YZ Editor Charles Burton compiles two accounts of the tragic events of October 7th 2023, with first-hand accounts of those who lived this terrible day in the Land of Israel.
Saturday 7th October 2023, a truly significant day in the land of Israel. Truthfully, that feels like something we say not infrequently these days, but do not take these words lightly, because on this day, Israel experienced it’s worst and most egregious attack on its territory for exactly 50 years.
Many of us will have friends, family or people we love who we found ourselves concerned about as we woke up to this seismic shock on this most tragic day. Whether they live in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ashkelon or Eilat, people across Israel have felt the massive impact of Hamas’ invasion into Central and Southern Israel this morning.
Personally, throughout the day, I found myself contacting my friends from the Diller Teen Fellows programme, many of whom live within or around the so-called “Gaza Envelope” (the area within 7km of the Israeli-Gazan border). 2 of the friends living within this area - one from Ashkelon and one from Be’er Sheva - kindly offered to write their first-hand accounts of the events of the day from their perspective.
I would implore you all to pay close attention to their words as today is one of the most viscerally horrifying and globally significant days in the history of the state of Israel.
Viewpoint : Talia, 16, Orthodox Jewish teen, Ashkelon
On Saturday, we woke up to a nightmare.
I was awoken by the air raid siren, to find that shrapnel had hit my neighbors home and their vehicles. Their home is now uninhabitable. My neighbourhood is littered with shrapnel - from the rocket and from the home. Kids are crying and scared and my neighbours tell us of the damage caused by the barrage of rockets.
I just have to believe, believe for myself and for my community that this situation will get better.
The day continues and so do the alarms.
Across the neighbourhood, the rumours are spreading that people have been kidnapped and held hostage and that terrorists are roaming the streets in Sderot. We are worried that they will soon reach Ashkelon. My house is filled with fear and apprehension. There is a sense of chaos.
My brother, a soldier, left the house to help here in the city. He returned after seeing some unspeakable things.
I went out to the garden to get some fresh air and I heard a little boy say to our neighbours “The rockets destroyed my house” and then I realized how bad the situation was.
There was supposed to be a celebration in the synagogue tonight but all the food was distributed across the city because there is nothing to celebrate now.
A Today was meant to be a celebration but we are sad, angry and scared about what will come next.
Viewpoint: Egoz, 16, semi-secular teen, Be’er Sheva
On Saturday morning at 6:30 am, my dad stormed into my room, urgently telling me to wake up because a war had started. I hastily got up from my bed and hurried to the nearest window. The air was filled with smoke from the missiles and the distinct sound of the Iron Dome.
Soon, we learned that dozens of terrorists had infiltrated Israel, causing chaos by shooting, kidnapping, and abusing innocent civilians. Hamas had managed to seize control of 21 moshavim. They roamed these communities, terrorising the residents with their guns, holding residents hostage, and forcibly entering homes with murderous intent. Those within these homes faced a grim choice: death on the spot or being held hostage and taken to Gaza. In a few Moshavim, some residents were able to arm themselves and successfully repelled the Hamas incursion.
Three hours after the conflict erupted, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) began to arrive on the scene. By then, the toll had risen to over 20 kidnapped, 30 murdered, and more than 200 injured. Regrettably, the IDF itself suffered casualties during the intense battles with the terrorists, many of whom were taken as prisoners to Gaza.
The situation escalated as Hamas took control of a small military base near the Gaza border. Throughout the day, the sound of helicopters with mounted machine guns flying towards Gaza filled the air. Gunfire echoed relentlessly, amidst the ongoing barrage of rockets being fired from Gaza.
My family decided that our Moshav was no longer safe, so we attempted to escape to Be'er Sheva, a city farther from the conflict zone and therefore, safer. However, after just five minutes of driving, my dad's vehicle broke down on the highway. Thankfully, we managed to come to a halt on an empty road and decided to return home on foot, through the fields, to avoid the main highway, which reports indicated was being patrolled by terrorists. We were close to our Moshav when a police car stopped to assist us, eventually returning us home.
We sought refuge with our neighbors since our home does not have a bomb shelter. Hours passed while we watched the news, witnessing the tally of victims rise throughout the day, not to mention the terrible videos and photos being broadcast. Throughout the day, it became clear that the IDF presence around the South District was limited, and that Hamas had successfully breached the Israel-Gaza border, enabling over 2,000 terrorists to enter the country.
As I write this, on the second day of the "Iron Swords" war, reports continue to detail ongoing fights against Hamas terrorists in multiple areas. Scrolling through social media and watching the news remains heart-wrenching, with people requesting prayers for their loved ones, grieving over family and friends who lost their lives in battles with the terrorists, or were kidnapped or killed. Today was a tragic day in the history of Israel.
These are just two stories illustrating the reality currently in Israel. The truth is, at this current moment these stories are the reality of Israelis up and down the country. As the dust begins to settle in the coming days and weeks, please, remember the brave souls who laid down their lives in the defence of the Jewish state, remember those ordinary civilians killed, scarred and injured by the slings and arrows of terrorism in the land of Israel. We cannot, must not and will not forget this day.
Am Yisrael Chai.