The Iron Lions

Testimonials from the war in israel, Oct 23'

Itzik Biton

Nova Festival

I was a food truck supplier for the awful party in the south.

My shift ended Saturday morning, 6 AM. At 6:15 I went to sleep, and at 6:30 I was woken up by our chef Lotan: “Wake up! They are shooting missiles at us!” I sprang out of bed and looked at the sunrise. The entire sky was full of rockets and explosions. 

Some of the crowd fled for their lives, others stayed put and looked with awe at the surreal display. 

During those first minutes, I thought this was just another provocation from the animals across the border, and it will soon stop and we will drive away. But with rocket after rocket, the situation only escalated. I told Doron: “It’s heating up here, let’s go”. We start to pack everything under fire, and Doron tells me he is going to bring his car. Lotan and I continue to load things, suddenly I hear a machine gun shooting from within the forest. 

The party was pretty close to the border so I thought the noise was from there. Two minutes pass and an SUV of the production company speeds past us. Two security guys are in the car, and between them a girl is bleeding from her head, screaming, “I got shot in the head! Help! There are terrorists and they killed all my friends!”

Magen David Adom [MDA - Israeli EMT and paramedic emergency ambulance service] and the security guards that were there didn’t know what to do with her, and due to the nature of the party they asked her whether she is sure she didn’t take anything and she’s hallucinating, "Maybe you fell from all the chaos and hit your head?".

She yells back at them, “I’m not hallucinating anything, there are tons of terrorists here, save me!”

And all of this is happening under the non-stop barrage of rockets. 

At that moment I understand that something bigger is happening.

I call Doron and tell him to drive away, there are terrorists here. 

I imagine seeing my son, Tevel, in front of my eyes and I tell Doron that I’m getting out of here now and plead that he does the same, but because of his big heart, he insists on hitching the food truck, since he borrowed it from a close friend. Forget the equipment, get out of here! 

Lotan and I are in a 4x4 vehicle and through the fields we bypass a small traffic jam and then we stop at a huge traffic jam, with a police car blocking the center of the road, and police officers with their weapons drawn, who have no idea what is going on or where to go. No one knows what is going on. 

Then another girl comes from the fields and points in the direction of the traffic jam and yells to the police officers that there are terrorists over there and that they’re murdering anyone sitting in their cars. Everyone starts to panic and the officers tell us to drive away or walk through the open field towards the east, the field that you see in videos, with everyone running, just like sitting ducks. 

I get into the car, key in the ignition, while I’m already planning how to bypass the traffic jam through the field, to quickly get to the top of the hill and away from this nightmare. 

I turn the key, and the car doesn’t start. Not a good sign in my current predicament, but I quickly recouped and we got out of the car and started to escape on foot. 

We’re walking as quickly as we can and from afar we hear bursts of gunfire and screams of terror, from every direction. 

A car stops next to us and offers to let us join. We're standing in a traffic jam in the field, inching forward, and I’m wound tighter than a spring. I call Doron and beg him to get out of here, that this is a real terror attack. 

At this stage, he tells me that the army is not letting anyone leave the party area since it’s surrounded by terrorists and the call cuts off. 

And then I look at the cars at the top of the hill and I realize that they’re starting to make a U-turn, but not a “Oops I went the wrong way” kind of a turn, but a Chuck Norris U-turn. 40 cars, all at once in chaos, and then I tell the driver that took us to also make a U-turn, that they aren’t turning for no reason, something is happening there. He’s stubborn and doesn’t want to turn back, but when he realizes everyone turning, he starts to as well. 

Some divine power was watching over me when my car got stuck because I had planned to bypass the entire traffic jam through the fields by going around the hill. 

We go back to the traffic jam with the police officers and then bursts of gunfire start close to us, screams, people are starting to drive and run in every direction, and I tell him to drive away from here, just drive, doesn’t matter where to, just hit the gas. He got mad that we told him what to do and decided to stay in place. He said “If I’m meant to die, I will”. I hope he’s alive, I jumped out of the car just as he finished his sentence and started to run, in the field but close to the trees so that I’ll be able to roll in and hide if need be, just as many others did.

And I’m running with everyone and the bursts of gunfire are getting closer…

I’m after three days with no sleep, as there was another party at the same location the day before that we also worked at. I'm running for my life and I hear bullets whistle past my head, dirt spraying against my legs.

From the shock, my legs freeze up, as if that is it, we aren’t working anymore for you and I tell myself just fall, as if you’re dead or run into the forest and hide and then again, I see my son’s face in front of my eyes. At that moment, an angel passed by with a small Skoda that wasn’t driving by too quickly, so I opened the back door, jumped inside and sat down. 

Afterward, three girls also joined, so we were 9 people in a small car, he hit the gas and on the way we saw cars with holes in them, bodies thrown, sights I will never forget.

We managed to reach the road safely, still not believing we survived that Hell. We didn’t know whether the barricades we were on the way would contain terrorists or soldiers.

The driver lets me off at a gas station near Ashdod, where they come to pick me up to go home. 

I walk into my house and hug Tevel as hard as I can. 

I started crying like a man who knows that this gift of life was just regiven to him. 

I hugged Hanni and Tevel and I couldn’t stop. 

As I write this, tears fall on the screen.

I see on my Facebook feed all the beautiful and full of life people - this one is missing, and that one is kidnapped, and she was murdered and he is injured and the obituaries, like an endless memorial day.

And we, the survivors, carrying wounds.

*I wrote this two days ago [09.10.23] when we were still praying that Doron survived the massacre. But yesterday [10.10.23] we were notified that those monsters murdered him, and my heart is completely shattered.

Doron Boldas, friend, chef, you who looked like a viking but would never hurt the tip of a fly’s wing, with the purest heart and laugh and willingness to give, and our conversations. Dear god, we had just slept outside together for three days, we worked together, laughed, had fun, I can’t breathe. 

May God avenge his blood. 

I send my deepest condolences to the families who lost the most dear to them, a quick recovery to those injured, and may all those missing be found alive and those kidnapped be returned home as quickly as possible.

They started with a rocket barrage that did not stop for two hours while focusing on the Re’im parking lot. Non-stop explosions above our heads made the ground shake.

Although many military failures led to this situation, there is one military aspect that worked impeccably, as it always does: The Iron Dome. 

If the mortar bombs had fallen in the field, we would have heard of 1,000 dead from the party alone. 

And we were in an open field that is usually hit, and I don’t even recall any shrapnel. 

I don’t know what to think anymore.