top of page

Survivor stories

Read Next

Another group of terrorists arrived - with a pickup truck to take us back in

  • Iris G.'s story

If the terrorists were to come, so be it. I could not change a thing

It was Saturday morning. The silence was shattered by the sounds of two consecutive Red Alert sirens. The first jolted me awake, and by the time the second siren rang, I was conscious of what I heard. Without hesitation, I raced down the stairs, where I could already hear the echoes of the explosions.

It turned out it was just the preview [of the chaos that was about to unfold].

Soon after that, messages started flooding in the kibbutz's internal WhatsApp group. With each passing moment, the situation became far worse than I could have ever imagined.

I still remembered the terrorist infiltrations in the 70s, only this time there were more of them, in multiple locations. The messages continued: "At my house", "Also at my place", "Send someone" and "Where is the army?!". They were followed by bursts of gunfire, both in rapid succession and single shots, along with explosions.

“I feared this may be the end. So I decided to send the computer passwords to my son, just in case.“

"Be quiet," they told us, "don't go out!" People kept sending messages begging for help: "Where is the army?", "Send someone", "Urgent!" . [The danger] seemed closer than ever.

I feared this may be the end. So I decided to send the computer passwords to my son, just in case. I contemplated sending messages to my children to tell them how much I loved them. But at the same time, I also wondered if it was best not to worry and overly distress them.

I thought I may not have enough time left though. And it was terrifying.

What else was I thinking about? I was frustrated with myself for not taking a shower before bed, for forgetting to grab all the stuff I needed from upstairs.

I was afraid, truly terrified. But strangely at peace. If they were to come, so be it. I could not change a thing. I did not want revenge in my name, I just wanted peace.

We spent the entire day locked in the safe room, glued to updates from the local WhatsApp group, and bits of information from the internet. There were several knocks on the door from outside, but we kept quiet and did not answer. As the evening crept in, I convinced my mother and my sister, who were in the room with me, to pack their bags because at some point there would be an evacuation. It turned out to be a wise move, because when they evacuated one of my brothers, along with his partner and their son, they didn't have time to take anything with them, not even a toothbrush.

My brother and his family were on their way out, it was already past 11:00pm at night and we were still waiting. We knew that at some point we would get out, but who could possibly predict when we would be rescued and where we would be evacuated to.

Packing my bag meant venturing out of the safe room to collect my clothes and belongings from the second floor. Naturally, I forgot some items, prompting me to embark on a somewhat risky mission to retrieve them. I also brought us water, and yogurts for an improvised holiday meal. Then, all that was left for us to do was wait.

Then there was a loud knock on the door - it was the soldiers, with all their gear. They escorted us to the parking lot, where we sat in a nearby house waiting for the Hummer to arrive. After midnight, the bus left for Mishmar HaNegev. On Saturday night, at 3:30 in the morning, my younger brother was still in his safe room waiting for evacuation. Meanwhile my mother, my sister and I were on the bus on our way to Mishmar HaEmek. From there, I needed to figure out a way for us to get to Tel Aviv. We were exhausted and we looked like a mess. I hadn’t slept much the night before. I had been awake since the beginning of the attack.

I wanted my life back.

We were driven from Mishmar HaNegev to Mishmar HaEmek, arriving at 6:00 in the morning. My younger brother was finally rescued, and reunited with us around noon. We could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Having endured an even more harrowing day and night than we did, he was so exhausted that he immediately went to sleep.

“I'm still not ready to be around people again. I want to stop being afraid of everything, to stop crying all the time.”

On Sunday afternoon I made my way back to my home in Tel Aviv. There were police checkpoints along the route, with officers checking every passing vehicle. Once I got home, I did some tidying up and met some friends. In the morning I woke up startled by people talking near my window, it frightened me. My neighbours were simply chatting near the window, and all I could think about were the terrorists. Even the slightest noise or sound from outside still terrifies me.

In the supermarket, the cashier rushed me, because there was a long checkout queue, and it was crowded. Then a box of canned herring fell on me, and some oil spilled. Once I stepped out of the supermarket I burst into tears. And I couldn't stop crying.

I'm still not ready to be around people again. I want to stop being afraid of everything, to stop crying all the time.

I want my life back.

Yesterday I struggled to fall asleep until very, very late. Every noise made me jump. Once I even woke up with an anxiety attack, then I made it back to sleep.

My calendar is clearing out, as meetings are either getting cancelled or postponed.

I went out to buy shoes for my mother. During the evacuation we only took our bare essentials, leaving behind all our other belongings that we may need later. Everything was closed. All the shops in Gan Ha'ir were closed with the exception of those selling food and the pharmacy, and of course, health shops, as customary in the center of Tel Aviv.

I finally found something open. Why do you have to close everything?

The Home Front Command messages are more confusing than anything else, so I don't follow them. I finally managed to convince the house committee that it was worth preparing the building’s shelter, in case we needed it. The shelter on my daughter's street, in the local synagogue, the one where my grandparents prayed, the one where my son was called to the Torah, where we used to celebrate all the holidays, it now has a different management, and the shelter is closed to the residents of the neighborhood. We are all brothers, aren't we?

I went to visit the exiled community, the Nahal Oz community in Mishmar Ha'emek. There was already a list of volunteers and a plan of activities for children, and perhaps also for adults. Morning, noon and evening meals were all taken care of. They were provided with all necessities: toiletries, clothes, medicines, doctors, complementary medicine practitioners. There was a club in every residential building, clean sheets and towels, and light refreshments. I don’t believe there is such a level of care and generosity anywhere in the world, with one community mobilizing to support another. And this was not the first time. Even in previous conflict tensions, Mishmar HaEmek hosted the Nahal Oz community.

Only now everything is different. Now there is absolutely no certainty about when, or even if they will be able to return to their homes, and if they even still have homes. And what will be the fate of a community where so many of its men, women and children are no longer alive, are missing or kidnapped. And what will happen to all the families who had come to make Nahal Oz their home, and grew to love the place. For now, this is a place that is no longer safe for anyone. The government violated the contract between the citizens and the state, a contract according to which the citizens give the state ownership and power, and in return the state would be responsible for their safety and well-being. The state did not protect us. The state abandoned us. It abandoned all of you. And what do we do now? Who will protect us now, when the power is no longer in our hands?

And one more thing, for people who are abruptly uprooted from their home and their daily routine, even if all their physical needs are fulfilled, the time stretches endlessly. There is little to fill it with. So they move in circles. Those who have small children are busy looking after them, those who don't are looking for something to occupy themselves. They were thrust into a whole new world in just one day, facing the unknown of tomorrow.

I want my life back.

Iris G.

bottom of page