The Iron Lions

Testimonials from the war in israel, Oct 23'

Ella Ben-Ami


Ella went on air and announced that her father had been kidnapped. "From seven to nine in the morning I begged for them to come rescue my parents," she recalls as she watches her interview on Channel 12 News together with Danny Kushmaro. "I need help, they kidnapped my dad," she whispers in those moments. "How old are you Ella?" he asked in the interview. Across from her, he admits: "I thought you were 12 or something. I asked where you were, I didn't know what to ask you."

"I saw a picture on Telegram that he's in Gaza," she continued whispering, on that cursed morning. "Apparently my mom was with him and my grandmother heard about it, so she drove over to them too and he tried to protect them so they took him to Gaza. They took him. I'm sure, that's him in the picture. That's my dad."

On a bench in the kibbutz, Ella reconstructs the course of events from the beginning. "We woke up to loud booms and gunfire, it's something I'm already familiar with. My friend told me that terrorists broke into the kibbutz riding motorcycles. I said, 'No way, something like that doesn't happen here'. It all happened very quickly. There was a red alert siren, and after a second there were terrorists in the kibbutz." At 7:20 Ella's father wrote to her - "They're here with us. I hear gunshots."

All that time Ella is messaging with her father who is hiding in the bomb shelter. She found out they broke down his door, he wrote to her that they're burning down the houses. "They're in our house now, they're coming. Many terrorists inside the house, in the bathroom, that's it." In a final message he writes: "They're here."

At the same time, Ella was messaging her mother. "Scary on so many levels, are you okay?", she asks. "We're okay for now, don't move", her mother wrote back. "I was helpless", Ella recounts. "I have no weapon, I almost went out of the bomb shelter and my partner didn't let me. He saved my life."

When she saw the picture of her father, she decided to call News 12, in a call that made it clear to everyone what was happening: terrorists were kidnapping and killing people inside the kibbutzim. “The call was at 11:00 AM, the army arrived at 3:00 PM. I begged them to save my parents and no one did."

She was not rescued until after 1:00 AM by rescuers. "When I went outside, I saw burned cars, dead bodies. As we fled, we heard shots and explosions." 

"How is my mother sitting handcuffed in the dark? She needs a lot of medicine, so I sent a list to the Red Cross. Without medicine, she won't survive for long." When she looks at the photo of her kidnapped father, she says, "I saw on his face that he would survive." She tries to remain optimistic. "I know he will never leave me alone. I am strong, I am here, and we are waiting for them."

In Kibbutz Be'eri, more than 100 people were murdered, and dozens were kidnapped. "This is my extended family," she says, "I can't comprehend it." She doesn't know if she will ever return to the kibbutz, but even if she does, she says, "We'll walk along the sidewalks and we won't see familiar faces, and we'll go into the dining room and it won't be full. There is no way I can walk along the same trail I went with the bodies and burned cars.

In the evening, Ella sent Kushmaro a message with an important request: "If you happen to come to Be'eri, could you look for my parents' house? I need you to bring an object containing their DNA, please." As she requested, the team went to Be'eri to find some artifacts. The IDF gave only a few minutes for the mission, and so it was done quickly. The News 12 team found the house completely destroyed. 

"I took toothbrushes and a razor," he told Ella in a phone call. An IDF officer collected the things that came from Be'eri. In the meantime, Ella's partner was drafted to the military reserves.

Her aunt Ayelet, her husband and the children were rescued safely - and so was her grandmother. Ella’s parents, Ohad and Raz, are still missing. And except for a photo of the father from Gaza - they hope that they will return home.