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The people at the checkpoint looked strange, I thought I could spot them holding Kalashnikov rifles

  • Einav A.'s story

That’s when I realized that we’d be executed if we didn’t run

There aren’t enough words and photos to convey what we’ve been through.

This nightmare will never end, but at least I’m here to tell it.

My heart goes out to the families who lost their loved ones, to those kidnapped.

I believe with all my heart in our nation - we will win this battle.

Saturday, 7.10.23.

Sometimes, you have to be careful what you wish for. The outcome might be dire. I’ll start my recounting of events from yesterday [Friday]. I felt drained both physically and mentally. I got off work early and couldn’t fall asleep all day. Alma came over and watched the sunset from the roof. I packed my bag with everything I needed to be comfortable. I had just backpacked through India a few months prior. A nature party seemed pretty simple compared to that. Gal (the girl) came to pick us up. I fruitlessly tried to sleep in the car.

We stopped at Amit’s house in Ofakim for drinks before heading to the party. The rest of the girls and Gal (the guy) joined later on with an impressive supply of snacks for a great night.

Even though we’d waited a long time for this party, we were all a bit tired. We were worried that we wouldn’t enjoy the party as much as we should, but no one had the guts to admit it.

We hadn't known each other for very long, they all seemed nice. I didn’t know then just how significant they would be in the events to come.

Einav A. dancing with her friends at nova festival

We got to the party at around 4am. We put up our tent and rolled out our sleeping bags. I changed into a comfortable outfit. Alma drank too much and went to bed. The rest of us started drinking.

Einav A. with her friends at nova festival

At around 05:30 Amit convinced us all to dance under the rising sun. We danced between the two dance floors under the open sky as the sun was rising. We danced and talked about the amazing day ahead and how beautiful the sky was. Within seconds that same sky filled with rockets.

I froze. As a Tel Avivian I was not familiar with the protocols for such an event, and on top of that I was drunk. We split up and I stayed with Amit and Gal. Everyone else went to wake up Alma and pack up our things. I was frozen.​​ The guys tried to calm me down and I begged them to tell me what to do. Gal (the guy) told me to lay down and cover my head with my arms. I felt he could be trusted. By this point people were running frantically in different directions. We got up and walked to our car.

We found the car. Gal (the guy) was our driver. Noam was in the front seat, while May and Alma were with me sat in the back. We were stuck in traffic. We didn’t know then that the terrorists were on their way and that rockets would be our last concern.

We were all panicking, so I asked everyone to hold hands. A shrapnel-covered car drove by us. Gal asked him what’s going on and he told us that they were shooting the passengers in all the cars. I still wasn’t sure we should leave, until I saw everyone sprinting from their cars behind us. I didn’t even see the terrorists that were apparently right next to us. Gal yelled “NOW! GET OUT OF THE CAR!”.That’s when I realized that we’d be executed if we didn’t run.

“They eliminated anyone who didn’t run fast enough. I will never forget the image of the policeman who was shot in the throat.”

People run away in an open field

We got out. My shoe fell off. We kept going. Chaos. Rockets flying above us. Histeria. Fear. Explosions. Screams. Everyone was running in different directions. We gradually contemplated the number of people lying wounded, shot. They eliminated anyone who didn’t run fast enough. I will never forget the image of the policeman who was shot in the throat.

A bunch of us ran to the fields. Gal yelled “run East!” and we ran downhill like animals.

I was running and noticed that Alma was missing.

I called her. We had been separated. Another stream of rockets whistled above us. With bullets flying around us I wasn’t even scared of the rockets anymore. We crossed the field running hysterically, like ducks. We were characters in a terrorist game of “who will die first”. I made a phone call to my loved ones and sent them a live location. I called the police. They hung up on me. I told myself “this has to be over soon. They're going to stop them.”

We ran for hours in the fields. I felt like I was ascending different levels of a computer game - the kind where terrain changes from earthy land, to pit-filled terrain, to a thorny field. We didn’t know how much energy we had left. Everyone was dehydrated and we had no water.

Our loved ones directed us where to go based on the news. They told us which areas were under control of terrorists, so we would stay clear of them. Gal navigated with google maps.

I yelled at the sky “if anyone’s up there please help us!”

“Some of the girls fainted, and someone gave me some water even though it was their last bottle. We were all in this together.”

I didn’t see anyone from our group. As we ran people gave me a hand and told me “don’t run alone”. Some of the girls fainted, and someone gave me some water even though it was their last bottle. We were all in this together. Alma updated me that she was in a safe location. That calmed me down a bit.

The gunshots behind us never stopped. Suddenly someone yelled “turn around there are terrorists up ahead!” I thought that was the end for us. I looked around and saw the pain in everyone’s eyes. I can still feel it. Luckily for us, we decided not to listen. “Make sure they’re not firing at us from the left and from the right!” someone yelled. We were updated that the terrorists were driving white SUVs. Each passing vehicle gave us a small heart attack.

We were moving towards a military base that appeared in the distance. After running for five hours with no place to hide, we could finally see some greenhouses we could hide in. We entered a small plaster-walled caravan. Everybody was in shock. I looked down at my foot and saw that it was completely covered in thorns. I couldn’t put my weight on it because I ran barefoot. Our entire group was still alive! Crying, hugging. We hadn’t known each other before, but we were suffering through this terrible ordeal together.

Three hours later a police officer armed with a handgun came to guard us. Noone was coming to evacuate us yet and we knew that the caravan walls couldn’t withstand even a single bullet. People were fighting over phone chargers. Walking around outside and making noise. We couldn’t be found! I was furious that they were putting us in danger. I offered to play an ice breaking game to calm everyone down. We weren’t safe yet.

Volunteers from Moshav Patish (a Moshav that hadn’t been taken over by terrorists) came to rescue us. We were hysterical. A border guard lifted me into the vehicle because I couldn’t use my foot. One person sat on the floor and put her head on my knees. Another one was sitting between me and the driver. She was the only survivor from an entire SUV, the rest hadn’t managed to escape.

Many people were in the back, I didn’t count how many. I sat in the front next to the driver. I saw two men dressed in black in front of us. I told the driver to stop. “Who are they?” I asked. He checked and told me that they’re armed but that they are probably on our side. He started to drive forward but I told him to stop and check again. He said they were policemen. I relaxed a little, but we were not safe yet. 8 hours since this whole thing began.

When we got to the Moshav and were told that we were safe I completely broke down. I couldn’t believe we had made it. I couldn’t believe it was over. A local family hosted us. They offered us water, food, and a warm shower. Angels sent to us from heaven. I carried two things with me as I crossed the entrance into my house. My small bag, and a gaping hole in my soul. I know that we’re lucky to be alive.

Einav A.

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