“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me.“
Caution: This story includes heavy details from a personal testimony of the horrific events on 7th October 2023.
Can you imagine waking up early in the morning to the sounds of shooting and a barrage of rockets? This is what Hezi and thousands of others living in Israel experienced on 7th October 2023.
Hezi is a father of two daughters who lives in the city of Sderot, near the Gaza border. He has 27 years of experience in the security services, was an officer in the Shabash (Israel’s Prison Service), and has suffered from PTSD due to terror attacks. At the end of the Tsuk Eitan operation, Hezi was an officer in the reserves and witnessed a young boy die in a terror attack. That left him with a severe case of PTSD.
VFI initially met Hezi through an organization that helps terror victims in Israel. We have supported Hezi and his family for several years, and we are honored to continue to support them and many others amid this war. Despite his struggle with PTSD, this brave father didn’t let it hold him back from defending his nation and his family on that horrific Saturday morning.
On a typically peaceful Shabbat morning, Hezi was planning on going for a morning run, when all of a sudden he heard the sounds of intense rocket fire accompanied by a unique sound of shooting. He recognized the sound of the shooting as heavy weapons being fired, and instantly told his brother, “Listen, there are terrorists in Sderot.”
Around 7:30 in the morning, he called the army and the southern command, but there was no answer. Hezi explained what he did next, “I called a higher-ranking officer that I really respect. He is a religious person and he usually doesn’t answer the phone on Shabbat. But this time, he did. He thought I was about to talk to him about the rockets, but I told him, ‘What rockets? There are ISIS terrorists here with vehicles.’ He told me, ‘Hezi, maybe because you have PTSD you are still in trauma from the rocket attack. Try to calm down.’”
Right away, Hezi took photos of the terrorists outside and sent them to the officer. He also filmed a jeep full of terrorists shooting at an Israeli police vehicle. The same jeep was also shooting in his direction because they saw him in the window. The images the world has seen on TV were a living nightmare and reality for Hezi and thousands of Israelis living near Gaza.
When Hezi sent these images to the officer, he quickly understood that there were no forces ready to fight these terrorists. There were only a few police officers in the station, and in the photos, you can see the heroic policemen on the roof of the station fighting for their lives.
At this point, Hezi knew he had to help in some way. So the first thing he did was put on the Israeli army uniform that he still had from the reserves. He was no longer a reserve soldier, but he saved his uniform for motherents like this. Even though he had his uniform on, he didn’t have a weapon. He was ready to help the IDF soldiers when they arrived, but surprisingly no soldiers came.
Instead, the Magav (Border Police) tactical forces and Sayeret Matkal (General Staff commando unit) officer came and asked Hezi where the terrorists went. Hezi drove with the small team and led them to the police station, where the terrorists went. At one point, Hezi looked at one of the officers, and said, “Friend, I am with you, I just don’t have a weapon”. Hezi explained, “He gave me his gun, and he took his automatic gun. And then I understood at this point that I was joining the fight because there were no forces. There were 30-40 terrorists with no [IDF] forces!”
When they arrived at the police station, they saw the police forces of Magav fighting. They managed the fighting, including the infiltration of the building and eliminating the terrorists. All of a sudden, there was a huge explosion that hit Hezi, and he lost consciousness. There was a police officer next to him who was badly injured with shrapnel in his head. They were both taken to Soroka Hospital.
Hezi woke up in the hospital. There was a lot of confusion among the staff and the system was overwhelmed. As Hezi lay there in the hospital bed, he could see many soldiers and policemen from different units, all punctured by gunshots. The images of their faces were horrifying. There were little children—terrified by the sights their innocent eyes had to see. The parents were still holding their kids and there was blood everywhere. After seeing how desperate these people looked, Hezi said, “Doctor, why am I here? People need this bed.” The doctor told him that he needed a CT scan of his head.
After Hezi received medical treatment, he heard rumors about women and children being kidnapped and taken to Gaza. As he was lying in the hospital bed, he received a message from his youngest daughter (13), who was at Kibbutz Mefalsim with her older sister (16) and mother (Hezi’s ex-wife). The message read: “Abba, I’m scared of being here. There is a shooting here in Kibbutz Mefalsim. There is shooting—Abba, abba. Answer me. I’m scared.”
Can you imagine the thoughts running through Hezi’s mind about what could happen to his daughters?
As soon as the doctor came back, Hezi asked to leave. The doctor checked him one last time and then released him. Hezi hurried out of the hospital and jumped in the nearest jeep that was full of blood from soldiers who had just come there.
As Hezi was driving to the kibbutz, he was horrified by what he saw. Bodies were all over the road to the point that he had to swerve back and forth to avoid running over dead bodies. Hezi recalls, “I drove like crazy to Kibbutz Mefalsim to rescue my daughters. I joined the fighting there too with the soldiers and the local alert force. We fought at the entrance gate of the kibbutz, and then I could enter to reach my girls!”
When he finally reached his girls, he saw how terrified they were. They had been hiding in the safe room with their mother for 18 hours. Hezi managed to rescue them and get them out of the kibbutz.
As he looked around at Kibbutz Mefalsim, he saw dozens of terrorists on motorcycles shot down by the local alert force and army. Miraculously, the terrorists didn’t get into the homes of the residents. The local alert force and the army unified together to kill the terrorists who were trying to murder and kidnap the people in the kibbutz. There was also a shooting fight at the gate of the kibbutz, where many terrorists tried to enter. Thanks to the bravery of the alert forces, Kibbutz Mefalsim and Hezi’s family were saved.
As Hezi rescued his girls from the kibbutz, they grabbed what they could and ran for their lives. The youngest daughter brought her tablet that she received as a Bat Mitzvah gift from VFI a year ago at the annual Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration. However, in the rush, the tablet fell and broke.
After all of this, Hezi contacted us and asked us for some help. His financial situation was hard to begin with, but after the events of 7th October, things got even worse. He asked for 2 tablets, one for each of his daughters, so they could participate in distance learning. They were also in need of basics, like clothing, shoes, and hygienic products. We were able to provide tablets for the girls and also gave Hezi a laptop so he could go back to school, as well as gift cards to help them purchase some basic necessities.
When you ask Hezi how he’s doing he answers “...alive on the outside, but dead on the inside." He also said, “These sights are haunting me non-stop, and I am suffering from extreme anxiety and long sleepless nights." What he and many others have gone through and seen on 7th October is unimaginable. All of these atrocities, horrific memories, and images have shaken him and thousands of others to the core.
Let us first pray for them. Pray for God to set his people free from these horrific recurring images and trauma that they have gone through during this war. Let us also pray for the hostages that have been released and those still held.
A study finds that 84% of Israeli kids, and 40% of parents suffer emotional distress over war.
This is the time to take action and show Israel that we are standing with her during this war. Join VFI in meeting the practical needs of Israelis, like Hezi and his family, as we battle through this war!