‘What happened here was a Holocaust,’ kibbutz survivor tells KKL-JNF team

Article courtesy of the Jerusalem Post

Since the beginning of the war, KKL-JNF has stepped up its efforts to assist victims, soldiers and displaced Israelis, as well as share their stories with the world.
For the Lavi family from Kibbutz Nahal Oz every day since October 7 has been a living hell.

“There was a shootout going on in the apartment next to us,” Lishi Lavi shared recounting the shattering moments of the Simchat Torah Massacre in a Zoom meeting with KKL-JNF friends from around the world. Since the beginning of the war, KKL-JNF has stepped up its efforts to assist victims, soldiers and displaced Israelis, as well as share their stories with the world.

“We realized that if we were not quiet, we would be next in line,” she said. “They pounded on the shelter door with their weapons and demanded that we open it.”

Lavi explained that Hamas terrorists had taken Tomer, the seventeen-year-old son of their neighbor and forced him to accompany them to the homes in the kibbutz so that the residents would open their doors to the sound of a familiar voice.

“When we heard Tomer’s voice,” said Lishi, “we opened the door so they wouldn’t hurt him. Five terrorists took us into the kitchen of the house. My two-year-old daughter awoke to the terror of guns being pointed at her.”
“We were rounded up in one of the houses together with other residents,” she continued. “Together with my husband Omri, they took another neighbor and Judith and Natalie Ra’anan, who have since been released. Before he was taken, I said quietly to Omri: ‘I love you. I’ll look after our girls. Don’t be a hero, because I want you back home’.”

Once Tomer finished going to the houses, the brutal terrorists murdered him.
But then, two-year-old Roni, the youngest of the two daughters of Lishi and Omri, started shouting: “I want my Abba!”

Her mother held her tightly so she wouldn’t run after him.

“I managed to make her fall asleep in my arms, and after 20 minutes, she woke up no longer two years old,” she said. “Suddenly, I have a grown-up girl who understands everything and doesn’t ask for anything. We prayed that someone would come and save us.”

When the army finally arrived, the family members were evacuated to Kibbutz Kramim in northern Negev. Omri was taken captive in Gaza.

Lishi recounted in a trembling voice: “My daughter Roni and I had a ritual every night before bed. We would go outside to say good night to the world. Now, when we go out, Roni calls out in her sweet voice, ‘Good night, Abba,’ and I choke back my tears, not always successfully. I assure her that her father hears us. What happened here is not a war – it is our Holocaust.”

Following the attacks, KKL-JNF mobilized for immediate assistance in evacuating residents, equipping emergency teams, educational activities for the evacuated families, and the donation of ambulances. The organization will continue to assist in the medium and long-term recovery of the affected communities, helping them in rebuilding and enhancing the quality of life for their residents. In addition, KKL-JNF is facilitating frameworks to allow those attending military preparatory academies to volunteer in the Gaza envelope, in order to help the farmers in the southern region to continue their agricultural activities.

After hearing Lishi’s account and the reports of other survivors, Shariel Gon, director of the Fundraising Department at KKL-JNF, highlighted the importance to stand united and support each other.

“We are strong, and we will win and emerge strengthened,” he said. “KKL-JNF has always stood by Israel, even before the establishment of the state, and now we are facing a new challenge.”

“KKL-JNF was the first to provide support to the local authorities that were affected by the attack,” he added. “We assist in the evacuation of the residents to the center of the country, support the equipping of emergency rapid response teams, and run educational programs. We need your help in this challenging time, and I know we can count on you. Together, we will be strong.”
Released on November 9, 2023