From safe room to nightmare: israeli mother recalls morning of terror

October 10, 2023 by Sveta Listratov
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When Bat Sheva Yahalomi woke up to the sirens on Saturday morning, she didn’t imagine that her 12-year-son, Eitan, would be abducted into Gaza by Hamas terrorists or that her husband, Ohad would disappear trying to defend the family of five.

Ohad Yahalomi and 12-year-old son, Eitan. Photo courtesy the family

Bat Sheva, a French-Israeli national and resident of Kibbutz Nir Oz, recounted to the Tazpit Press Service the horrifying events that unfolded after she, her husband and three children entered their safe room.

She shares her story with surprisingly little emotion.

“I’ve told the story ten times. I’m like a robot now telling it.”

The tragedy began with a door handle.

“We closed the door of the safe room but there was a problem with the handle and we couldn’t close the door properly,” she recalled. As the family huddled together, they could hear the terrifying sounds of gunshots and Arabic chants of “Allah akbar” echoing outside.

“Ohad sat down near the room with a gun. He probably already knew what the situation was in the kibbutz from the WhatsApp messages with his friends,” Bat Sheva explained. She said Ohad tried to fix the door handle from outside the safe room, but the terrorists were firing into the house and her husband was hit.

“I could hear him screaming in pain.”

As the terrorists entered the house and advanced towards the safe room, Bat Sheva faced an agonizing decision.

“There were five of them, and they spoke to us in Arabic and a little English. They said come with us, we are going to Gaza,” she recounted. She hesitated, hoping for a rescue that never came. One of the terrorists pointed a gun at her, forcing her and her children to accompany them outside.

Bat Sheva’s voice betrayed emotion as she recounted her husband’s last words.

“I love you guys, better go with them.”

Outside was a nightmare.

“They burned the kibbutz, all of it,” she said, adding that Palestinian children who were the same age as her own were participating in the looting.

“One of the terrorists asked me for the car keys but I pointed to a neighbor’s car that was in flames. I wasn’t going with them in my vehicle. They loaded me and the ten-year-old daughter on the motorcycle. On the other motorcycle, they loaded my son and the terrorist took the baby.”

Fortunately, the baby wouldn’t stop screaming, so the terrorist gave her back to Bat Sheva.

Then, said Bat Sheva, “They started yelling at other terrorists to get out and a stream of terrorists came out,” and took off to Gaza, carrying dozens of hostages on motorcycles and stolen kibbutz vehicles.

As they approached the Gaza border fence, Bat Sheva saw an opportunity to escape. Israeli tanks were arriving to reclaim the kibbutz.

“Our driver stopped the motorcycle, pulled us to a container that was standing there, and told us to stay,” she explained. As the tanks approached, she frantically waved for help, hoping they would notice her.

“My son disappeared with the motorcycle in front of us, since then I haven’t seen him,” she said.

It seemed to her that the terrorists were fleeing the tanks so Bat Sheva seized the moment and fled with her daughter and baby into the fields back in the direction of the kibbutz.

But the danger wasn’t over. Two other terrorists approached, attempting to persuade her to go with them to Gaza. Realizing they were unarmed, she ignored their pleas. Unsure about the safety of the roads, Bat Sheva took a longer route home as rockets flew overhead. Hours later, she arrived at Nir Oz’s northern entrance and encountered Israeli soldiers.

Yet, the agony of not knowing what happened to her husband and son haunts Bat Sheva.

In the attack’s aftermath, her husband’s body was not found in the house. Nor was there any sign of Ohad at any of the hospitals where Nir Oz victims were taken.

Bat Sheva’s thoughts turned to her missing son.

Once again, Bat Sheva’s voice betrayed emotion as she said in a voice filled with both dread and hope, “I hope he reached Gaza, because otherwise, he might have been attacked by the armed helicopter.”

A spokesperson for the kibbutz’s survivors told TPS that 50 members of Nir Oz remain unaccounted for, including children.

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