Courage & Faith Amid Chaos & Death

Saturday, April 27, 2024

***Disclaimer: This testimony contains some graphic details about wounds and death from the war. Please read with caution if you are more sensitive to these details. The name of the security coordinator has been changed to Oren.

It is one thing to hear about the war through the news, but it is another level of impact to hear about it from someone who was actually there on the battlefield. Batya had the opportunity to interview the security coordinator of Shlomit from the Eshkol region near the Gaza border. He shared his story at a special event, where VFI donated supplies to the 32 Eshkol region emergency teams.

Now, let’s step onto a kibbutz called Shlomit, on October 7th, 2023 to get a glimpse of what Oren, the security coordinator, experienced that day.

“We are used to (the red alerts) here in the area. We go in and out (of the safe room) and continue with life. But (that morning) it wasn't ending, and I, as a Ravshatz (security coordinator), wanted to check what was going on outside my house. As soon as I went out of the Mamad (shelter) I started getting messages (about everything going on). A rocket hit one of our neighbor’s houses, but a second before the rocket hit, they got into the shelter. The house was damaged significantly, (but thankfully) they were okay. The council and our spatial battalion said they saw a few terrorists by Kerem Shalom.“

At this point, Oren thought the army would come and handle this situation. However, he was still getting ready in case the IDF soldiers needed backup. He updated his emergency squad with the messages he was receiving and told them he was going to drive around the neighborhood. Two of his good friends and neighbors Boaz, Oren’s deputy and paramedic, and Oz Sasson, a commander of the emergency squad, arrived ready in their gear without Oren even asking them to come.

The first place they checked was the house that was hit by a rocket.

As they continued to drive around the kibbutz, they listened to the two-way radio. They heard security coordinators reporting about terrorists infiltrating into many Israeli communities near the Gaza border saying: “Terrorists are going from house to house, purging the houses, and if the army doesn’t come they will slaughter the whole kibbutz…”

Oren recounts moment by moment what happens next:
“It was like a big wave, a tsunami that was slowly gaining power… At 7:38 am I heard Lotem, the security coordinator of Eshkol, share that he had an encounter with terrorists in Pri-Gan. Then he said, “I’m hurt, I’m disconnecting”. First, I know that he’s not the security coordinator of Pri-Gan, so if he reported it, then it means that their security leader is not there. And if Lotem’s disconnecting, it means that there’s no one else there to help. I also know that the security team in Pri-Gan is not strong enough to be challenged with this ordeal, so I knew that if we didn’t go over there, there would be a massacre…“

Oren wrestled with the thought of leaving his own kibbutz to help fight for another one, especially knowing that the terrorists were traveling quickly by motorcycles. He decided to leave half of his strong team at Shlomit. Without hesitation, his two friends Boaz and Oz, joined him to fight in Pri-Gan. As they arrived in Pri-Gan, they could hear shooting and explosions and quickly realized the battle was between civilians and terrorists. They bravely headed toward the terrorists, and on the way, they connected with an emergency squad member of Pri-Gan who was coming out of his house.

They joined together for a surprise attack on the terrorists. Oz and Boaz were the first to identify the terrorists, so they started shooting and the terrorists shot back. Some terrorists threw grenades and shot at them, injuring Oz and Boaz. Oz got a bullet in his thigh, and Boaz got a bullet in his back.

Oren remembers this horrific moment as he saw his two faithful friends injured: “Boaz tells me ‘I don’t have a lot of time to live’. I heard him telling me ‘5-6 minutes’... he started saying the “Shma” prayer and started confessing. And I say to myself, ‘If Boaz is telling me that he doesn’t have a lot of time, he knows what he’s saying because he’s a paramedic.’ I go into rescue mode, and think, ‘I have only 5-6 minutes. How do I do this? I must get to the vehicle, bring it in a way that the terrorists won’t notice, load Boaz and Oz, and get them out.’ Then, Oz tells me, ‘We must get help’. So I tell him, ‘Get whoever is needed’.

Immediately after getting the call for help, a team from Shlomit started driving towards Pri-Gan. These men understood that every second was significant for rescue and battle. When they arrived, they encountered the terrorists. One person got hit with a bullet that cut his arm in half and collapsed. On the other side of the street, another person got shot in the leg. Oren met with the other security coordinator in the back of a house and they joined to fight and rescue. As Oren went into the street, he saw that one of the guys was with one of the injured team members and was covering him. He was grateful to see him alive and set it in his heart to complete the rescue mission.

Meanwhile, another member of the emergency squad was on his way to help but was murdered along the way. Another 4 members of the emergency squad from Shlomit came to help.

At this point, you may be wondering who is protecting Oren’s family and community back at Shlomit. This strong community of Shlomit had 2 members of their emergency squad equipped with weapons, along with several other brave residents ready for battle with their handguns. They all joined together to protect the settlement.

Back at Pri-Gan, the battle intensified when the terrorists started shooting at two squad members who were hiding next to a very narrow electric pillar. The terrorists shot with such precision and killed both of them. Oren explains: “When I looked through the binoculars I saw that Reuven was killed, and I was left with Moshe and with Michael who is badly injured...” Oren contacted the emergency squad asking for help, and they told him that the army was on the way. A few soldiers showed up but wanted to wait until more soldiers came for reinforcement. It took some time but eventually, the soldiers and emergency squad joined together to fight the terrorists and Oren was able to complete the rescue mission, saving three people.

At this point, Oren was amazed that his friends were still alive, but he knew they needed to get to the hospital quickly. At the same time, the terrorists were retreating due to lack of ammunition, injury, and fear of the number of soldiers that were coming to fight against them. Miraculously, not one resident of Pri-Gan was physically injured! The 25 residents of Pri-Gan were in 4 homes inside the safety rooms. Oren and his team heroically fought the terrorists and protected the people of Pri-Gan.

Oren and his team brought the people out of the shelters to more protected areas, evacuated the injured, and gathered the ones who lost their lives as they bravely fought against the terrorists. Eventually, the security coordinator of Pri-Gan returned and regained responsibility with the help of the soldiers.

After all that happened, Oren was eager to get back to Shlomit to see how his family and community were doing. As soon as he got back, he started preparing his community for a situation of attack. He and his team shared the horrible news of the 3 men from Shlomit who were killed in battle and the 4 men from Shlomit who were wounded in Pri-Gan. This was so hard, especially because they were such close friends and neighbors.

Oren finishes the story by saying, “All the credit goes to Shlomit’s emergency squad, and to God almighty who gave us the strength.”

This is just one of the many horrific testimonies from October 7th. We acknowledge God’s mighty hand and these brave men who went out of their way to protect the communities of Pri-Gan and Shlomit. We salute Oren, his emergency squad, and the many brave ones who fought to protect this nation.

Please continue to pray for all the families that have lost loved ones during this war, and for the soldiers who continue to fight this long and difficult war. And pray for the Lord to continue fighting for Israel and save us from our enemies surrounding us.

We also remember the 133 hostages and pray for their release from the hands of Hamas — babies, children, mothers, young women, men, and the elderly. May God set them free and may we see them come home soon!

“I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.”

Psalm 18:1-3

Are you willing to bless Israel, make a difference in the lives of people, and partner with God's plan for restoration of the land of Israel?

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