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Survivor stories

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  • Shelly Z.'s story

It felt like I was in a crime scene on a TV show. I couldn't believe it was real

The most beautiful part of the festival is the hour when the sun rises. I was looking forward to it. For the sun that would light up people’s beautiful faces, warm the night, and start our day.

When the sun rose last Saturday [October 7], I looked up and saw it, orange and huge, and the view was mind-blowing. Unbelievable.

Like something out of a movie. It felt like only a minute passed from when the sun came out to when the music stopped.

They announced that there were sirens, that we should lay on the ground and protect our heads. With the instinct and understanding that we needed to join our friends, we ran towards them. They were all laying on the ground. And as if we knew what was about to happen, we decided not to stop, and ran to find our car.

“And as if we knew what was about to happen, we decided not to stop, and ran to find our car.”

From that moment, we were in a constant state of making fast, crucial decisions. One wrong choice and my name would appear on one of those other lists [of dead or kidnapped people]. We found our car after long minutes of frantic searching. My partner drove, while my brother and our friend sat in the backseat. There was a traffic jam at the exit, and people were standing all around. [My partner] drove through the fields like crazy, passing other cars, she just kept driving.

Some moments are cloudy. For example, how did we reach the road in the direction of Gaza rather than home, and how crazy is it that I knew there were rockets above us, without understanding that there were hundreds of terrorists behind us.

We pulled over near a migunit [small concrete doorless shelter]. As we rushed towards it, the people who were already there shouted at us to go back, that there was shooting. I didn’t hear them, went into the migunit, and saw a girl on the ground who had been shot. It felt like I was in a crime scene on a TV show. I couldn't believe it was real.

"We got back in the car and started hearing gunshots. Shots all around us and from the sky.”

I came out screaming, told everyone to get back into the car, while the people in the migunit were shouting at us to head for Beit Kama [a nearby kibbutz] and get out as fast as we could.

We got back into the car and started hearing gunshots. Shots all around us, and from the sky. My partner’s father was on the phone with us, telling us that there had been an infiltration of terrorists, and that we have to look all around us, all the time, and get away. We drove for a few minutes, which felt like an eternity, and then heard a strange noise from the car.

“Sh*t, we have a flat tire, we can’t continue.” My partner got out of the car, and we all followed. We changed the tire in the middle of the road, in an open area. The sky above us was burning, and from every direction, we heard explosions and gunfire. My hands were shaking, and I held my right hand with my left as I turned the bolts of the wheel. We did it. We did it.

We jumped back into the car, held our breath, and started driving again. We couldn’t drive quickly because of the spare tire. And again, as if there was a guardian angel watching over us, we came up with the idea of driving to Be'er Sheva. A big city with a hospital. We would be okay there.

We drove there listening to Psalms, which was the most soothing thing we could think of. And I was talking to the Man above, telling Him that I know this is our destiny, that I felt He was with us, and that we’re under His protection. I repeated this over and over again, like a mantra.

We headed towards the shopping mall. I thought maybe that was a safe place, and we could find shelter, but when we got there, it was closed. Next to the mall was an apartment building and a kind man walking his dog. He saw that that we were frantic and took us to a safe place. His family welcomed us into their home with warmth and love, offered us a safe refuge, and we started to understand what had happened, what was still happening behind us.

By some miracle, we got hold of the friends who had been at the festival with us and guided them to our location. The people who hosted us provided us with a warm, comforting, and safe place, feeding and caring for us, and sharing their safe room with about twenty other people from the festival. But soon, we realized that we needed to continue our journey. We needed to get back to our homes and our families.

Outside, the wailing sounds of sirens filled the air, shouting in Arabic, it was frightening. We heard that there were squads of terrorists outside, roads were blocked. My intuition told me to keep moving, reminding me of how far we had come, and reassuring me that we would make it.

We headed out, driving at 80 km an hour so the spare tire would hold out. We passed roadblock after roadblock. My body was tense and my heart was pounding. It was already 4 pm and the sun was about to set. The journey was long and slow. And I heard myself tell them that all we had was this very moment, and it’s so beautiful outside, and the sun will be setting soon, and we are still alive.

My heart can barely withstand the horrors. The pain for our friends, for the people who were kidnapped, the soldiers, those who were murdered, is unbearable. And despite all this, I know and believe that we are here to stay. That our nation is the most beautiful diamond, that we are strong and can protect ourselves, that we are stronger than all this evil, and that good will triumph.

Shelly Z.

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