Hello, my name is Lilach and I live in kibbutz Nirim near Gaza strip aka Otef Aza (wrapping Gaza). The Kibbutz was established in 1946. 11 Point of settlements were established simultaneously in the Negev on the night of Oct. 6th 1946 immediately after the fast of Yom Kippur - and changed the map of Jewish settlement forever (there settlements stopped the Egyptian invention during war of Independence in 1948). Every year, on the Eve of Simchat Torah (8th day of Succoth) we are celebrating with close and extended family the Kibbutz’s birthday.
Every year my nieces and nephew are coming to Nirim and before they go home they promise to come again next year. These are very festive days at Nirim and year was not different. My two sisters came with their children (aka The Smurfs) on Thursday night and on Friday night we celebrate Nirim’s 77th birthday.
Saturday norming at 6:30 the attach started on the kibbutz. “Red alert” and another “red alert” after another – non-stop siren’s. All of us went to the Mamad (in house shelter) my partner, my two sons, my two sisters, The Smurfs and my brother in law. My daughter Noga and her boyfriend where on the western side of the Kibbutz (closer to the border with Gaza). At first we thought it’s a “regular” missiles alert (when you live in Nirim you get “red alert” every once in a while) after half an hour we realize that ‘all hell broke loose’ and the volcano that we set on burst and it’s going to burn down everything and everyone.
I’m a member of the Kibbutz Emergency Team and my phone was beeping non-stop. Nonstop messages on the WhatsApp groups and phone calls from members of Nirim who got trapped in the Mamad inside their home where Hamas terrorist are breaking in the steel doors, shooting families with children, kidnapping children, infants, old people to Gaza, or trying to burn them alive –they are all crying for help and it’s my duty to help. I didn’t want to scare the little kids so I moved to my study room, risking myself while calling for help. I called the IDF, the Police, the fire department the on-call forces - and no one could come. They were not prepared of this massive attack; they didn’t have the protection gear they needed they couldn’t send help. At this point we didn’t grasp the size of the event, the massacre that was taking place in the other Kibbutzim near us. I was trying to keep in touch with my daughter who by now had no electricity and I was worried about my family.
As the hours passes we started to get more and more horrific stories, of a father and daughter that was killed when the terrorist put an automatic weapon through the window and didn’t stop shooting, a young couple is being kidnapped to Gaza, 80 years old women and her son also kidnapped not before the terrorist posted their pictures on Facebook from her own phone. A son was trying to rescue his mother and was murdered. Two doors from where my daughter was hiding a couple was shoot and one of them eventually was bleed to death. For hours’ no one came to help us while terrorists with RPG rockets targeting housed and killing innocent people.
It took 14 hours till the IDF soldiers took control of the kibbutz and we were released and taken to the common hall – 14 hours till I could hug my daughter, my girlfriends, my Nirim family.
My work only began. We started to make lists, who’s with us, who didn’t make it, who was kidnapped. Around midnight we when to the kindergarden (a more secured building) we took some blankets and towels and slept on the floors. After couple of hours of sleep, I had to start and prepare the evacuation and gather some food for breakfast. On Sunday night we got to Eilat to King Solomon’s hotel and since then I’m not resting –our team helps the evacuated people to find some rest, anything from hugs to mental help, to help the young children so their parents can take some minutes to catch a breath.
I can’t find words to describe the catastrophe we’ve experience. In the minute of truth the army I was counting on fail to protect me. Houses in Nirim were burned to ashes, destroyed by grenades, RPG missiles and pure vandalism and plundering. The infrastructures such as water, electricity etc. suffered a severe damage. No one is working in our fields, picking up Avocado from our plantations – all our live hood is under a cloud. So many people in ‘Otef Gaza’ lost their life, so many of our friends are still missing, we don’t know if they are alive, and from the stories we hear about the Hamas brutality one cannot imagine in what state they are and if they will ever come back home.
When people asked me in the past where do I live I used to answer – Hotef Aza – meaning the settlements that keep getting batted from the terrorist in Gaze – people would smile. After Sabbath, Oct 7th the entire world knows and no one smiles.
In spite what we went through – I will come back. I will rebuild my Kibbutz, my community, my life – there is no other place for me. This is going to be my win.