head back and said to myself, “Shema yisrael, shema yisrael,” [Jewish prayer said in moments of great anxiety] and closed my eyes. The minutes passed and I realized that if he wasn’t coming over, he hadn’t seen me. I think that was the scariest moment of the day. 

The second bullet they had shot at me hit the fuel tank. The tank emptied out on me and Mapal. I was drenched in fuel, and the whole area was in flames. The fire started getting closer to the car. I was in a nightmare where I had survived up to now, and in the end I would die from the flames.

“I was in a nightmare where I had survived up to now, and in the end I would die from the flames.”

A few minutes afterwards I heard Hebrew, but the soldiers passed by me and continued on to Gaza. That gave me some optimism, because I realized that there were soldiers and they were on their way. I went back to trying to wake up Mapal and Hilly. I knew they were no longer with me, but still, every few minutes I had to try and see if there was anything that could be done. I didn’t have any battery in my phone, and I started to feel weak. I had two bullets in me for more than three hours. 

The adrenalin had passed, and I couldn’t feel anything. At some point, I raised my head and saw a Special Forces soldier and a combat policeman. I put my hand out from under the car and waved at them. They immediately aimed their weapons at me. I was covered in blood, I have a beard, I don’t look Ashkenazi. I shout to them, “No, no! Roee S., Kfar Yona, Israeli, 28 years old with bullets in my back. Help me, I can’t get up.”

They checked me and said, “You’re okay, stay here. We’re joining our unit towards Gaza and we’ll come back to rescue you.” And they left me there. I begged them to go to Hilly and Mapal, maybe there was a chance to save them. But no, and I was alone again. 

I crawled back to the girls. I took Mapali’s phone and crawled back to the point where the soldier and policeman had left me. After 40 minutes, I heard a vehicle coming towards me. I couldn’t get up. I picked up things from the ground and threw them so they could see me. Suddenly the vehicle stopped, and went into the fastest reverse I have ever seen. Doors open, they got out, picked me up, threw me inside, and continued.

In hindsight, I realized that this was the Shin Bet [Israel’s internal security service], according to the questions they asked me I knew they weren’t regular soldiers. I had two bullets in me, my girlfriend had been murdered in front of me. They slapped me and said, “Don’t cry, shut up.” 

Credit: Ofer chen

We arrived at the collection point for injured people. There were about one hundred people there from the party. I saw good friends there and they asked me about the girls. I said they had not survived, and then I went crazy. They tried to calm me down, and I was at a peak of emotion, in a way I can’t explain. I had a lot of good friends at the party. There was a couple there from Kfar Yona that were about to get married and they were also murdered. 

“I saw good friends there and they asked me about the girls. I said they had not survived, and then I went crazy.”

The paramedic that examined me said that I was in the worst shape [of anyone there] so I was in the first group that was sent to the hospital. I was in Soroka Hospital for one day, they didn’t take the bullets out because it was dangerous. Just a few days ago, they took the big piece of shrapnel out of my back because it had moved and was poking me. In the x-rays, they didn't find a whole bullet, but there are many fragments. There is a real mystery about everything I went through. I felt two bullets, I saw and felt a grenade, even ballistically, it doesn't make sense that I was shot twice and there is no exit wound. A mystery.

Roee S.

posted on Mako