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Survivor stories

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  • Dalit R.A.'s story

My eldest son said to me, “Mom, I don’t want to die on my birthday”

The morning that the horrific slaughter took place, we were supposed to celebrate my son’s birthday, and the whole family was planning to come to the kibbutz. At 6:30 in the morning, we heard the red alert siren and we all went into the safe room. We’re used to rockets, but this time the sirens didn’t stop, nor did the the echoes of explosions and things falling. We realized that this isn’t the type of event we were used to, and at some point, my partner left the safe room to bring us our cellphones, bottles of water, and some snacks. At the time, we didn’t imagine how that decision would save us in all those hours that we were in the safe room.

When they [the terrorists] reached my parents [who live with caregivers on the kibbutz], we still didn’t realize the intensity and size of the event. We knew that terrorists, some of them in army uniforms, were in the kibbutz, because one of the people from the rapid response squad had written it on the Whatsapp group, and told us that we need to lock our house and be careful. But we didn’t know how many terrorists there were, and mainly we didn’t know that there was no army. I tried to call everyone I thought could possibly help my parents, but no one answered.

“No one knew where the army was. That was the moment that I understood that we were alone.”

At this point, I was sure that the terrorists were only at my parents’ house, but then the horrifying messages started to come through from all of the kibbutz residents that there were terrorists in their homes, trying to break into their safe rooms, burning their houses, shooting in every direction, and throwing grenades at the windows. No one knew where the army was. That was the moment that I understood that we were alone, and I started instructing my parents’ caregivers on how to hold the handle of the safe room door. Afterwards, they told me that thanks to those instructions, they survived. All of the other houses in their row had been harmed, and most of the residents there had either been kidnapped or murdered.

“I put my hand over her mouth and begged her to be quiet, as if we were in the Holocaust.”

My four-year-old daughter didn’t understand what was happening and started to scream, all at a time when we needed to be completely silent. I put my hand over her mouth and begged her to be quiet, as if we were in the Holocaust. She got insulted by that, went to the bed, and fell asleep. In fact, the whole time there were terrorists in our house, she slept. It was probably a defense mechanism, which was really lucky. I hugged my two sons tightly, and tried to call for help with my other hand, but there was no one to call.

My eldest son said to me, “Mom, I don’t want to die on my birthday.” At that moment, I promised him that when we get out of there, we would celebrate his birthday the best we could, and we would celebrate life. It was really important to me that even in those hours, in the most dangerous place and with no defense, my children would have some kind of anchor, and that they would know that we would always do everything we could to protect them, no matter what. That’s also the reason why we decided that as long as there is a threat in the area, we won’t return to Nir Oz, but will stay together with the community and go everywhere with them.

In hindsight, we realized that we were “lucky,” because only the looters came into our home, that after a few unsuccessful attempts to break into the safe room, they gave up and made do with stealing items, passports, wallets, and destroying the house. We even heard the voice of a boy among the terrorists.

“We even heard the voice of a boy among the terrorists.”

There was a moment when they began to drill, and we still don’t know why they were drilling. We were also scared that they had booby-trapped the house. One of the most stressful moments was when the batteries in our cellphones ran out. Our family was frightened and wanted to know what was going on. I was in contact with my parents the whole time, and was scared that if I didn’t instruct their caregivers, the terrorists, who had set up a headquarters in their house, would succeed in breaking into their safe room. We were also scared that they [rescuers] wouldn’t be able to help us and get us out of the house. We realized that we had no choice, and my partner left the safe room for a few moment to bring our chargers. The children were terrified, and the youngest one has developed a fear of abandonment since then.

Yesterday, for instance, she told me that she had dreamed that there was a red alert siren and she was really scared, and that she woke up and cried but none of us heard her. I told her that next time that happens, she should wake us up immediately, that we are always there and we will do everything to protect her and her brothers. She also talks quite a bit about being scared that she will be hurt or killed. She hasn’t yet asked anything about her best friend Ariel (who was kidnapped along with his mother, Shiri Bibas, and his nine-month old brother, Kfir).

It’s not easy to support children who have experienced trauma like this, especially not in the first few days after the event, when we were all in a state of complete shock. Even after they evacuated us, we couldn’t speak about and process the events, because we were in a protected kindergarten while terrorists still roamed the kibbutz, clouds of smoke and a burnt smell covered everything, and the sounds of gunfire and rockets hadn’t stopped.

From the moment we arrived at the hotel, we have been surrounded by an amazing support system, both from the staff at the hotel and the people from the kibbutz, who no longer live in Nir Oz, but dropped everything to come and support us. The children are supported and can sleep at night. We take sleeping pills and, of course, get help from psychologists and social workers.

One out of every four kibbutz members was kidnapped or murdered. There’s almost no family from Nir Oz that came out of this slaughter whole. It’s clear to me that it was like a game of Russian roulette. If more experienced terrorists had come to our house rather than looters, we probably would have also been hurt. We have a feeling of survivors’ guilt, and there are moments when I catch myself looking at the children, hugging and kissing them, and telling myself, “Thank God you are with me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I know how lucky we are, and how this can’t be taken for granted.

Dalit R.A.

Original article - Ynet

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