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We realized they want to burn us alive

  • Roni S.'s story

We crouched in the car, heads between our knees, while being shot at in volleys at the car

It is 18:00 in the evening, October 9, 2023, and less than 48 hours have passed since we were rescued.

It's time to tell about my private miracle and that of my three friends: Gal, Itzik and Chai. We were together through all of this mess. All the failures, all the miracles - and there were miracles we went through, we went through them all together. I must say that every centimeter, every action, every minute, that happened in our story - if something had gone to the right or to the left a minute later or a minute before, most likely I wouldn't be able to write this for you now. 

Chances are we wouldn't be alive. 

Before that, I want to say that I have received hundreds of messages and I just can't answer them all. I’m not able to answer right now. I really want to say thank you to everyone, I promise you that I will answer one by one. I really have no words to describe how much I appreciate and truly love, and how every person who sent me a message and cared feels good for my heart and soul.

Roni S.

And now I will tell you about our story- myself, Chai, Gal and Itzik. It’s very important to say, first of all, that at 6:30, 7:00 in the morning when the rockets started, it was the peak of the party. The party started at 11:00-12:00 pm at night, and most people arrived at 1:00-2:00  in the morning, and it was scheduled to end at about 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon the next day. I see people asking, “How were there so many people at 6:00-7:00 am at the party?" It was really the highlight and middle of the party. The main artist who was performing [at the Nova festival] was on stage at that time. 

So we arrived at about 3:00 a.m. We got to the party and it was really fun and a good atmosphere and we were in good spirits. At 6:00, 6:15 am we were dancing in the dance area. Everything was fine, we were drunk, and suddenly we started hearing booms. Even before there was a red alert siren (which warns of rocket fire) there were booms, and panic, and people running.

All of a sudden, the production announced on the microphone: "There's no party. The party is over. There's a red alert siren, everyone evacuate!'

“It sounds absurd now, looking back, but that's what saved us [...] because it turns out the first people who ran away were massacred”

That was the first miracle. We were so drunk and in such good spirits, pretending to be “brave” and that “no missiles would hit us,” and “we’re fine” that we took our time leaving the party. We didn’t leave for about 45 minutes! We sat, we laughed. It sounds absurd now, looking back, but that's what saved us. That’s what saved us, because it turns out the first people who ran away were massacred.

They were all murdered. Every single one of them. And we ended up staying. After we had stayed for those 45 minutes, even though there were clear instructions to leave because of missiles. But only because of missiles. Because I have to say, we didn't even know there were terrorists (at that point). Hamas was firing rockets as a distraction, so that no one would even notice that terrorists were coming in. We didn't know anything. So we went to the car calmly, feeling that everything was fine. We got into the car and started driving and there was a huge traffic jam inside the party area. 

We drove across a field and at the end we reached a main road. At the time, we didn't know [in which direction we were heading], but looking back, I know that south was to the right, and north was to the left, home towards Netanya. There was a traffic jam because obviously everyone was turning left, and we drove in the same direction as everyone and also got into the traffic jam. We stood in traffic for three or four minutes, and this is when the second miracle happened. A policeman arrived on a motorcycle and said, "Friends, go in the other direction. Go south, there’s another lane from there, go fast! Drive fast!' 

Our car was the second car that made the U-turn. The first car was a white Hyundai, right in front of us, and we were the car behind it. We made a U-turn, amongst the first ones, and started driving, and we were really smiling. We had no idea what was going on and were still pretty drunk. 

We drove for about  one-and-a-half kilometers and suddenly we saw figures, something incomprehensible on the road. One car on the left side, one car on the right side, and two figures on the ground and we didn’t understand what it was. We began to approach the figures and we saw two bodies on the ground. As soon as Chai, who was the driver, saw the bodies, he shouted "Turn around! Turn around! There are terrorists here!" And we looked to the left and right, and we saw two groups of terrorists that were just shooting at us. There were two groups of terrorists in an ambush, just waiting for people to come southwards! We made another U-turn, along with the white Hyundai. After we made the U-turn, we drove another 200 meters and there were more terrorists coming out and shooting at us!

“We were completely blocked: stuck in an ambush from one direction to the left and from another direction on the right and we had nowhere to go, because there were bodies [on the road] and a group of about 16 terrorists that we had seen with our own eyes.”

We were completely blocked: stuck  in an ambush from one direction on the left, and from another direction on the right, and we had nowhere to go, because there were bodies [on the road] and a group of about 16 terrorists that we had seen with our own eyes. Chai didn’t know what to do. It was literally just a matter of seconds, (then) Chai came to his senses, made another U-turn, and drove as though his life depended on it at 150 km/h. 

We crouched in the car, heads between our knees and hands over our heads, hiding while being shot at in volleys at the car. We heard the booms. I really don't know how to explain it. Our hearts were beating at 4,000 beats per minute. Chai was truly brave. He drove the car through the bodies. I don't even know if we drove over the bodies, or what happened there. We just drove straight because there was nothing else to do. 

“He drove the car through the bodies. I don't even know if we drove over the bodies, or what happened there. We just drove straight because there was nothing else to do”. 

At that point, there was no choice, so we drove further and further straight. Suddenly there was a turn to the left with the sign 'Ofakim' and a turn to the right with the sign 'Eshkol', and we knew we would never go that way, so we went to the left. 

We were slowing down to about 100 km/h in order to turn left [towards ‘Ofakim’], when we saw another group of terrorists. We didn’t turn left and continued driving for another kilometer or so, and saw an abandoned factory on our right. We saw someone in the distance. One of us! We drove in his direction and honked. I got out of the car and ran to him "Please! Please open up for us! There are terrorists here!”

He ran to open the gate for us. What happened next was the craziest miracle, the craziest of all the miracles! We went in through the gate and parked the car, but not in the parking lot outside but right inside the factory. We were frightened and breathing heavily and panting. We got out of the car. 

120 seconds. Two minutes after that. And I must admit that at that moment, I was still playing the brave guy. I recorded a story: "There are missiles here" "Everyone is in a panic!" I played the macho guy. As if I wasn’t running away.  “Here, I’m a reporter. I'm a journalist. Look at me, I was at a party and now I'm documenting things for you.”

And I had a video that was deleted during all of the panic of what happened after that. We got out of the car, and were inside the factory we had just driven into, and I was holding my phone, walking in the direction of the main road to see where we were. I was taking a video of it ( unfortunately, most of the video was deleted).

Terrorists on a white track

“If we had gotten there a minute earlier, we would have been killed.”

I actually saw a group of terrorists, on a truck. If we had gotten there a minute earlier, we would have been killed. And the even greater miracle is that this group of terrorists, even though they saw us inside the factory, even though they had already shot at us, and we had run for our lives into the factory and they had seen us inside the factory, but a miracle or superior force or I don't know who was guarding us, they continued straight towards the great slaughter and didn’t come into the factory.

We stayed in the factory. After being in the greatest panic of our lives, we arrived at a room measuring 1 x 1 meter. A surveillance camera room that was open from all directions, left to right, east to west, everything was open. And we sat there for twelve hours and waited to be rescued. Twelve hours during which we didn’t breathe, didn’t eat, didn’t drink, urinated in bottles. Every little sound that someone made by mistake and we all went crazy. “Don't move! Don't move!" I don't want to compare, but that was the closest to Nazis looking for Jews inside people's homes.

“Twelve hours during which we didn’t breathe, didn’t eat, didn’t drink, urinated in bottles.”

We weren’t allowed to move, we weren’t allowed to breathe. We urinated in bottles, we didn't drink, we got to the point where we were going to faint any second. You must understand, we weren’t ourselves (and we had been awake since the day before). I watched one exit, Gal watched another one, Chai and Itzik watched the factory's surveillance cameras to understand what was happening around us, and this went on for twelve hours.

A screen with security camera footage

And here is the biggest failure: Twelve hours during which half of Netanya - all of our parents and also people we didn’t know, were sending our location to the police, sending our location to everyone, and the police simply said: “We have nothing to do. Pray for their lives and yours, don't move, we’ll keep you updated.”

We didn’t receive one update. Not a single update from the police. Not a single update from the army. Twelve hours of suffering. Every moment you imagine that you see terrorists. You imagine in the cameras that it's a terrorist, you look at the screen and you imagine a person moving. You no longer know what you see. Your heart is beating at 4,000 beats per minute. You feel that you are like sheep being taken to slaughter, you are waiting for them to come and murder you. And if not murder you, then kidnap you.

You read the news, have a bit of a battery on your phone, and say to yourself, “There are so many prisoners, there is so much death, and there are four people here inside a factory that you [security forces] can reach! We are not in Gaza now.”

By the way, we were not inside Gaza. So you can understand where we were, we only discovered this later, and this was another crazy miracle. We were on the main road from where all the terrorists came from. We were in Kibbutz Magen. People were murdered there and there were terrible battles. The main road on the right is another town that the terrorists reached. So we are in a factory that has on one side of it, a route upon which terrorists came, and on the other side of it, another route from which terrorists came, and we are right in the middle, in a factory that is completely exposed and in an open area. It's crazy, it's crazy where we were and how we survived.

“I really can't describe to you how many miracles and how many things happened for us to survive.”

I really can't describe to you how many miracles and how many things happened for us to survive. As I’m telling you this, trying to explain how it all happened, and I have no other explanation except that someone from above touched us.

It's hard to even begin to describe what happened in those twelve hours in terms of fear, in terms of nightmares, in terms of gunshots. I've never heard so many gunshots, I've never heard so many booms. I hate to tell you that we can’t sleep. Every little noise that we hear from outside, even the smallest thing. It happened next to us. We heard, and I'm not exaggerating, more than 5,000 shots and more than 800 booms and it's not like we heard it from afar. We heard it as if the factory was exploding. 

I heard everything. I don't know how to explain to you, it was really something that I don't want any of you to even understand what we went through. After twelve hours, we were there at 7 in the evening, the Messiah arrived and his name was Rami. Dear Rami. It is so absurd that dear Rami was only a civilian, while the whole army, the entire police, they were all there [away]. 

But Rami, Rami I don't know how to thank him at all, our life, we are here thanks to you. Rami came to our rescue after our families and dear friends contacted him, and the news company, and the reporter Adva Dadon. Rami, independently, with another friend of his, came to rescue us from the factory. We didn’t leave the factory until they called us and told us, “We are here. Come." And he really saved us, and we went to the protected area under the control of the security forces.

And we are here. I have no words to thank ever