Hamas Attack Survivors Hid in Safe Rooms, Made Harrowing Drives to Safety
Hamas Attack Survivors Hid in Safe Rooms, Made Harrowing Drives to Safety

By Dam M. Berger

The savage Hamas attacks targeting Israeli civilians on Oct. 7 have left countless families reeling.

Some underwent harrowing events, enduring or narrowly avoiding slaughter. Others found loved ones had vanished, their status as missing, kidnapped, or dead unknown.

All they have to work with is a last cellphone contact, a call, or a text from a now-disappeared family member.

“My daughter went to a party in southern Israel on Friday night [Oct. 6],” Erez Sarfaty told The Epoch Magazine of her daughter Ron. “She stayed in touch with us throughout the night, updating us on what was happening with her.

“At 8:30 on Saturday morning, she called us to tell us that there were shootings.”

“She was with her friend. They went to the party with five friends—she, her friend, and three other friends. When she called at 8:30 in the morning, she was with her friend. They told us that they were lying on the floor and hiding and that shots were being fired at them.

“Neither they nor we fully understood the gravity of the situation. We thought it was something far away from them. Her friend told me, ‘Don’t worry, tonight I will bring her back home.’

“In fact, at 8:45, that was our last communication with her. Since then, we haven’t received any information from any official source in the country.”

Ms. Sarfaty said they had since determined that of the five, two had been confirmed kidnapped to Gaza, one had returned home safely, while her daughter and her friend Idan Haramaty were missing.

The friend who got home safely couldn’t tell them anything, as they had split up when it started.

Ms. Sarfaty said she headed south on Oct. 8 toward Kibbutz Be’eri to search for her daughter but was turned back by the army with fighting still happening in the vicinity.

“We are sitting at home, using the phone and going through, trying to find our daughter and knowing nothing,” Ms. Sarfaty said.

It was unclear whether the party her daughter attended was the Nature Party, an all-night rave music festival. Also called the Psydak, Tribe of Nova or Supernova festival, that took place near Kibbutz Re’im, three miles from the Gaza fence, at a location not announced until a few hours before it started at 10 p.m. on Oct. 6.

Idan Haramaty, missing since the Oct. 7 attack. (Courtesy of Erez Sarfaty.)

Israeli authorities have confirmed at least 260 festivalgoers were murdered in the attack.

More than 100 people were killed at Kibbutz Be’eri, three miles northeast of the rave’s site.

“I will say it simply. We went through a slaughter. They slaughtered us,” Ori Sabah, a Be’eri resident, told The Epoch Magazine.

“They came to slaughter us. There are a large number of casualties, [and] hostages. I have no words. The closest thing is the Night of the Broken Glass.”

Mr. Sabah referred to the 1938 Nazi-instigated riots against Jews across Germany, also called Kristallnacht, from the shattered glass from broken windows outside thousands of Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues afterward.

“I was personally in the safe room with my wife and four young children,” Mr. Sabah said. Most kibbutz homes have a safe room designed primarily for safety during the frequent Hamas rocket attacks.

“I have a one-and-a-half-year-old son, and my eldest daughter is 10 years old. I stood by the safe room’s door with a knife, hearing gunfire all the time.

Ori Sabah and his family survived the attack on Kibbutz Be’eri on Oct. 7, 2023. (Courtesy of Uri Sabah.)

“Until about three or four in the afternoon, there was not a single soldier in the kibbutz. There was no army presence, nothing.”

Israel’s army, attacked at their bases and overwhelmed by reports of dozens of Hamas attacks inside Israeli territory, couldn’t come to the rescue fast enough at this and other kibbutzim.

“We were alone, abandoned there. They entered rooms, homes, opened safe room doors with screwdrivers, with hammers, throwing grenades there. They slaughtered people. They abducted them.”

Mr. Sabah was asked if they were in his house.

“I think because of the location of my house, built on a kind of side street, they always missed it. The closest they got was to our pergola. They were speaking in Arabic, shouting, firing, going wild. At some point, I put my hand on the door.

“My wife’s brother fought with them. They tried to open his safe room door. They burned down his entire house. He struggled with them—trying to open while he closed it. He held the handle from the inside. They survived a slaughter at the last minute.

“At some point, the terrorists realized they couldn’t open people’s safe rooms. Because whoever is inside the safe room has an advantage over those outside. The power is with those inside. So they began setting houses on fire to force people out, and then when they came out, they simply shot them.

“In the kibbutz’s WhatsApp groups, it was chaos. People crying, begging, screaming that they were entering their safe rooms, slaughtering them. Horrible, horrible.

“We are now starting to lick our wounds, trying to understand who’s missing, who’s not. I personally work in agriculture. Our CEO is probably dead, or murdered, or in critical condition. I can’t say for sure. Another close friend who works with me—him, his wife, and their two children were murdered.

“You still don’t understand what happened there. When I said ‘Night of Broken Glass,’ I wasn’t exaggerating. That’s what it was. They came to slaughter us.”

His family was coping, he said: “Through sheer inertia. I am a father to four children. I’m keeping a cool head, but in the end, I sit and cry.

“Ultimately, life is stronger. Inside the safe room itself, you receive the strength of the soul. You don’t allow yourself to fall. The children look at you. The children were heroes. They excelled themselves. They adapted themselves to the situation.

“It’s impossible to describe how people draw strength in such a situation. It’s our survival instinct. Those who don’t function cannot survive something like this.”

“It began around 6 in the morning. I was in bed and woke up to the red alert,” another survivor of the Be’eri attack, who requested anonymity, told The Epoch Magazine.

‘I Stayed There For the Next 18 Hours’

The survivor referred to the rocket-warning app used by many Israelis, who may have only seconds to get to their safe rooms.

“They told us not to leave the safe room because there was concern about terrorist infiltration. So I stayed there for the next 18 hours without water and food until they rescued us.

“All the time, we heard various messages from people crying for help through the internal app. There was only [the] emergency squad here. The army couldn’t get in. They fought with the terrorists at the kibbutz gate. In the end, they [the terrorists] entered.

“I personally didn’t hear them from outside the house because the door to the safe room and my window were closed. But they tried to break into other people’s safe rooms. They fired towards them.”

As of Oct. 8, the survivor said: “In the kibbutz, there are still battles with terrorists. There are still people who haven’t evacuated. They are trying to go house to house and evacuate everyone.

“Most of our family is now outside of Kibbutz Be’eri. My brother is still considered ‘missing.’ “

Very Scary Feeling

“We were lucky,” Oshrat, who asked to be identified only by her first name, told The Epoch Magazine on Oct. 8.

“When a van with terrorists arrived at the dairy barn, and when motorcycles arrived at the gate of the kibbutz—the standby squad was already there and shot at them.

“Friends of the children were murdered. Some are missing. My friends as well.”

“Yesterday morning, me and my little daughter, who is 17 years old, woke up to a red alarm,” Oshrat said.

“When we heard the alarm, we ran to the emergency room and tried to go back to sleep. I didn’t know what was going on around us.

“After an hour and a half, when we saw that we couldn’t fall asleep, I left the emergency room and started to open the house and air it out.

“I saw that I received many calls that didn’t reach me while I was in the emergency room because there was no reception there, and I began to understand that something terrible had happened.

“At the time of the attack, I was with my daughter in the kibbutz. It was very scary.

“Our kibbutz was very lucky, both because we are behind Kibbutz Netiv HaAsara, which is closer to the Gaza strip, so we already heard the shots from there, and also thanks to the fact that our standby squad was very agile and organized quickly.

“When they finished arming themselves and reached their positions, a van with terrorists arrived in the area of the dairy barn, and they shot at it.

“Motorcycles also arrived at the gate of the kibbutz, and the standby squad shot at them as well, and in the meantime, the security forces of the IDF arrived, so no terrorists entered our kibbutz.

“But of course, at that time we did not know what is going on. It was a very scary experience to be both of us alone in the emergency room without knowing what is going on.”

“It’s hard to describe the thoughts that were running through my head during this time. What do I do if they enter? How do I hide my daughter? How do I make sure they do not manage to get their hands on her?

“How do I keep them from entering the security room? Since she is already 17 years old, it is more difficult to hide her. So, we sat in the security room for a few hours. Since there is no reception in the security room, we occasionally went outside to catch up.

“At a certain point, when they announced that you could leave the kibbutz, it was terrifying to leave. It’s a very scary feeling to be alone on the road.

“You don’t know if the security forces you see on the road are IDF soldiers or they’re disguised as IDF soldiers, whether to stop or not to stop, whether to drive through a red light or not to drive through the red light.

“There were terrorists tied up along the road that the security forces had already managed to catch. The whole way was very scary and I’m glad we arrived safely.

“Since then, a lot of news has arrived, friends of the children have been murdered, some are missing. My friends as well.”

Her children, she said: “Are completely shocked. They are very focused on social media, all day on their cell phones, looking for bits of information.

“Many parents of their friends have been killed. They move between silence to crying and rage. They move in between those feelings. We allow them to do that, of course; there is nothing we can do about it.”

Oshrat said she was from Gush Katif, the Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip abandoned when Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Gush Katif had endured numerous terrorist incursions, she said: “So I have a history of several security incidents.”

But there’s no comparison, she said.

“You can’t compare it to anything. I’ve been in situations where terrorists infiltrated our settlement in Gush Katif several times. I hid my children several times, but what happened now is something crazy that we’ve never experienced.

“These are children who went out to spend time at a party and were massacred. People who were sitting in their homes were kidnapped and murdered. And it’s important that the world will know about it because I don’t know if they manage to perceive it.”

Epoch Times staff in Israel contributed to this report.

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