The Iron Lions

Testimonials from the war in israel, Oct 23'

Naamit Dekel-Chen

Nir Oz

During half an hour of non-stop rocket and missile alerts, messages came from everywhere that terrorists were walking around the kibbutz. My son, Sagi, who is still missing, wrote that two terrorists walked around the clinic. He then sent me another message about two terrorists on motorcycles. When Sagi told me to lock the house, I locked it and entered the safe room alone. I heard people speaking Arabic all around me. They entered my house and broke everything. I hid in a linen chest - and my daughter-in-law wrote that terrorists were in their home, too. We received messages that houses were burned by terrorists and we needed wet towels.

 When the terrorists left, I quickly rushed out to get a bottle of water and returned to the safe room. I hid under the bed. Smoke filled the room. I opened the safe room window but saw the pergola above the room burning. I shut the window and the entire safe room filled with smoke. I ran out and saw one of my neighbors shoot two terrorists. I thought it was a good opportunity to escape, but they caught me.

They held my neighbor, too. They took me barefoot and held me firmly to ensure I wouldn't run away. I don't understand Arabic, but I understood they said I shouldn't run away. I was taken barefoot towards the fields, to the back gate towards Gaza. On the way I saw houses burned to the ground and realized that no one could stay alive in such houses. I left my burning house to save myself. We walked 150 meters in the fields towards Gaza. Terrorists walked with loot, full suitcases, televisions, cars. They looted everything. My neighbor said they killed her son and took her husband. I said, "We are in this together." Let's wait and see what happens.” After 150 meters, a three-wheeled vehicle stopped with a box and five other captives in the back, all from the kibbutz. A good friend of mine was there with three young girls crying, two of whom were only three years old. An IDF helicopter hovered overhead as we rode toward Gaza. At some point, the helicopter fired at all the terrorists riding the vehicle. The driver and others were shot. Everyone in the vehicle shouted.

The terrorists died and we survived except for one friend. Her daughter who had been visiting lay on top of her mother and couldn't leave. I took one of the girls and another friend took another girl and we ran to the fields. There were also parents with 3-year-old twins with us. Only one had been in the vehicle with us. They ran with us. We called the daughter whose mother died to run away with us. She cried, "Mom died in my hands - and I didn't protect the girls." We were 50 meters into the field. I was hit with shrapnel on my back, thighs and head. I bled. I lay on the ground. I saw a tractor with terrorists approaching. It was my tractor. I worked with it in the past. They saw me and wanted to take me hostage. I pretend to be dead and they didn't take me. They took the three girls, the twins' parents, and everyone else alive to Gaza. Afterwards, another convoy of terrorists passed with all the loot they had taken. An IDF chopper hovered above me. I signaled to them that I was alive. I tried to move forward. Being all bloody, I could pretend to be dead whenever terrorists passed by.  

At 12:00, it was hot and I could drink from the leaking sprinklers. I continued walking towards Ashlim Avenue. I know all the roads in the fields. I saw three kibbutzim on fire: Magen, Nir Oz, and Nirim.

 Although I wasn't sure if I had anywhere to come back to, I told myself I had to visit my children and see what was happening to them. I have two children and four grandchildren. This kept me motivated. I walked for two hours through the fields before reaching the kibbutz. I looked for a place that wasn't burning. I couldn't feel my legs. I saw destruction everywhere - everything burnt and broken. No houses stood. Wood houses burned to the ground and the only thing left was the safe room. These were terrible sights. I reached my daughter's house that wasn't burnt, I knocked and they didn't open up. After screaming, "Ofir, it's mom," they still didn't respond because they thought we were terrorists. Finally, they opened the door, and I fell on the mattress, covered in blood. Since then, I've been waiting for news about my missing son.

Afterwards, I was taken to Soroka hospital for treatment. It took hours. The attacks began at half past six in the morning. When I got back home at half past one, there were no soldiers anywhere. I walked in fear of being shot in the back by terrorists. I was determined to find my children. This was my fight for survival, to reach my grandchildren and children. The kibbutz was totally destroyed. There is no place to return to and it seems impossible to start over. They wiped us out completely. I keep wondering how we got to this point. How?