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Survivor stories

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  • Sarshalom Y.'s story

The terrorists were close and I wasn’t going to let them kidnap me

I want to tell you my story from the party. I'm happy that I'm here to tell you about it. I know there are people who want to hear how I'm still alive, and I don't like to repeat it, but I have no problem telling it.


I had two booths at the [Nova] festival and 11 employees there, along with many, many friends. Everything was going just like it should, and anyone who knows me knows how much I like to take care of everything, and everyone, and to make sure that things are running the way they should. So I gave myself a few hours to sleep in the car.


Sarshalom Y.

At about 6:00 am, the rockets started. I got a call, “Come quickly. We need to pack up and get out of here.” At that moment, my whole world collapsed. I didn't understand what was happening, no one actually understood what kind of scene was about to unfold. I cried like an idiot about all of the equipment that I was leaving behind, and prayed for a missile to fall on my head. I didn't understand the magnitude of the event.


One of my workers came and asked me if she could leave, and I told her to go ahead and do what she needed to do, that she didn’t need to ask me. I finished packing my gear into the trailer and headed towards the police booth. This is where the events began. We got into the car and they told us not to leave. All the roads were blocked and there were terrorists in the area. Lots of people were traumatized from the rockets, stoned and confused, and we started to hear a lot of shooting. I tried to calm people down, saying that the army is probably on its way and in a few minutes, it would all be over.

“He told me that they had shot at him from both directions of the road, and that their entire vehicle was wrecked.”


What really happened was that they [the terrorists] had started by shooting at us, at our soldiers, and then they moved to the police officers who were with us. And then injured people started arriving, and I asked one of them what had happened. He told me that they had shot at him from both directions of the road, and that their entire vehicle was wrecked. I met a woman who was a mess. She was in a car [that was shot up] and in total shock. I promised her that she would see her children today, and told her to calm down, but it didn’t really help.


All that time, I kept checking with the police officers, who were really confused, where the safest place to go was. After realizing there weren't that many police officers left, and seeing the look of horror on their faces, I decided I needed to go to the paramedic to figure out where to go. He seemed to be in control of the situation (I hope he is still with us) and there was also a nice Druze guy there, from the Zen Zone, and I’d be happy to know now whether he is still alive.


Then we started getting shot at, and luckily I didn't look back, but I realized that people were falling like dominoes while bullets were whistling past our ears. I started shouting, “Don’t run there because it's Gaza!” but I didn’t really know in which direction we should go. In front of us was Gaza, to our left, a road filled with terrorists, to the right was the area of the festival, and there was no reason to go back there.


“I realized that the terrorists were close and I wasn’t going to let them kidnap me, so I decided that it was better to run.”


We arrived at the road because we saw people there, and I saw the frightened mother who I had talked to earlier. While we were trying to figure out where we should go, we started hearing bullets whistling by us, and I told everyone to get down. I realized that we had to keep moving. I moved towards some bushes when suddenly a grenade exploded.

I lay down in a bush, with my hands on my head, and started hearing people speaking Arabic. I realized that the terrorists were close and I wasn’t going to let them kidnap me, so I decided that it was better to run. I saw four people in the middle of the orchard and realized that if I got there, only a sniper would be able to shoot me (I was in the army).


I ran for my life, while still keeping energy for later. The same two friends who had come with me stayed near the bush. At the end of the orchard, there was a police officer who said to move towards [the village of] Patish, and not to stop. About 200 meters behind him were people in a panic, people who didn’t know what to do. I called a friend who didn’t answer; he just texted me asking to send a text back as he couldn’t talk. I tried to explain to him that there was a policeman where I was and that he needed to get out quickly. He wrote to me that he saw them [the terrorists], and that they were beside him. I tried to understand whether I should stay with these people or move on and suddenly I started to hear the whistle of bullets again. I explained to them [the people with me] that these were bullets, because they didn’t understand, and that we couldn’t stay where we were. We jumped into a ditch, and then I got up again in order to figure out in which direction to go.


I had a cell phone with me that I had found and couldn't put on silent. I realized that I had to get rid of it. A car stopped next to us and I opened the glove compartment and threw the phone inside. Meanwhile some woman in the car was shouting, “What are you doing? This isn’t your car!” and she’s yelling at her boyfriend, “Why did you take the car?” and we kept going for about 30 meters and then her boyfriend gave in and stopped the car. I realized that I wasn’t going to get anywhere with them.


Suddenly, like in a movie, a police officer drove by. I had seen the car before, with the keys in it [in the ignition], and had thought of taking it, but I didn’t and it was divine providence that everything happened as it did. I asked the officer to stop and told him that I was getting in, that I was alone and didn’t know what had happened to my friends. As we were driving, I realized that this police officer had already seen the face of death.


“He didn’t trust the police officer’s uniform and asked to see his ID, and I I told him that if his life was important to him, he’d get into the car.”


We stopped next to a group of young people and tried to save someone. They jumped into the bushes like panthers. They were stoned and they thought that we were terrorists. Only one of them joined us. He didn’t trust the police officer’s uniform and asked to see his ID, and I I told him that if his life was important to him, he’d get into the car.


We reached a Bedouin encampment and there were two policemen there who directed us, and one of the officers said to the other, “we need to go and rescue more people”. And the other officer didn’t say anything, didn’t answer, and stayed where he was. The first officer, who was genuinely brave, left by himself to save more people.


I had already been guided this far, and I didn’t have any idea where to go, but God had shown me the way until now. I kept walking with everyone, about 1000 people, we walked without water for about 7 kilometers. I tried to help everyone, walking with people who needed help, but also trying to move ahead quickly, in order to get out quickly.


Along the way, there were irrigation hoses and I washed my face. I didn't drink and I told people that it wasn’t clean water, and that they shouldn’t drink a lot of it, but that everyone should do what they felt was right. Some woman started arguing with me, and it drove me crazy. I told her that everyone can do what they want, just like everyone puts whatever drug they want into their body, they can also choose whether they drink or not, but that they should know that it’s wastewater. We kept walking.


A jeep drove by and I didn’t understand why he didn’t help anyone or let anyone into the bed of his truck. I jumped into the truck like Mowgli [from the Jungle Book] while he kept driving. The driver stopped, got out and started yelling at me to get out of his truck. I told him that I didn’t understand what his problem was, why couldn’t he help. He grabbed a two-meter long iron pole and I jumped out of the truck. I was thinking about fighting him, but I was alone, and I didn’t know the people who were with me. I didn’t know who was a friend and who wasn’t.


I decided that if I had come this far, it's not that bad and I can keep going by foot (now I regret not fighting him). We kept walking and I called my friends, sent them my live location and told them to keep moving. My friend told me that he was in a tank. I understood that he was safe, and told him that everything must be fine. There must be soldiers, so you remember the grenade I told you about in the beginning. I guess they took him in, and the situation there wasn’t too bad. (I won’t describe more here.)


“I called the police and the ambulance, at least they could bring us water. Of course, no one answered.”


I continued to walk. I saw a girl who had become dehydrated sitting in the shade of some citrus trees, and asked if everything was okay. I understood that many people were becoming dehydrated. I called the police and the ambulance, at least they could bring us water. Of course, no one answered. They got back to me in the evening, after many hours, and I told them it was shameful that they got back to me at all, after so many hours.


We continued walking and after a few meters, we came across some containers. Someone opened them and it was disappointing because there was fertilizer or something inside, and we continued walking, but they hadn’t opened the pipe faucet. So I opened it and at that moment, I felt like Moses. There was water and it was cold. I drank and smoked a cigarette and it calmed me down, and then the girl who was dehydrated came over and I asked everyone to move aside and let her drink, and then we continued walking.


When we were about a kilometer away from Patish, vehicles came from the village to pick us up, and they gave us everything we needed, food, drink, homes, showers, they took care of everyone who needed attention, God bless them. I understood that some of them went into the field and set up meeting points for people. I waited there for a few hours, maybe someone else [I knew] would show up. I understood that we had been given back our lives, and that I needed to continue on the bus to Beer Sheva to a friend's house. I understood that the guy and his girlfriend who had been with me were alive and in a safe place, and I tried unsuccessfully to send the location of my friends to the security people. They got out of there, but I don’t know how.


Remember the girl who asked me if she could leave quickly? Sadly, she has now passed away. Her name was Ella, and she was in the hospital, in a bad state, and I’d been praying for her, and I also felt a little responsible, even though she would have been there even without me. I left all of my friends there, people who live by me and with me, and I love them all more than family. I feel that their fate is not good, and I pray to God that they are alive.


Pray for the well-being of the wounded and for all the hostages to be returned alive.


Sarshalom Y.


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