So, you’re probably asking yourselves what happened at that terrifying party, they barely show anything on the news. Each of us went through serious trauma and has their own personal story. So, I’ll tell you mine.
We were at the party in the open square, dancing, laughing, having fun. At 6:38, the music shut off, and missiles and [Iron Dome] interceptions began flying over our heads. People were excited, laughing, even taking pictures of the interceptions.
We went to the shaded area and began folding up the tents and mats, still really chill.
You have to understand that when a festival ends, a lot of people stay afterwards and just have fun. At this point, we didn't know that there were convoys of terrorists in pickup trucks coming in our direction from Gaza.
"At this point, we didn't know that there were convoys of terrorists in pickup trucks coming in our direction from Gaza."
At 7:00, Itamar, Naor and I got into the car. Itamar was driving and tried to get out of the party area to the main road, but there was serious traffic, and we would have been in one big mess, with all of the cars turning to the main road. I was afraid we wouldn’t manage to get past. We got onto the road and turned left, but to our surprise, the police had blocked the road. We had no idea why, but they weren’t allowing people out. Itamar made a U-turn and started driving in the opposite direction. We were on the Gaza road, right by the border. We managed to avoid the traffic jam by driving on the shoulder (we were dying to get home).
We kept driving in the other direction. There was another car in front of us, a white car with five girls in it, and suddenly they made a U-turn in the middle of the road. We were driving at around 70 km an hour, and didn’t understand what they were doing. We hit their car and both cars flew into a ditch on the side of the road. Naor got out of the car and started yelling at the girls, asking why they had turned around suddenly. I looked up in the direction of the road and saw a pickup truck in front of us, three guys in the front, four in the back, all standing with Kalashnikovs. They started spraying us with bullets. I screamed at Naor to run, and saw him trying to help one of the girls from the other car who was bleeding.
“I looked up in the direction of the road and saw a pickup truck in front of us, three guys in the front, four in the back, all standing there with Kalashnikovs.”
We saw shots flying in front of us. Itamar and I started running towards the ditch. We climbed over it, in the direction of the orchards, away from the border. At this point, anyone who had stayed in the area of the party had already been murdered. A lot of people had stayed, many were hiding, under cars. We went back, towards the cars, towards the party, not a great decision on our part. We met up with other friends, hid behind cars, and realized that [the terrorists] had surrounded us from every direction. There were pickup trucks, shooting, rocket shells flying at us, not to mention thousands of missiles flying in our direction, while people all around us were being shot.
“At this point, anyone who had stayed in the area of the party had already been murdered.”
People began realizing that there were squads [of terrorists] coming at us from every direction. We went towards the ditch, and maybe about 2,000 people started running in the opposite direction of the party, towards Ofakim and Be'er Sheva. All this time, people were crying, injured, friends were dying right in front of them and they couldn’t do anything!! It was horrific.
As we ran, we tried to help anyone we could, even a little bit, and some of them were injured. We walked for about five hours, until around 12:30, and were completely exhausted, we couldn’t walk anymore. We stopped under a tree when suddenly a car came towards us, driving quickly, and we didn’t know what to think. Maybe it was Arabs?
By this time, we already knew that many villages had been infiltrated, that there were many breaches in the border fence, and that terrorists were driving around. The car stopped next to us and told us not to worry, that they were coming to pick us. We were relieved, we didn't understand where they had come from. Suddenly, vehicles arrived from several directions and started picking up people from the party, taking us to various kibbutzim and villages.
A really special guy picked us up and all the way, we kept thanking him. He told us, “Don’t worry, I am taking you to my sister in [the village of] Patish. We have food and drinks and showers ready for you there. Everything you need.”
We got to her place, and there were about 50 people there. She was amazing. A fantastic host who brought us blankets, food, gave everyone hot and cold drinks. EVERYTHING. We couldn't believe that the walk was over, but the war had just begun. Already when we were at her place, we started seeing videos on everyone’s phones from Hamas and that’s where the nightmare began. We saw friends who were kidnapped, live in front of us, we saw them in videos and couldn’t absorb it all. How many were kidnapped? Who was missing and who wasn’t? Who was alive and who was dead?
Yes, I am grateful that I am alive, but inside I’m broken. So many of my friends haven’t been found, we don’t know anything, we have no idea where to turn, what to do. So I just ask the country, where were you? How did you do this to us? People just wanted to have fun, celebrate, and they came and lynched us. Ducks at a shooting range, now it’s come to me, come to us. There’s no one in the country who hasn’t been touched or isn’t related to someone who was there, someone who is lost, and they’re looking for them. We never imagined that something like this could happen to us.
“So many of my friends haven’t been found, we don’t know anything, we have no idea where to turn, what to do.”
So many prayers for everyone to return safely. I won't lie, I'm losing faith in this regard, and it's very hard for me to believe. But our Father is great and I hope He’s watching over all the kidnapped and missing people, hiding them somewhere, so that in a few moments they’ll come out of their hideaways, please, Father, I beg you, take care of them! I have no tears, I have no voice. I can’t even think. Help us.
And in my country, I have already stopped believing. They’re selling us illusions instead of protection! I need you to help me find my friends that are lost. If someone has heard something or knows something, please tell me as soon as possible.
Osher Vaknin (was later found murdered)
Michael (Miko) Vaknin (missing)
Iliyah Cohen (kidnapped)
Yonatan Chai Azulai (was later found murdered)
Shoham Yaakov (was later found murdered)
Shinhav Yaakov (missing)
There are many more names that will come up. Bring the hostages home!