Neta’s story is one of hundreds of soldiers and thousands of Israelis who escaped the October 7th massacre by the skin of their teeth.Although she courageously returned the very next day to her duties commanding a unit in the Border Police, the 21-year-old’s story doesn’t end there. Shock and grief are just setting in, and it will take her a long time to process what occurred and rehabilitate emotionally.
Yet she knows that her situation is infinitely better than others.
The first rockets were fired just before dawn, arcing through the sky over thousands of revellers who had been dancing through the night at a trance music festival. Many party-goers didn’t even hear them because of the thumping music, but at some point, there was an announcement of a red alert. Neta and her friends, Raz Mizrahi and Kim Dokarker, ran off to a bomb shelter, unaware that terrorists had infiltrated the grounds.
Raz refused to leave the shelter, but Neta, suffering claustrophobia, went outside for fresh air where she eventually begged a ride from a passing vehicle.
“Suddenly, I looked behind us, and less than 150 meters away, was a van filled with Hamas terrorists who sprayed us with bullets,” Neta recalled.
“The windows exploded. Glass rained down on me, and Sharon, the driver, took a bullet in the arm. He could barely drive but I screamed at him to floor the accelerator. The car was destroyed, but he drove like a madman away from the barrage of gunfire until the car spluttered and died. We all dove out of the car and sprinted in a zigzag, fleeing a hailstorm of bullets until we found cover,” Neta said.
“Sharon was bleeding profusely from his arm, and Roi, who was also the car with us, was injured in his leg and head. I broke branches from the tree and ripped off Sharon’s shirt to create a tourniquet and stop the blood,” she added.
“All along, we were desperately sending our location to anyone who could help, but emergency responders kept replying that they couldn’t reach us due to the heavy fighting. Several times we heard the terrorists approaching, shouting in Arabic, searching for gun fodder. I recited ‘Shema Yisrael,’ sure that my life was over.”
At some point, Neta spied four Border Police officers, and she joined them, grabbing a gun from one of them and covering for them while they spirited close to a dozen of Israelis to safety.
Several hours later, she learned that terrorists tossed two grenades into the bomb shelter she’d fled, killing Raz, Kim, and 40 others huddled inside.
At least 260 people were killed at the music festival. The terrorists took others captive back to Gaza as hostages.
Reaching out to support Neta and hundreds of soldiers injured in the Hamas attacks on southern Israel is Belev Echad. The New York-based non-profit is dedicated to supporting Israeli soldiers wounded in action, providing respite, rehabilitation, and emotional support to soldiers grappling with the psychological aftermath of warfare and trauma, and easing their transition back into mainstream society.
“We meet wounded soldiers in the hospital, visit them and offer them physical, emotional and financial support,” said Rabbi Uriel Vigler, who cofounded Belev Echad with his wife Shevy.
“Now, with the war, we’re working on many fronts simultaneously, both in Israel and the United States, fundraising, sending care packages to soldiers and reservists, and sponsoring therapies.”
Due to immense hospital overflow in Israel, Belev Echad House in Kiryat Ono, where the organization’s regular programs take place, has been converted into a rehabilitation center for wounded soldiers,” he said.
In a tragic twist of fate, Raz was one of Belev Echad’s success stories. She had been hospitalized for weeks after a 2021 Palestinian car-ramming attack in eastern Jerusalem. That was followed by months of rehabilitation, and Belev Echad was with Raz every step of the way.
“There are so many soldiers who were exposed to the worst imaginable sights in the Gaza border communities, gruesome scenes of death and destruction, and they need intensive emotional support to overcome the trauma. Many others need help dealing with the grief and loss of loved ones–parents, siblings, and close friends,” said Sharon Shtrachman, Belev Echad’s program director in Israel.
Said Neta, “Raz and Kim are in a better place now. But I have friends who were seriously wounded. Two are in critical condition. One lost an eye, another a leg–and that’s what the medical world terms ‘lightly wounded.’ Life will never be the same again for any of us.”