The Iron Lions
Testimonials from the war in israel, Oct 23'
My name is Tomer Mabraka, 30 years old, and I want to share the experience and what happened to me and what I saw there at the party.
It would be nice if you could share to make sure it reaches as many officials and people as possible since what I see in the news does not seem to adequately describe the events.
***To maintain privacy and discretion, I will not name names here since I will be describing very difficult and traumatizing events.***
So as you know, it all began with the party and a bunch of good people who were fun to meet. It was supposed to be around 4-5 thousand people of all ages.
I arrived at the event at 9pm at night. I drove there with the intention of setting up a live art exhibit there together with my coworker (G) who is with me in the studio and another friend (M) who joined us.
In the morning, air raid alarms and missile interception noises began. The event and music were stopped at this point. All the partygoers around me quickly began to collect their things and start moving out.
G, M and myself were getting together when we heard gunshots about 300 meters from us. It sounded exactly like noises from a shooting range. We collected all our art equipment and loaded the car, but we were afraid to leave. There was a big traffic jam at the exit and we wanted to wait a bit so we could leave without having to wait and stop, as well as to understand what was going on outside.
I was getting calls from people who left in their cars telling me that they were told to abandon their vehicles and go to the fields on foot because terrorists were waiting on the roads. We were still in a bar near our vehicles to allow for fast movement.
We saw a rush of people running from the entrance back to the festival grounds and we realized there were terrorists shooting at us. The three of us ran towards the forest, hearing bullets flying past us and objects being struck.
At some point while we were running, R, one of the other festival goers who knew me, took M and I to his car, and we tried to leave.
I saw that G, who came with us, continued to run on foot and I had already lost sight of her, so I got out of the car with M to look for her.
While running through the crowds and dodging bullets, I got on the phone with her. I can hear her panic, and I'm trying to calm her down so she can tell me what she sees and where to look for her.
While running deep into the forest to escape gunshots behind us, I suddenly see a lot of party goers running towards us, and I realize there are also terrorists in front of us, surrounding us on all sides.
There were bullets coming from every direction: forward, back, right and left.
I told M, "Stay close to the trees and follow me," while still on the phone with G. She told me that someone put her in a car with another eight people squeezed inside. They were trying to escape, and were already on their way out. I told her to keep us updated and to call M so that I could conserve battery, and hung up.
I noticed that the crowd of party goers were getting quiet, but the gunshots were only getting stronger and closer, and there was a lot of debris from objects hit by bullets.
After a few moments, M and I were the only ones left, and we kept moving until we saw the ticket booth right at the entrance of the event.
The door was locked but when we looked through the window, I saw four people inside (two women and two men). One of them opened the door for us, and we went in.
The journey of patience, fear, anxiety, and coping began at that moment. It felt as though time was passing very, very, very slowly, and it was all a matter of minutes that felt like hours.
M, the four people, and I were hiding under the 30 cm thick counter of the booth with windows on both sides. We already knew we were surrounded and had nowhere to escape, but we just had to wait. I quietly contacted G and she informed me that they were already in a safe area.
Now, from my past experience being in Zikim during the Gaza war of 2014, I tried to understand what the noises outside were, as well as what weapons were being used, and was telling the people in the booth with me everything I understood. In the end, it turned out that everything I had said was not true in any way.
I thought the noises I was hearing were of a shootout between soldiers, policemen and terrorists, but it turned out to be terrorists who shot at people who were trying to escape, and fired large bursts at groups of people running. I was constantly peeping outside the window to see if we had any chance of escaping.
Suddenly, we heard the terrorists and children talking among themselves in Arabic, surrounding the booth and getting really close. We heard the sound of footsteps running all around us. At one point, they even tried opening the door, but kept going. All this time we tried to maintain complete silence, even relieving ourselves in our pants so they wouldn't hear a movement.
Suddenly...they sprayed the booth with bullets. We all grabbed our heads and stayed on the ground, trying not to shout or panic, so that we wouldn’t give ourselves away.
After the bullets stopped, we realized some of us had been hit. One was hit by a bullet in the pelvis that came out through the stomach, the other was hit by a bullet in the knee that went through the other knee and a piece of shrapnel hit M. Both girls were unharmed.
The stress is starting to get to us. There are no reinforcements, and you can’t hear anyone but groups of terrorists talking to one another all around you. They are right here with us, and they are shouting "Allah Akbar" just like in the movies.
I am on the phone and sending my location to people. All the while wondering when they would enter the booth. After all, it’s not hidden, in fact, it stands out and is exposed. I imagined that they would enter here at some point and turn it into a small headquarters…
We still hear gunshots, and then a tank, and then LAW missiles being launched and MAG shots.
We were sure it was the army, but simply nothing happened, noises of shelling, gunshots, missiles exploding. Only when we got out of there did we realize it wasn't the army, it was the terrorists who simply fired at people and cars, and an overrun tank that they used to crush people inside their cars.
We're still inside, lying there scared while drenched in blood, and urine. Each one was lost in their own thoughts, I tried to fall asleep so that I wouldn’t see my death coming, just let it happen…
Time went by, and every noise and every move scared us, as we were in the most exposed place. But we kept silent.
Suddenly, I heard one of the girls speaking Hebrew to someone and asking if they were from the Ministry of Defense. I opened my eyes and saw a terrorist less than a meter from us, staring at us and shouting "Money! Money!" And we give him any money we had on us.
Then he says "Phone! Phone!" and everyone gave him their phones.
I didn't take out my cell phone, so he didn't know I had one. And then he just walked away…
Now he knows for sure we are here, and we have nowhere to run. We looked at each other, two of us were injured and couldn't run. "What should we do?" I asked someone in the room. He answered, "It’s out of our hands, and there’s nothing we cannot do about it."
Then I lay down and hugged his legs, while he hugged his wife, and everyone just watched and waited. In my head I kept waiting for the terrorist to come back with more friends to finish us off. I had made peace with the fact that I was going to die, and nothing else mattered because this was the end.
So we laid down again. I tried not to listen to their conversations, their shots, and their footsteps. They also tried to open our door three times, but we didn't pay any attention to it anymore, we just laid there quietly while they slaughtered people and stood by our window.
It had been 4 hours that we’d been like this - sitting and lying in our own blood, urine, and pain, just waiting to see what would happen. We took solace in the sound of a helicopter passing over us, knowing that the tanks, mags, and missiles are not Israeli, they all belong to the terrorists.
At a certain point it became quiet, and I dreamed of my cat and who would feed it when I was dead....
All of a sudden, we heard one word, clearly in Hebrew. For a moment we felt an inkling of hope. We wanted so badly to yell out, but we kept quiet, and I said, “Don't do anything, if it’s the army, they'll know to check here”. So we waited, and waited.
For a moment we thought it was terrorists speaking in Hebrew by our booth in order to lure more people out. Since they already knew where we were hiding, perhaps they thought there were more people. I peered through the window of the booth looking for terrorists, but there were none. Suddenly, just like in the movies, a group of soldiers opened the door and took us out one by one.
And all this is happening while terrorists are firing at us from tents, booths, and abandoned cars.
We all broke out in uncontrollable tears. We received the gift of life. Death passed right by us and stared us straight in the eye, and even talked to us, but we were still alive.
The amount of bodies, and the shape they were in…it wasn’t like any murder or killing. I can’t explain it exactly. And all the noises that we heard that we thought was our military fighting the terrorists…it was all just the terrorists using any type of weapon to kill anyone who tried to flee or hide. There were cops, and soldiers, and party goers, and kids, and adults, and whole families that were completely wiped out in all ways imaginable.
Leaving the grounds was very difficult for me. It felt like a passageway from hell and death, and I was walking from death to life.
Once the soldiers put us into the pickup truck, we were exposed to what really happened in the area. It was a massacre. There was a road that spanned one kilometer, full of bodies that we drove between. It didn’t matter where I looked, there were bodies everywhere. Burned bodies, crushed in cars, heads cut off…you just can’t fathom it. There were so many that you lost count, it could have been 500 or 700. All the bodies lost their name, their energy and their spirit. They just looked like objects strewn about on the ground and in conditions that you can’t comprehend.
Even when I looked to the open fields, I saw cars with dead people, burning after being blown up. I couldn't stand the trauma, the evil, and the suffering I saw. I just stared at the sky and cried for hours, waiting to get home so I could shower and wash everything off my body. I got home at midnight, covered in blood, urine and hatred. In addition to everything that had already happened, a rocket fell outside my apartment in Tel Aviv that night. I truly understood what I had gone through since I didn’t even pay attention to the destroyed building right outside my window. I just went into the shower and went to sleep for 20 hours.
Today when I walked around a bit, I saw a large group of people and just started crying at the thought of all the deaths I had witnessed. I still can’t believe I’m alive. I’m a very emotionally strong person, and I’ve been through quite a lot in my life, but this was truly a very difficult experience, one where I got my life back all over again.