The Heroes of October 7

There is a remarkable story up at the Times of Israel today about Oz Davidian, an Israeli farmer who saved 120 people at the Nova music festival that was the site of a Hamas massacre on Oct. 7. When I first opened the article, I thought it was going to be about Youssef Ziadna, a Bedouin minibus driver I read about a couple weeks ago who saved 30 from that festival by responding to a call to pick up a customer from the event. Ziadna drove into Hamas’s attack and drove out with a minibus full of Jewish Israelis who are alive because of him.

Also today I received an email from an Israeli streaming service promoting the pilot episode of a new documentary series about Oct. 7. The show is called Heroes and the first episode is about Noam Tibon. Noam’s son, Amir, is a reporter for Haaretz whose story of survival on Oct. 7 has been featured in numerous press accounts since the attacks. They survived, in fact, because Noam Tibon, a retired IDF general, is one of the heroes of that dark day, helping to free his son’s kibbutz from the Hamas terrorists who had taken it.

I’ve known Amir for several years and am relieved anew each time I see a different telling of the story, and, reading about Ziadna and Davidian and the others sure to come out, I realized how common that feeling must be by now. This terrible tragedy is also a story of heroes and of survival—it is the story of the Jews.

Ziadna began that day driving a group to the outdoor concert at 1 a.m. He got a distress call from someone in that group five hours later and got back in his car. He thought, he told JTA, it was due to a rocket alarm, part of life as an Israeli in that part of the country. “I didn’t wash my face, I didn’t even get dressed. This is standard over here in the south.”

Once it became clear what was happening, Ziadna drove on through a hail of bullets, filled his car with terrified revelers, and drove off to safety as a machine-gun-firing Hamas paraglider floated above them. Four of Ziadna’s family members have been missing since the attack and a fifth—his cousin—was killed that day.

An Israeli news station aired footage from the dashcam of Davidian’s truck, giving viewers a first-person look at the dangers awaiting him on each of the twenty trips he made to pick up survivors. One of his passengers told him she thought he was from Israel’s security services. When he asked her why she thought that, she responded: “We’ve been stuck here for hours, and there’s nobody. You’re the only one who came,” a reminder of the failures that left so many Israelis vulnerable that day.

Those failures have been on Amir Tibon’s mind as well. He and his wife and young daughters live in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, Israel’s closest town to Gaza. Woken by the sound of a falling mortar shell, Amir and his wife took the girls into their home’s safe room. It soon became clear it was more than rockets, and before the Tibons knew it, Hamas terrorists were outside their windows. His parents drove down from Tel Aviv, helping survivors along the way, and then his mother took injured soldiers to a hospital in Ashkelon while his father continued toward the kibbutz with another over-60 retired general. They joined other soldiers going house to house freeing captives and battling terrorists. All that kept Amir’s two young girls calm “was our promise that their grandfather was on his way. At 4 p.m., we heard a knock on the window and then a familiar voice. Galia immediately said: ‘Sabba is here.’ For the first time since the morning, we all burst into tears.”

Some of the heroes that day are fallen ones—like Yannai Kaminka, a 20-year-old home front commander who saved his training unit before being killed. Others are still standing, like 65-year-old Rachel Edri, who plied Hamas terrorists with home cooking until a rescue team could arrive nearly 20 hours after the terrorists first entered her home.

There will be others, too. We’ll learn their names and their stories. And we’ll remember to remember the heroism and the miracles too.

November 18, 2023 | Comments »

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