This piece is part of our Wit­ness­ing series, which shares pieces from Israeli authors and authors in Israel, as well as the expe­ri­ences of Jew­ish writ­ers around the globe in the after­math of Octo­ber 7th.

It is crit­i­cal to under­stand his­to­ry not just through the books that will be writ­ten lat­er, but also through the first-hand tes­ti­monies and real-time account­ing of events as they occur. At Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, we under­stand the val­ue of these writ­ten tes­ti­mo­ni­als and of shar­ing these indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences. It’s more impor­tant now than ever to give space to these voic­es and narratives.

All dia­logue is based on rec­ol­lec­tion by Amos Lavi and was not tran­scribed verbatim.

The night before, we cel­e­brat­ed. Most of Kib­butz Nirim’s four hun­dred res­i­dents marked its sev­en­ty-sev­enth birth­day in the fields, talk­ing, eat­ing, dressed in white, as we tend­ed to do on fes­ti­vals and hol­i­days. Doron and I walked slow­er than the oth­ers. Though the heavy sum­mer heat had eased up, there was no breeze, and in Doron’s ninth month of preg­nan­cy, move­ment was hard­er. Still, easy going as always, she lin­gered, min­gling with fam­i­ly and neigh­bors. Watch­ing her bel­ly pulling the fab­ric of her white dress, the palm trees yel­low and heavy with dates behind her, I felt sud­den excite­ment. In two or three weeks, we would have a son. Doron was ready for it; as a pas­try chef, stand­ing up for long peri­ods of time to bake was near­ly impos­si­ble and she’d had enough of the heart­burn, the swollen ankles, the wait­ing. After we stopped to chat with our friends, new par­ents of a ten-day-old baby, she con­fid­ed she was jealous.

I wish we were them,” she said. Already on the oth­er side.”

On the stage, speech­es were being made about Nirim’s his­to­ry, its agri­cul­ture that pro­vid­ed much of Israel and part of Europe with pota­toes, avo­ca­dos, and oth­er veg­eta­bles. As a farmer, man­ag­ing agri­cul­tur­al dis­tri­b­u­tion for ten kib­butz­im, I had helped cre­ate that suc­cess. Every­where I looked, I saw green and white. I put an arm around Doron. She smiled.

We both remem­bered that moment, once we were on the oth­er side. It turned out Doron had noth­ing to be jeal­ous of. We laughed togeth­er at how lit­tle we’d known, though of course there is noth­ing remote­ly fun­ny about it.


On Sat­ur­day morn­ing, Octo­ber 7th, we were wok­en up at six thir­ty to a Red Alert. We lived one mile from the Gaza bor­der and Red Alerts — warn­ings that we had between zero and sev­en sec­onds to get to a safe room due to rock­et fire — were not unusu­al. We grabbed our dog, Dubi, and our cell phones, and ran to our shel­ter. It was a small guest bed­room with twin beds and a steel bul­let­proof door, and we expect­ed that after ten min­utes we would be able to go back to sleep. But the rock­ets kept com­ing. Half an hour passed, then, in the dis­tance, we heard gun­shots. Still, Doron and I weren’t wor­ried. We assumed it was friend­ly fire — noth­ing to do with us — and even as the shoot­ing came clos­er and inten­si­fied, we didn’t sus­pect any­thing was wrong. But min­utes lat­er, we heard shouts in Ara­bic next to our win­dow, fol­lowed by a pow­er cut. Doron’s eyes met mine in the dark. 

What’s going on?” she asked.

Maybe it’s the army.”

Doron tapped on her phone, check­ing our kib­butz What­sApp group. My own cell phone was dead. I don’t use it much on Shab­bat — the one day of the week I don’t work, don’t have to lis­ten to it beep and buzz, fight­ing for my atten­tion. But now, I wished I’d charged it. 

Doron said, They’re say­ing there’s a pow­er cut in the whole neighborhood.”

That’s weird.”

It’s more than weird.”

There must be an explanation.”

Why would the army be shoot­ing in our kibbutz?”

There were more shouts out­side our win­dow and a blast shook the room. I felt the vibra­tions in my legs. Out­side, some­thing heavy crashed to the floor. 

The shel­ter filled with smoke. The air in the room became still, thick, far too hot. Some­one was try­ing to set our shel­ter on fire. To burn us, or to try and smoke us out.

It was only then I under­stood some­thing was wrong. It was so removed from our real­i­ty — so unthink­able that we were being attacked inside our kib­butz, inside our homes — that until that moment, I hadn’t con­sid­ered it. Beside me, Doron was cough­ing. I want­ed to tell her to be qui­et, in case the peo­ple out­side—Hamas, could it real­ly be Hamas ter­ror­ists?—heard us. But their shouts were fainter. Had they gone? When smoke kept fil­ter­ing under the door, I told Doron to lie down on one of the twin beds, clos­er to the floor, where there was more oxy­gen. Her phone was lit up with mes­sages: the kib­butz What­sApp group was filled with cries for help. Hamas ter­ror­ists were shoot­ing at them, try­ing to prise open the doors of their shel­ters, or blow them up. Their hous­es were being set on fire. My friend, Alon, had shot a ter­ror­ist try­ing to enter his safe room, where he was hid­ing with his three young chil­dren. Over and over, my friends and neigh­bors asked: where is the army? Where is the police?

It didn’t feel real. My entire life, liv­ing and work­ing on this kib­butz, had been peace­ful. My par­ents and three old­er broth­ers had had the same expe­ri­ence. I’d known Doron since first grade; she’d moved away dur­ing mid­dle school, but had no trep­i­da­tion about com­ing back when we got mar­ried. Even with Red Alerts and rock­ets fir­ing, we couldn’t have imag­ined this hap­pen­ing. We had nev­er felt this kind of ter­ror. How could any of us have lived here if we had?

I was in noth­ing but box­ers, Doron in her paja­mas, and with the shel­ter door and win­dow closed, the smoke lin­gered in the air, so it was hard to breathe. Because of the pow­er cut, there was no air con­di­tion­ing; we had no food, water or san­i­ta­tion, and, with­out any sign of res­cue, there was no way out. How long would it take for help to come? What if ter­ror­ists tried to open our shel­ter again, and this time, they succeeded?

I had a hand­gun in the kitchen and I told Doron I was going to get it. 

No way,” she told me. No way are you leav­ing this room.”

In our rela­tion­ship, Doron is the boss. She usu­al­ly makes impor­tant deci­sions. I cleared the box­es from under the bed she was lying on, full of new baby equip­ment we were stor­ing and get­ting ready to use. 

If I’m not back in one minute,” I said, hide under the bed and stay there until the army comes.”

She saw I wasn’t back­ing down. She nod­ded, and I left.

I crawled into the kitchen, reach­ing up to close any open win­dows so it would seem like no one was home. I grabbed my gun and crawled back, but as I reached the safe room, shots were fired at my bal­cony. Some­one must have seen me. I slammed shut the safe room door. There were shots at the win­dow of the shel­ter. I cocked the pis­tol, ready. There was anoth­er crash, loud­er and more vio­lent than the first, accom­pa­nied by the acrid smell of gun­pow­der. I was thrown back — I guessed they’d thrown a grenade — but luck­i­ly, the door held. I was ready to hide Doron under the bed if the door was forced open, so I would be attacked, rather than her. Maybe they would think I was alone; maybe her, and our baby, would live. On the twin bed, Doron was mur­mur­ing to her­self that help would come, that secu­ri­ty guards would shoot the ter­ror­ists. She repeat­ed the words like a mantra. I knew that if Hamas was inside our gat­ed kib­butz, the guards were prob­a­bly the first ones dead, but I didn’t tell her that. Doron’s eyes were closed. She was weak, dehy­drat­ed. I point­ed my gun at the door.

I stood there, lis­ten­ing to the shouts and machine-gun fire, at my house, at my neigh­bors’. I prayed they hadn’t reached my par­ents’ neigh­bor­hood. Every time the shots came clos­er, I tensed, my fin­ger on the trigger.

I willed help to come, and at some point, accept­ed that it wouldn’t.

That we would die here. 

That was how we spent the next four hours.


Doron and I start­ed dat­ing when I moved to Tel Aviv to study and she was work­ing as a pas­try chef in Café Dal­lal, a bak­ery in the south of the city, on a cob­bled street close to the beach. There, she cre­at­ed cakes so col­or­ful and elab­o­rate, I was reluc­tant to eat her hard work. I hadn’t seen her since sev­enth grade, when her fam­i­ly had moved to Ashkelon, and I liked how easy­go­ing she was, how I was too, that our rela­tion­ship has always felt stress-free. Mov­ing back to Nir­im was anoth­er deci­sion we both agreed on. I joined my father in the agri­cul­tur­al busi­ness where I dealt with dis­tri­b­u­tion, even­tu­al­ly man­ag­ing agri­cul­ture for the ten sur­round­ing kib­butz­im. Younger gen­er­a­tions tend not to work in agri­cul­ture, but I loved the idea that our area of Israel is built on cul­ti­vat­ing the land, feed­ing its peo­ple, and I want­ed to join those farm­ers that made it happen. 

When Hamas attacked, they didn’t just tar­get the peo­ple; they delib­er­ate­ly destroyed the land. The avo­ca­do and banana plants were set on fire, each of the water tanks locat­ed and blown up so the fields flood­ed. The trac­tors and com­bine har­vesters were wrecked, and the dam­age is so enor­mous that some of the land still can’t be accessed. As a result, around 35% of the kib­butz land is now unwork­able and noth­ing can be plant­ed for at least two years. Where every­thing was green, there is now ruin. My par­ents’ home and my own, where I also imag­ined my son grow­ing up, is bar­ren, its peo­ple tor­tured, mur­dered, or evac­u­at­ed, the land choked of life. It will take mon­ey, sweat, and resilience to get it back to what it was near­ly eighty years ago. So many years of progress were wiped out in one day.

It was then that I under­stood that I wasn’t impor­tant. To get the region back on track, I need­ed to focus on its youth, the Negev’s future. With three of my clos­est child­hood friends from the sur­round­ing kib­butz­im, we estab­lished Eshkol For Life, a foun­da­tion that helps chil­dren and youth deal with the trau­ma they expe­ri­enced on Octo­ber 7 through men­tor­ing, trips abroad, and con­nect­ing with the envi­ron­ment. The fifth mem­ber of our friend­ship group, Dolev, can’t take part. He is held hostage in Gaza with his sis­ter, Arbel. I wish he and all the hostages were back home. I pray for it. But instead of drown­ing in this real­i­ty, I can at least do some­thing useful.

We’ll regrow the land. We’ll try to heal the chil­dren, and our­selves. Dolev will rejoin us. That’s when we’ll be able to say we’ve won.


When I opened the safe room door, after eight hours inside, army rifles pro­ject­ed four red dots onto my bare stom­ach. Under no cir­cum­stances were we allowed to bring Dubi, the offi­cer told us, once he’d con­firmed that we weren’t injured and there were no ter­ror­ists inside our shel­ter, and I pushed our dog back into the safe room with my foot, hat­ing myself, how he whined and fought against me as I did it. We had twen­ty sec­onds to get dressed, the offi­cer told us; our gas bal­loons had been opened with pipes put inside and at any moment, our house could blow up. Doron was in a bad way; dehy­drat­ed and fever­ish, but she man­aged to put clothes on as shoot­ing con­tin­ued around us, the army’s rifles min­gling with Hamas fire.

We have to go!” the offi­cer called, his rifle point­ed out the win­dow as we fum­bled with leg holes and waist bands, hands shak­ing, but silent. Hur­ry up!”

We were one of the first hous­es in the kib­butz to be cleared — oth­er fam­i­lies wait­ed sev­en­teen hours to be res­cued — and we were moved from shel­ter to shel­ter, col­lect­ing oth­er sur­vivors as we went. In one shel­ter, I met my par­ents, who I’d lost con­tact with hours before and who I had to grip hard to make sure were real. In anoth­er, we met a woman we knew, whose hus­band and teenage daugh­ter seemed to have been mur­dered, but who was cling­ing to hope they had sur­vived. We embraced the friends we’d seen in the fields the night before — which seemed like years ago — with their ten-day-old son, Kai, his tiny eye­lids closed and his chest mov­ing shal­low­ly. Their house had been set on fire and they had put Kai on the win­dowsill to breathe, though doing so risked being spot­ted by ter­ror­ists. Some­how, they were all unin­jured. I remem­bered Doron at the par­ty, how she’d wished she’d already giv­en birth. What would have hap­pened if she had? But how did I know, even now, that both of them were ok? I shook off the anx­i­ety. I had to keep look­ing forward.

There was con­fu­sion, and shock, the full extent of the cat­a­stro­phe not yet clear. We didn’t know who was miss­ing or dead, that we weren’t the only kib­butz tar­get­ed, that 1,200 Israelis had been mur­dered and hun­dreds tak­en hostage. In those moments, we were sunk in our own ter­ror, being moved between shel­ters by the army, hur­ry­ing through the kib­butz as gun­fire sound­ed around us. There were bat­tles in three dif­fer­ent neigh­bor­hoods and com­mu­ni­ca­tion had been cut off between them, so no one knew exact­ly which areas were safe. Most peo­ple were in shock and some of us had to lift the chil­dren who couldn’t walk to our kib­butz club, a pub­lic shel­ter we’d used for com­mu­nal activ­i­ties. Some­one took atten­dance, and, with­out telling Doron, I went back for Dubi.

I’m going,” I told the army offi­cers. With you or with­out you, I’m going to get my dog.”

Three sol­diers agreed to accom­pa­ny me, on con­di­tion I did some oth­er things first. I agreed read­i­ly, though it meant guard­ing an injured ter­ror­ist to make sure he didn’t shoot, and wait­ing after­wards while the sol­diers went house to house and shot bul­lets into clos­ets where Hamas were sus­pect­ed to be hid­ing, plan­ning sur­prise attacks. I saw cars burned down to met­al, husks of hous­es, blood on the ground. Ash instead of white paint, the bit­ter taste of smoke in my throat. Was this real­ly my home? When I reached my house, the shel­ter door had been forced open, bul­let holes in the walls. I was too late. I felt sud­den­ly exhaust­ed. Then, there was a flick­er of move­ment, and like an appari­tion, Dubi bound­ed towards me, from where he had been hid­ing under­neath the bed. 

When Doron and Dubi reunit­ed, she wrapped her arms around him, laughed, and cried. Our son, Car­mi, is six months old. He has all his fin­gers and toes. I don’t know if he’ll be a farmer, or where he’ll live, or when or how this war will end, but he will, even­tu­al­ly, see green.

The views and opin­ions expressed above are those of the author, based on their obser­va­tions and experiences.

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Amos Lavi is from Kib­butz Nir­im. He is the Agri­cul­tur­al Divi­sion Man­ag­er and Deputy CEO of Hev­el Maon Agri­cul­tur­al Cor­po­ra­tion, a coop­er­a­tive owned by 10 kib­butz­im from the West­ern Negev. Fol­low­ing the events of Octo­ber 7, he coestab­lished the Eshkol For Life Foun­da­tion, which treats trau­ma­tised youth through men­tor­ship pro­grams, research, trips abroad for teenagers and Bar Mitz­va class­es, con­nect­ing with Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties in the dias­po­ra and gath­er­ing com­mu­ni­ties for resilience treatments. 

Nicole Haz­an is a writer and high school Eng­lish teacher. From 2021 — 2022, Nicole stud­ied UEA’s MA in prose fic­tion, where she grad­u­at­ed with dis­tinc­tion. A Push­cart Prize nom­i­nee, her short fic­tion has appeared in The New Orleans Review, New Let­ters and Jew­ish Fic­tion, among oth­ers. She lives in Tel Aviv with her hus­band and twin daugh­ters, where she is writ­ing a nov­el, a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller set in Israel. This essay is one of a series she has writ­ten in col­lab­o­ra­tion with ReGrow Israel.

ReGrow Israel is an agri­cul­tur­al devel­op­ment fund com­mit­ted to secur­ing the future of the farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties dev­as­tat­ed in the Hamas attackTo ensure that these com­mu­ni­ties can grow back stronger, our work is focused on two crit­i­cal areas: Farm­ing First Aid: address­ing urgent and unmet needs today; and Grow­ing Back Stronger: intro­duc­ing cut­ting edge agri-tech inno­va­tions to dri­ve greater resilience, pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, prof­itabil­i­ty and sus­tain­abil­i­ty in the medi­um to long-term. ReGrow has brought togeth­er all key stake­hold­ers com­mit­ted to rebuild­ing the agri­cul­ture of the West­ern Negev, includ­ing farm­ers, Israel’s fore­most agri­cul­tur­al experts, agritech com­pa­nies, local lead­er­ship, and ear­ly recov­ery and recon­struc­tion experts.