Arriving in Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital—seemingly far removed from the chaos in Israel’s southern towns—the feelings of unease, shock, anger, and unfathomable sadness still fill the air.
In Israel—a country the size of New Jersey, with just 9 million people—citizens are never really far removed from the kinds of horrors unleashed by Hamas, the Gaza-based Palestinian terror group, against unsuspecting and unarmed civilians.
But now, every person in the country has been impacted by Hamas’ murderous assault that took place on Saturday, October 7.
It’s been described as Israel’s 9/11 moment. A terror attack the likes of which Israel has never seen before, that has dragged Israel into a full-fledged war with Hamas. The Israeli government has dubbed this conflict “Swords of Iron.”
The opening attack targeted a “nature party,” a multiday outdoor dance rave hosted near southern Israel’s Kibbutz Re’im. It had attracted thousands of attendees from all over the world.
Hamas’ mission is to kidnap, torture and slaughter anyone who moves—including women, children and the elderly. As of this writing, more than 800 civilians have been butchered, over 2,600 injured, and an untold number unaccounted for; at least 150 civilians are estimated to have been kidnapped and are being held hostage in Gaza.
There are also widespread reports of Hamas members and Gazans committing sexual assault, defiling dead bodies and abusing the Israeli children being held captive.
The Media Line came to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital to speak with just some of the survivors who managed to escape the mayhem at Kibbutz Re’im.
“There was a point where we ran from a gazebo to the [central] square of the party,” 27-year-old Michal Ohana told The Media Line from her hospital bed, her voice trembling as she recounted the terrorists’ killing spree. “It was … we were running between bodies.”
Ohana, originally a resident of Mevaseret Zion, an Israeli town near Jerusalem, now lives in Portugal. She came to Israel for the birth of her nephew, and while here, she decided to add a trip to the south for the rave with her friends.
She described how, at 6am on Saturday, coinciding with the sunrise, the music stopped, rocket sirens blared, and then Hamas terrorists closed in from all directions. It was a highly coordinated attack from land, sea and air. Many intelligence organizations have said that this attack would not have been possible without Iran’s direct involvement.
“We started hearing gunfire from every direction,” said Ohana. “We got into our cars and started to drive—my friend and I. They just started shooting at us. We had to flee. We just left the car running with all our belongings and ran. They fired on us from every direction. [Then,] we got to some white gazebo—a stand from the party for MADA [Magen David Adom medical services], I think. It looked like there were hundreds of people inside. Some injured, some with bullets in their legs, some with bullets in their buttocks. People were trying to help each other. I had a handkerchief that I used to create a tourniquet for someone,” she added.
However, the gazebo was soon surrounded by dozens of armed Hamas terrorists. When a policewoman in the huddled masses advised they make a run for it, Michal’s friend carried her as she was too exhausted by then, and he threw her into a car to try and escape … hoping the act would save her life. But “that was the moment we were separated,” Ohana said. In any case, the peril was far from over.
“The terrorists were right behind us, and we drove to the road thinking we’d be safer there. As we got to the road, we were blocked by a bunch of white pickup trucks full of terrorists. They started shooting at us, and we tried to back up. They shot at us from the other side, so we started to get out of our car and run in every direction. We hid among the bushes. … I saw women climbing into trees … and then I saw an IDF tank. I thought ‘OK, that seems like a safe place.’ We got to the tank but there were no soldiers. They must have been chased off.”
From here, Ohana said that nearly 100 partygoers crowded into the same tank, only three of whom were armed—the policewoman from the gazebo, a soldier and a privately armed civilian —and returned fire on the encroaching terrorists.
“There was a moment when the terrorists threw a grenade, and we couldn’t see anything. At that moment they kidnapped a few people. I got shot in the leg while under the tank, which I thought was the safest place to be. I was bleeding from my stomach and leg … [but] you couldn’t really tell where the bleeding was coming from because everyone was covered in blood. Everyone was injured and everyone was on top of one another,” Ohana continued.
“That’s when I started to pray,” she said. “That was the moment I thought I was done for, and I started to recite ‘Shema Yisrael…’”
The prayer is among the most central in Judaism: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. And as for you, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.”
By some miracle, though, after six hours of hiding under the tank, Ohana was spared. Israeli security forces arrived to take her and several other wounded to safety. Some were left behind, however, for lack of space. Their welfare is unclear.
“It wasn’t a war …” said Ohana. “We were like ducks. Sitting ducks on a range.”
Meanwhile, 35-year-old Shani Hadar from Hadera, Israel, had a similar experience. She came under fire while trying to escape the Hamas terrorists, who mercilessly hunted anyone they could find. She and her friends had just arrived at the dayslong rave, minutes before the shooting started. But by then, it was already too late for a clean escape.
Trapped on the road from all sides, Hamas terrorists shot indiscriminately at cars. No one could make it past their blockade. Seeing this, Hadar veered her car off-road.
“They saw me driving away and started to shoot at us,” Hadar told The Media Line. “That’s when they shot me in my shoulder from behind. I don’t even know how—I just saw pieces of flesh flying through the car. My friend yelled ‘Don’t stop, don’t stop’ and we hit the gas pedal to the floor. Then I saw that the path was ending, so I turned the car to the right. We spilled out of the car, and I tried to understand what was going on with my arm—using a kimono we had to tie off the wound and stop the blood. Then we called MADA.”
However, MADA told them that they could not arrive under live fire and advised Hadar and her friend to do whatever they could to stop the bleeding, and to stay put until help could arrive. Help would not come.
Hadar and her friend played dead under their vehicle for some 10 hours until she felt she could not hold on for much longer.
“We called MADA and asked, ‘What’s going on?’ I could feel that I was falling asleep, that my pulse was weakening, and that I wouldn’t last long. We didn’t have food or water, either. Nothing. And then the officers on the phone said, ‘I’ll tell you the truth. You have two options. Either take a risk and wait where you are or take a risk to escape and save yourselves.’”
Hadar and her friend got back in the car and started to drive to the nearest road, and shortly after, they found ambulances that ferried them to hospital. Seeing that they were relatively safe, Hadar even asked if she could help with some of the other wounded. But the emergency medical technicians pointed out that those to whom Hadar was referring were already dead.
So far, Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital has treated more than 60 patients like Ohana and Hadar, the spillover of wounded civilians and soldiers who have overwhelmed Israel’s southern ICUs.
According to Dr. Yechiel Gellman, senior attending orthopedic surgeon at Hadassah Ein Kerem, the most common injuries include gunshot wounds to the shoulders, legs, arms, abdomen, and hands. This is in addition to broken bones, limb-threatening wounds, and even “degloving” of the skin, meaning skin falling off the bone.
Hadassah Medical Organization Director-General Prof. Yoram Weiss similarly explained that of those wounded who were transferred to the hospital, “two were dead on arrival, two are in critical condition, and the rest are severely injured but have a good prognosis.” Again, Hadar and Ohana are considered among the lucky.
“I know that some of my friends were kidnapped because videos of them were published online,” said Ohana. “Some of my friends who I saw in videos are dead. There are others who are missing, and right now, we’re trying everything to find them, but we don’t know what’s going on. Some of my friends who were kidnapped had already left the party. They were out, but they came back to save people,” Ohana explained, adding that they knew help would not arrive anytime soon.
Similarly, Hadar said that many people are still missing according to various rave WhatsApp groups. “Even if you don’t know one another, people who come to these kinds of parties are family. In a chat group for people to arrange carpools, locate friends at the party, etc., and now they’re trying to find those who are missing and identify those who were killed. I’m still receiving such messages in the group,” she said.
Further, Hadar suspects that Hamas’s targeting of this festival was no accident. “They came to slaughter, to destroy. I know they kidnapped girls. That they raped women even after killing them,” she said. Indeed, many such accounts have surfaced.
To add insult to injury, Ohana and Hadar have expressed disbelief over the international coverage of the events.
“[The terrorists] stole IDF uniforms, and just started knocking on doors and pulling people out and shooting them! Just like that …” said Hadar. “You see them stepping on kids’ heads. Stepping on soldiers. They caught a mother and her children. … They called the parents of a woman who was kidnapped, and said, ‘Your daughter is alive, we’re going to rape her.’ These are beasts. Predators. Animals that don’t know how to act. And it’s always turned around on us. It’s just crazy,” she cried.
Similarly, through tearful eyes and a broken voice, Ohana lamented that “what people see abroad is not what’s happening here. As I watch, the [international] media shows a few people killed in Gaza, the number of injured and children. They don’t really know what happens in Israel. All we wanted to do was have fun at a party, and I lost most of my friends.”
- The article is written by Aaron Poris and Dario Sanchez and reprinted with permission from The Media Line.