The Iron Lions
Testimonials from the war in israel, Oct 23'
We were at the Nova Festival, celebrating and enjoying every moment, until 6:20 am when an intense rocket barrage headed towards the country. Security forces immediately stopped the event, and approximately 2000 people began to evacuate at the same time – in complete chaos. We gathered our important belongings and tried to evacuate as well.
My friends and I split up. Shani and Danny left in a separate vehicle, while Orian and I left together.
At first there was no feeling of a real threat. I thought to myself that we were too close to Gaza to be hit by rockets. Due to all the commotion, it was impossible to evacuate by car. I told Orian that we should wait in an open area until everything calmed down and then drive out. We weren't in a hurry, we waited for 30-40 minutes. Shortly after, we started hearing gunfire and we heard the gunfire increasing and coming closer our way. This is when I realized that something was wrong, and I told Orian that we needed to get out there right away.
We continued driving for a bit and then I saw that we had no chance of getting out of there by car. I stopped and told Orian that we needed to run by foot to the woods or somewhere. We took a bottle of water with us and ran. After a few minutes, a crowd of people ran towards the woods as well, but we ran in a different direction. I thought to myself that we couldn't be in the company of other people as it will only attract attention.
We hid among trees, and by then the shooting was already so close to us – no more than 2 meters from where we were hiding. We could hear the gun chamber recoil every time a bullet was shot. It was at that moment I thought we weren't getting out of there and it was over. I told Orian that I loved her – I was already preparing for the worst and then suddenly, truly by a miracle that I can't explain, Danny and Shani appeared in front of us as they ran away from being shot at!
We all ran together in a crazy amok without looking back. I'm pretty sure they shot at us because I felt bullets pass by me and heard the whistle of every bullet fired. We ran until we reached a dead-end with huge thorn bushes in a valley. It was a place that would definitely not be searched, and they wouldn't go to because it had no way out. We immediately got into the bushes and lay down, and that's how we stayed for 8 hours.
We remained silent the entire time. We knew that even one wrong breath could be the end for everyone. At least 6 squads (or more) of terrorists passed by us and we heard them laughing and talking. We heard their footsteps. They were so very close to us, and it sounded like overall they were enjoying the situation.
There was a shootout above our heads. IDF forces passed by us, but we still didn't say a word because we knew it would only make things harder for them. Indeed the moment they passed us, a shootout started, and every bullet whistled above our heads.
It was very difficult at that time. We only had one bottle of water that wasn't full for the four of us and it was hot. There was no mobile reception most of the time. While I was there, I messaged my sister and my friend Ariel to have someone rescue us. Ariel contacted me and promised that he would get us out of there. The most important thing for me was to keep calm and stay in the mindset of "We're getting out of here". It was difficult and there were moments when I really thought it wouldn't happen. But I didn't let those moments get the better of me.
Around 4:30 pm we had almost no battery left – only 3% on Shani's cell phone after sharing our location by luck. We tried to explain several times to the rescue forces where we were, because we were really in the middle of nowhere and it was impossible to find us. The man said that the whole area was clear and that the IDF, police, and security forces were with him. We could already hear the sirens of the emergency vehicles. A few vehicles passed by, and we finally heard people speaking Hebrew near us. There had been no shooting for about half an hour, but it was still scary to go out.
After we hung up, Shani's cell phone battery ran out and our rescuer said he was coming our way in an ambulance. I knew in my head that this was it. Beyond what we described and the messages sent, there would be no other way to find us and at nightfall they would surely stop searching. I ran towards where he said he was in (just sprinting for 300 meters, not thinking about anything other than getting to them). I saw the IDF, and I can't explain the feeling I had in my body at that moment. I directed the security forces, and the rest, and took us to a pickup point.
That's everything we went through during those hours. I still can't process how lucky we were. We looked at the angel of death directly in the eye and spat in its face. I am so grateful we made it out of there and know how much of a miracle it is. At the same time, I am so sad for everything that happened, and I don't understand how something like this happened. I can't believe it. There were people not as lucky as us and it just hurts me so much...