The Iron Lions

Testimonials from the war in israel, Oct 23'

Eldad Hess


At half past six we woke up to the siren.

I moved Uri from our bed and we flew with Goldie to the sheltered room. Phones in hands. Abigail and Yotam were still sleeping. They woke up when I slammed the steel window over their heads. Abigail asked what happened. I don't remember what we explained.

Minutes passed. Shots started outside the house. And on the kibbutz's WhatsApp group it’s described, "They’re here."

“Shootings in the kibbutz."

“Hearing Arabic under the window."

Somewhere in the middle of this we realized that we must lock the door to the sheltered room. But how?! Sometimes Yotam closes the door, all the way. Yet it's not a problem to open it from the outside.

We put on Disney movies for the kids. All that remains is for us to hold the door handle as hard as possible. Outside there is an explosion and a mass of gunfire, bullets hitting steel. A neighbor writes that their house is burning down, and the baby can't breathe. I hear voices in Arabic outside. and riotous noise. Uri is losing patience. Screaming to get out. It's impossible, we tell him. The door is broken, we tell him. We’ll call granddad to come with his tools to open it for us, we tell him. We lied to him, to them. And I hold, hold on to that handle like for my life.

"Athla!" I hear a shout and realize there are at least 2 or 3 people in the house. Sweating, in my underwear, I was sitting on the children's dress-up box, clutching the handle, and they were trying to open it. “Goldie,” I whisper to her, “they are here!!! And Goldie, they're trying to open the door!” And Goldie doesn't stop talking to Uri, and writing to the town’s emergency task force. And writing in the WhatsApp group for everyone, whoever can come to help. And no one came.

Abigail needs to pee. Goldie approached. She has an empty box of toys, “Here, here.” Abigail is not ready. Yet after she saw that mom was showing her how to do it, which was fine, she apologized and agreed, but let's not look.

The power went out in less than an hour. I’m sitting there, thinking in the room. No air conditioner. No fan. The hours pass. And again steps inside the house, maybe the IDF? Trying again to open the handle to the sheltered room. I'm sweating, the sheltered room is hot, I’m in my underwear, smelly, and clutching the handle like crazy. I peed on my knees, as long as I keep holding the handle. The battery on Goldie's cell phone is running out. We found a toy flashlight that will illuminate for us and save battery from her phone. My phone keeps its strength.

Abigail, Yotam watch 4 full-length movies (Frozen 1, 2, Aladdin, and one more), while muffled screams are heard outside. Goldie's phone is out of battery. We decided to keep my phone up to 5 percent battery so the children could continue to watch episodes. Uri falls asleep crying, wanting to get out of the sheltered room. He slept two hours, maybe three. How did he know that was what was needed?

4 percent in the battery, and the nightmare is not over. Shots fired again. and madness in the kibbutz WhatsApp groups. They come to us again. At least 5 times they came to our house. I put my ear to the door, because they already wrote that there are soldiers who are going around evacuating houses to rescue people. Hebrew? Hebrew!!! I don’t believe it. They called my name. Who is this? Did I shout? IDF! Are you Eldad? How many are you in the room? Five. Open the door. We opened the door. How are you? I don't know what to answer.

The neighbor came to us in a wheelchair with her carer – a guardian angel, who saved her when they broke into her sheltered room, and she bribed the terrorists with cash. Hadas shouts, answer the phone! Everything is fine? We went through the same thing, with us everyone is intact, what about you? And again shots maybe 15 meters from the house. We fly into the sheltered room.

Has it finished? Come quickly to the sports hall. Frightened, the house is destroyed. We put on flip flops and go out with the kids in our arms. Crying. Tense. The sports hall is locked. Pregnant women. A baby, his parents who almost burned to death. Children. An elderly woman in a wheelchair. A neighbor whose husband was murdered in front of her eyes minutes ago. Standing outside a locked building, for long minutes and not knowing what and who and where?

We decide - going to the dining room. More families are joining on the way. Children. Parents are scared. There is an area. Is the dining room protected? asks the soldier. No, we answered, and the children cry. We’ll sit on the floor, against the walls, we said. We lined up the tables against the windows. We turned more tables over them, and supported the chairs. We have to go to the club, we said. Only there is a real protected space. The emergency task force checked. They replied and said “Now!” and half the fastest group ran with us to the club. I'll look there, you look there. That's how we arrived, in a mass of people running to the club. To the sheltered room. More and more people gathered. And the club was packed. Not only the sheltered room. We opened another door, to expand the concrete space in which we can remain.As they sweat, people are scooping water from blocked sewers so that we can continue living in the protected area. And bring food from the grocery store. And leftovers from last night's kibbutz holiday. We slept at night in Uri's kindergarten. What a kindergarten!!!

At noon, Goldie went to organize things for us at home, when the army instructed us to do so. The vehicles were set on fire or smashed. Lots of things were stolen or vandalized. A neighbor and his daughter were murdered. The neighbors on the other side were missing, and we left the kibbutz. Total destruction on the way to Ofakim. Nir Oz is still on fire. Burnt vehicles all along the road. Tank trails on the roads. Only after Beer Sheva did we relax. Collapsed.