The Aftermath of the Hamas Attack: Portraits of Israeli Survivors

todayNovember 3, 2023 3

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Nikita Soumrov and his son, Avi, were among the thousands of Israelis who were attacked on the morning of Oct. 7, after Hamas gunmen surged into southern Israel from Gaza.

Roughly 1,400 people were killed — in their homes, in bomb shelters, at an outdoor rave.

Avi, 4, escaped by hiding in a closet.

He and many other survivors remain traumatized by the experience.

These are their stories.

“Through the window, I could see the terrorists setting fire to the houses around us.” — Yossef Rozansky, 67

Yossef Rozansky and his wife and daughter ran out to rescue a neighbor in Kibbutz Holit whose house was ablaze. Then they retreated to their own safe room. A grenade exploded in their home. They braced the door. Another explosion wounded all eight family members inside. His daughter applied a tourniquet to his leg. “I’m wounded,” he recalled, “sitting there hugging my granddaughter and everyone else sitting inside the safe room, keeping very quiet and all the time looking at their wounded grandmother and the blood spreading all over the room.”

“It was like a shooting range.” — Hila Fakliro, 26, who survived the Hamas attack at the Tribe of Nova music festival

Hila Fakliro, a fitness instructor, was tending bar at the Tribe of Nova music festival when she saw what she thought were fireworks. “I don’t think those are fireworks,” a fellow bartender said. They were Hamas rockets. Soon, men with guns appeared amid the eucalyptus trees where revelers had just been dancing. “There were these crazy maniacs with guns and people falling one by one,” Ms. Fakliro said.

“It was the scariest day of my life.” — Stav Nitzan, 8, who hid for 12 hours in a safe room in Netiv Haasara

“Mom woke me up and just said ‘run to the safe room,’ and my dad took out his weapon and guarded our front door,”’ recalled Stav Nitzan, the youngest of three brothers. “I needed to sit quietly so that the terrorists didn’t break into our safe room. Every time I wanted to step out, there was another rocket.”

Finally, the family was rescued with the help of their neighbor Benny, “who is the bravest man in the world, because lots of terrorists chased after him and he managed to rescue us, together with other dads,” Stav said.

“I know that we will all need a lot of mental help to survive and return to our lives.” — Tami Cohen Shapira, 55, with her husband, Patrick Cohen, 58, and their sons Gil, 18, and Dan, 15. Her son Ziv, 26, was killed trying to escape the music festival.

“The last message I got from my mom that morning was that she cracked the pangram on Spelling Bee.” — Keren Flash, 34, with her husband, Avidor Schwartzman, 37, and their daughter, Saar, 1. Her mother and father, Cindy and Yigal, were killed nearby in the kibbutz Kfar Aza.

“It was only after we were able to get on the bus that evacuated us, we learned of the miracle our family had.” – Avivit Gohn, 62, who lives in Kibbutz Be’eri. Fourteen of her relatives escaped, including a nephew who was hit in the neck with an ax.

“The girl who was sitting right in front of me was suddenly shot and killed.” — Sheerel Gabay, 23, who escaped the music festival

Sheerel Gabay hid with friends and 30 or 40 others in a roadside bomb shelter near Be’eri. Over seven hours, Hamas lobbed grenades and fired at the people inside. She was shot in the knee and sustained two open fractures and a ruptured eardrum.

The woman who was shot in front of her fell backward, trapping Ms. Gabay under her lifeless body. “I could not move, and could not stop thinking that I’m covered by a dead girl,” she said.

“I have been through many wars, but such a thing has never happened before.” — Lea Horowitz, 92, who was led to a safe room at her home in Kibbutz Nir Am by her helper, Jessica Noveno, 34

“We drove through the fields and we saw cars with shattered windows with people still inside, but we managed to escape.” — Ori Sobo, 10, who was awake, planning a friend’s birthday, when she fled in her pajamas with her family in their car

“I was afraid the terrorists would hear her crying inside and storm in.” — Nir Sadan, 25, who tried to calm his mother after she received word of her brother’s death while they were hiding in their safe room in the kibbutz Mefalsim

“I believe we have a right to be here, but I also understand that this is not only my place, but it is also the place of another people.” — Roni Keidar, 79, with her husband, Ovadia, 82

A longtime peace activist, Roni Keidar was receiving cellphone messages from friends in Gaza who were worried about her during the attack as she took shelter in their safe room in Netiv Haasara, near the northern border of Gaza, where they have lived for decades.

“We will return for sure, and if necessary, I will fight with my own hands,” her husband, Ovadia Keidar, said. “We will restore the damage so that our children will have an example of how to protect the country without fear.”

“I covered their eyes with my hand so they don’t see the horrific sights of bodies scattered everywhere.” — Maayan Dotan, 47, with her daughter Yuval, 9. They escaped Netiv Haasara after her brother Eran, a soldier, guarded their door.

“I don’t see us returning to the kibbutz. I don’t think we’ll ever manage to feel safe again in our home.” — Lotus Lahav, 22, who sheltered in Nir Oz with her mother, Irit, in a safe room

“You lie down with your wife in a field, and you only know you must survive somehow to be with your kids.” — Lior Matzner, 32, with his wife, Bar, 35, both of whom fled the music festival

“I am aware that in Gaza, people are living a life with no hope. To do such things, you have to get to a place where you don’t value your life anymore.” — Nadav Morag, 28, who fled the music festival

“I grabbed our baby and escaped.” — Shaylee Atary, 34, with her month-old baby, Shaya, whose father was killed

Their safe room in Kfar Aza provided no protection. Shaylee Atary’s husband, Yahav, “pressed as hard as he could against the door to prevent them from breaking in,” she said. She remembers “running outside barefoot, holding my baby as tightly as possible,” hiding in shrubs and bushes until she reached a neighbor’s shed. She pulled sacks of soil and fertilizer over them, she said, trying to “calm Shaya’s cries so that the terrorists don’t hear her and discover us.”

Her husband, who had stayed behind, was missing for four days before she finally received the news that he was dead. She could not pick up herself off the floor until she heard Shaya crying.

“When Dad finally got back home, I felt safer because he has a gun.” — Noam Pelz, 10, whose father was working in their greenhouses when the attack occurred. The family sheltered in their safe room.

“Bullets hit the door and one hit my stomach, and I held onto Avraham, but I was not afraid, not for me. I was afraid for my grandchildren.” — Simcha Shani with her husband, Avraham, both 79. Their grandson Amit Shani, 15, was abducted and taken to Gaza.

“The smell was terrible. Everything around us had been burnt.” — Michal Pinyan, 44, with her husband, Lotan, 42, and their children Aya, 13; Arbel, 11; and Adar, 9

As they sheltered in their safe room, the same text kept appearing from mothers in a WhatsApp group at Be’eri: “Help us!” It was not long before a message came from Michal Pinyan’s own mother, who lived close by: “They are throwing grenades. They are trying to blast through the safe room’s door.” Her last message, too, simply read: “Help.”

“They lived three minutes away from me, and I am going crazy because I cannot help them and they were murdered,” Ms. Pinyan said of her parents. “They were both 69.”

“I was somehow under the assumption they had been found dead at home, but a friend who identified them said their bodies had been tossed outside,” she added. “They had both been shot in their heads, and their hands were cuffed with black cable ties.”

“My family is in Gaza.” — Avichai Brodetz, 42, whose wife, Hagar, 40, was abducted from Kfar Aza and taken hostage with their daughters Ofri, 10; Yuval, 8; and Uriya, 4. A neighbor’s 3-year-old daughter, Avigayil, was also taken.

“We were trapped under crazy nonstop fire for four hours.” — Ido Belkin, 21, an off-duty Israel Defense Force soldier who was wounded after responding to an emergency call and rushing to a base at Zikim

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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