The Iron Lions

Testimonials from the war in israel, Oct 23'

Agam Yosefzon

Nova Festival

This testimony is from Agam Yosefzon, our beloved heroine, daughter of Ronen, sister of Ilan and Edva.

Agam and her boyfriend Itamar were miraculously saved from the party.

It's a long testimony but every word is important to hear.

I have nothing to add.

**It is important to her that you share this so you can see what these lovely children went through, who just wanted to enjoy themselves and be happy**

My 7.10.

We arrived at the party – myself, Itamar, and Alon – around half past five in the morning. When we arrived, I went to talk to my friend who arrived in a separate car from the south. While I'm talking to Gefen, she tells me that she’s getting a lot of messages from her news app about Rocket Attack sirens in the area. This all happens half an hour after we arrived at the party.

I immediately called Itamar and asked him where he was. I saw him, hung up the phone, and we started walking towards the car. My phone accidentally called my mother, without me noticing and woke her up – she immediately called me back and asked why I called. I told her I didn’t mean to call, but regardless there were sirens here and that we were running to the shelter. I took a photo of the [Iron Dome] interceptions and people running for a friend – today I found out that someone in that photo was with me in the shelter.

We all got back in the car and drove to the main road – the road to the north was blocked so we could only head south. I told them that at the intersection of Kibbutz Re'im there is a bus stop with a bomb shelter. I thought it was wisest to wait in the shelter so that we are not hit by the missiles. I never thought of a case where terrorists would breach the fence.

We entered the shelter and many more people arrived. Each time a siren sounded, we went into the shelter, and when there wasn't, we were outside. I said to myself, "I can't believe that the residents of the Western Negev live like this all their lives." We were in a good mood, joking around.

Suddenly we started hearing gunshots from the direction of Gaza, and we didn't understand what was happening. There was a Muslim person from Be'er Sheva with us who claimed he was doing security shifts in the area, and said it was probably a terrorist infiltration, from what I understood he had a weapon. Someone came to the shelter and told us that his aunt called him and told him not to keep driving south because there are terrorists shooting at all the cars. Here we understood we needed to get into the shelter. The shelter didn't have a door, there were two wasp nests, dirt and human feces.

After a few minutes a Nachal soldier arrived from the Raven platoon and told us that his friends told him there is a terrorist infiltration, but that everything will be ok and that they are relatively far away, and also that the Re'im base is one of the biggest bases in the country, and to try to stay calm. I asked him, “So why are we hearing the gunshots so close?” He answered that they’re shooting in an open area and that's why it sounds relatively close. I tried to stay optimistic.

The soldier suddenly said, “They are getting closer and that they are at the next left turn on the road towards the south.” We all huddled together in the shelter as much as we could: I was in the corner of the shelter and Itamar was next to me. We heard the terrorists getting closer and closer to the shelter entrance, talking, shooting and yelling.

The Nachal soldier took it upon himself that if they throw grenades in he will throw every grenade back out and also anyone who can and succeeds should throw them out. From the moment I heard the voices of the terrorists, I sat down on the floor and closed my eyes and ears as Itamar stood next to someone that was standing on me, Itamar begged her to get off of me because she was suffocating me. I tried to pat someone in front of me on the back but the voices of the terrorists were already very close, and I wanted to cover my ears. We understood that now something bad is about to happen, I whispered to myself "shhh" the whole time to calm my heart that was beating at 200.

We tried to stay as quiet as possible, a packed shelter. We heard the terrorists getting closer to the shelter door, and someone in the shelter said, "Start saying the Shema Yisrael prayer". After that I heard the Muslim guy going out and yelling at them "I'm Muslim, I'm Muslim!" There were screams between them and I don't know what happened to him.

The terrorists threw stun grenades, shock grenades, and RPGs into the shelter, some exploded inside and the Nachal soldier and other people managed to throw them outside. I said to myself, "I don't want to die, I don't want to die". That's how it was each time they threw in eight to eleven grenades.

In one of the grenade explosions I felt like I experienced a kind of death. I felt my body turning into a small creature, like someone was folding me into myself, and I was being sucked into a black space. I didn't hear or see anything but I felt calm and just wondered what happens in death and when does the part come where my life flashes before my eyes. I really felt my body stopping, I didn't feel heartbeats. I had noises in my head of all kinds of things that sounded like spirits saying things to me, I felt like I didn't have a body anymore, everything contracted as if it didn't exist, I saw and felt a big point rising from my head upwards. It felt like my soul.

Suddenly I managed to hear Itamar’s voice echoing in my head telling me, "Stay with me, stay with me."

I told him, "Itamar I'm dying," and he said "No, you're here with me.”

I asked him, full of emotion, "Can you hear me?", and I told him again, "I can't hold on, I'm dying".

He repeated the words again, “Stay with me, stay with me.”

I told him, "I'm scared that if I come back now I won't come back to being who I am."

Itamar barely heard me say this and only asked that I be with him. And then I felt my soul coming back.

I opened my eyes and didn't see anything except orange dust. A woman screamed that someone's arm was gone. I closed my eyes again. And again we heard terrorists coming. During that part I don't remember what happened first, the kidnapping or the shooting. I think it was the kidnapping. They took people, dragged them, and told them to go outside. The people yelled that they didn't want to and tried fighting them. They tried talking to them in Arabic and English, saying "Salem". I tried to keep as low profile as possible. One of the girls they took returned into the shelter and in the end she survived.

Later on I found out that Alon was also kidnapped. After that, someone entered and shot in all directions, he didn't care who he hit. I tried to curl up as much as I could and play dead. When I opened my eyes again, I made sure Itamar was alive and next to me. Itamar said, "My beauty, I got shot in the hand," and immediately pressed on the open wound, without thinking twice, no matter how much it hurt him. Itamar took a bullet that went through his hand from one side to the other. I took a bullet in the leg that probably hit a wall or someone before, so there was just a hole in my leg but not too big.

After that I took off all my jewelry because I remembered something about not being allowed to wear jewelry in cases like this but they already managed to burn me. Only my bracelet that my mom gave me before I joined the army remained, I forgot to take it off because I never take it off. It also burned me but I'm happy it stayed on. From that moment we tried to stay as quiet as possible so the terrorists outside wouldn't come back in and kill us too. Every time we heard noises outside the shelter, we put our heads under bodies. I wiped all the blood from my face, took off my shirt and ripped it with my teeth. I tried making a tourniquet for Itamar but I'm not skilled enough. Itamar pressed on his wound as much as he could. At first we thought he only had one hole in his hand, later we understood he had two. All this was taking place while there were bodies on our legs not letting us move, some of our friends and some of the people we talked to and laughed with just moments before.

Itamar at this point could barely hear from his right ear. Throughout all these hours, every time we heard someone approaching, we tried to understand if they were coming into the shelter or just walking outside. We heard terrorists approaching, talking and yelling dozens of times. For the five people who were closer to the shelter’s entrance it was easier to get service and they tried calling and alerting for help via friends and the police. They called the police something like twenty times. The police said they were coming and gave hope, but they didn't arrive.

During all this time we were trying to be as quiet as possible so that the terrorists outside wouldn’t enter the shelter. Our legs were stuck under the surrounding corpses and I was sure I had no leg. Later when I was able to move it I realized that I had a leg, and what I thought was my leg was part of the body that was on top of me.

After a few hours we heard a large vehicle approaching and people got out. We heard a chakalaka and someone outside said, "There are MDA [Magen David Adom] forces here, split into two lines and scan everything. Don't shoot at anything that moves because there might be people and vehicles of our own here."

We agreed unanimously that we would not leave the shelter in case the people outside weren’t really Israeli. A moment after that, we started hearing shots. I don't know if it was shots from the terrorists or the IDF, but there were always shots in the direction of the shelter.

We waited.

Ten minutes and another twenty minutes.

Time didn't move and no one came.

During this time we tried to stay optimistic and take deep breaths, smile at each other. We had no water at all, the water bottles we kept exploded from the shots. Itamar and I held the wound and stopped the bleeding every time it started to bleed.

After about an hour we heard someone outside say, "Bro, do you have a car?" His friend answered him "I can't find his keys," in the most Israeli accent possible. We still didn't allow ourselves to leave because we were afraid they weren't really Israeli. After about twenty minutes we heard two Arabs talking, it was probably them. I always tried to think like a warrior, what would a warrior do at such a moment. I thought of my brother, or tried to get into the terrorists' head, and I saw no reason why they wouldn't come to verify a kill, after all they want to kill as many of us as possible.

A few hours later, Itamar told me that he thought his phone was under me somewhere. I looked underneath and found it. I took it and it was full of blood. I cleaned it with our clothes, but there was no reception for a long time. We didn't understand what was happening outside, complete helplessness and lack of knowledge about the situation. I was sure that if I went out of the shelter, I would go to the territory occupied by Gaza. Suddenly for a second we started receiving messages from the phone. Messages from concerned people who think we are safe in Tze'elim or Sa’ad, according to false lists they distributed.

We couldn't write back because there was no reception, but we still sent status messages and pictures to my mom and Itamar's dad, so if by chance they get sent, they'll understand it's us and not Hamas. We asked whoever was closest to the shelter’s entrance to hold the phone for a few minutes but the messages didn't send. We tried again after a few minutes and the messages started sending. Lots of people, Itamar's friends, mine, and family asking where we were and begging we send them a location. It was hard to send a location because there wasn't much reception and we couldn't talk on the phone because we were scared the terrorists outside would hear us. Also people inside didn't want us to talk on the phone. We tried explaining to them that we were trying to get us rescued. Meanwhile dozens of cars passed by us. We heard sporadic gunshots and lots of loud booms and red alert sirens. During this whole time we tried to write to as many people as possible – where we were, what our condition was, and how many people we were.

At some point I heard a woman screaming. I think it was from inside the nearby kibbutz. Meanwhile I heard weird noises from outside, – someone walking near the shelter entrance or an animal tearing newspapers and it sounded like they were dragging all kinds of bushes and trees to the shelter entrance. At that moment I told Itamar, “I'm scared they are going to burn us all.” So every second was important.

After about half an hour someone put their phone inside the shelter and took it right out in case there were terrorists inside. Afterwards he stuck his head in and asked if there was anyone here. We raised our heads and started crying. There were seven survivors, including me and Itamar. Only Itamar and I were injured, and while all the other five survivors were not severely physically hurt, I'm sure they were emotionally damaged. Anyone who could walk got out of the shelter by foot. The whole shelter was filled with grenades, bodies, blood and organs, there was a terrible stench and lots of flies. We didn't know if the grenades could explode at any moment or if they already exploded.

Me and another girl couldn’t get up to walk out. My leg hurt terribly from the bullet wound, yet I managed to take it out from under the bodies. The other girl’s legs were stuck under the bodies. I held her hand and told her we're here together and everything is ok. While doing so, we heard gunshots outside and were afraid that they would shoot at us again and that we would not get out of here alive.

Eli (a pseudonym), who was a civilian, and someone else, a colonel, said it would be fine. The colonel lifted me into the car, and I realized I wasn’t wearing a top. He immediately took care of a shirt and a towel for me. When they took us out of there, I didn't look left or right. Only at the car. They drove us to a gas station at the Be'eri junction where they gathered the survivors and wounded. While driving, I asked Eli (pseudonym) if there was a terrorist when they arrived or if it was an Israeli soldier. He said there was a terrorist. Good we didn't go out when we heard them talking in Hebrew.

All along the way we saw open cars with bodies laying beside them. It felt like I was in a horror movie. When we arrived at the wounded center at Be'eri gas station, they told Eli (pseudonym) to urgently evacuate us to Soroka.

Once we reached Soroka, a woman – one of the doctors/nurses there – photographed me. I felt so uncomfortable and started yelling at her to stop photographing, they said it's only for identification but I didn't care. Afterwards they treated us nicely and did everything for us to be ok, my hands were clenched, all my fingers were stuck together, my body was shaking and contracting from the trauma, I couldn't let go.

The whole time Itamar protected me with his body. We hid behind and beneath bodies of people. Itamar always told me to smile and that everything will be ok. Me and Itamar have this thing where we make pinky oaths for all kinds of things we want to make sure that will happen. At the start of the event, Itamar made a pinky oath with me that we will get out alive and we didn't lose hope for a second. I felt that people were praying for us, but I had no real hope that they would find us because it felt like none of the rescuers cared. We were sure we were going to die there without food and water.

Now I'm at home, trying to recover from it all and deal with the trauma I experienced. Every time I hear the slightest bang, a car passing by, and so many more things, I look around to make sure everything is ok and that I'm protected. Even now as I've been writing this story for over five days already, every time I recall the smallest detail my heart beats at 200 beats per minute and my whole body shakes.

I'm only 20 years old. Can someone tell me if it sounds logical to them that I had to go through this, just to live comfortably in my country, and that I'll have to deal with this trauma for the rest of my life. Although I'm usually active on social media, I've never shared so much information, emotions and vulnerabilities about myself. But I know it's important for the world to know what we went through, and it's also important for me to process the information and accept what happened to me.

It's hard for me to grasp that it's already been a few days since the attack, it feels like it was just yesterday. But now we're surrounded by people who love us, and are happy we survived this miracle, together. Anar Shapira from Nachal’s Raven platoon saved our lives and deserves a medal of honor for being our guardian angel.

Itamar lost two close friends, one of his friends was kidnapped, he's full of shrapnel in his face and all over his body, he got shot in the hand and the bullet came out the other side, he had surgery on his hand and is waiting for another one. Both his eardrums ruptured. I have shrapnel in my head, neck and back. I have blisters on my hands and a hole in my leg from a bullet that failed to penetrate my shoe. A lot of my hair fell out, both from the trauma and the blood and dust that turned it into one big knot. People who know me understand how sensitive I am about my hair and can grasp how difficult this is for me. Of course I'm grateful for every moment I can breathe, I've been given a second chance at life.

In total we were in the shelter vehicle for about seven hours, from 7:20am to 2:19pm, helpless, with no food or water.

I share in the great sorrow of the families of all the murdered victims, and hope and pray that the kidnapped will return home soon.

Ayelet Aranin, Shay Israel Kiszner – may their memories be blessed.

Alon, I hope you'll come back to us and to the family and friends who love you so much soon, healthy and whole, and that you stay optimistic and strong there. In my story there are many missing parts. I left out a lot of things for myself, things people don't need to know, and it's not my choice whether or not to spread them to the world. I didn't see everything, I closed my eyes most of the time when the terrorists were close to us. I know this is not only my story, but also the story of the murdered victims, the kidnapped, and the survivors. But this is how I saw or didn't see things.