The horrors of the Saturday Hamas massacre continue to unfold in gruesome detail. After days of anxiety and uncertainty, Tuesday brought the heartbreaking news: The bodies of the entire Kutz family, residents of Kibbutz Kfar Aza, have been identified - Livnat and Aviv Kutz and their three children - brothers Yonatan and Yiftach and their sister Rotem.
Extended family members were informed that the five were discovered embracing each other in their bed, inside a house they had built just four years ago.
"Livnat was supposed to celebrate her 50th birthday in a week. She was born during the Yom Kippur War," her sister Adi Levy Salma said. "She was an amazing, inspiring woman. She opened a place called ‘Workshop’, which repopularized old craftsmanship practices and integrated them into the local educational system. Aviv worked as deputy CEO for Aviv Consulting Group."
The family’s choice to set up their permanent residence in Kfar Aza was not by chance. “Aviv is a Kfar Aza native. They were repatriated from Boston. We told her it’s dangerous, but she did not want to move away as it was her home for life. When they built the home about four years ago, she insisted it wouldn't be adjacent to the fence, fearing that a tunnel might be nearby.”
The family's eldest daughter, Rotem, served as a military training instructor in the IDF, while Yonatan and Yiftach were basketball players at the Hapoel Tel Aviv Youth Academy.
"Rotem was an amazing and gifted child. Yonatan and Yiftach were students in the Ramat HaSharon boarding school since being basketball players for Hapoel was a lifelong dream for them. Amazing children with enormous hearts. Their whole lives were ahead of them."
Yael Rahav, who coached Yonatan in the boarding school, said, "Yonatan wasn't even 17 yet. He was a very talented basketball player, though he was mostly known for being a team player. A sweet, caring child."
This tragic Saturday will long be remembered by members of the extended family. "We were supposed to drive over for the kite festival Aviv organizes every year in order to show Gaza that we are peaceful people," said Levy Salma.
"The festival was supposed to be held on that very Saturday. I live in Gedera and we were jolted awake by the very first siren. We hurried into the safe room and I promptly sent a message to Livnat to check if everything was okay, but she didn't respond. I attempted to call, but no one picked up."
"Next I called Rotem, since she always had her phone with her. We couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t answering, since her room doubles as the family’s safe room," she added. "Then we started getting reports of terrorists who infiltrated the kibbutz. It was at that moment we realized something bad had happened. Their friends and neighbors picked up, but they didn’t. We were very worried."
The following days were one big nightmare. "Aviv’s parents also live in the kibbutz, but they were also closed off in their safe room and we didn’t know anything. No one did. We scrambled for every bit of information. At some point, we heard Aviv was injured and evacuated, so we went to every hospital we could think of trying to find him.
"Our thinking was Rotem was a soldier, which meant she had a weapon, so maybe they used it to defend themselves," Livnat’s sister added. "At some point, through friends, we learned their bodies were found in their home. They were embracing, Aviv holding them all close.”
"It’s an absolute nightmare,” she added, crying. “We know they’re not among the living anymore, but as long as we don’t have an official confirmation of their death, we can’t plan a funeral and mourn. We can’t even tell if the bodies were evacuated yet. However, we will grow stronger. We will not only carry on their legacy but celebrate it as well.”