newsIsrael at War

IDF commando, twice-wounded in Gaza, seeks return to front

Zohar Kochavi first survived the Supernova music festival massacre.

IDF commando Zohar Kochavi, 27. Source: Screenshot.
IDF commando Zohar Kochavi, 27. Source: Screenshot.

IDF Master Sgt. Zohar Kochavi narrowly escaped death three times this year. Once fleeing the Hamas attack at the Supernova music festival and twice as a soldier fighting in the Gaza Strip. He is eager to return to the front.

Kochavi, with his girlfriend, Shiraz Amir, at his side, described his close calls to Channel 13 on Saturday evening, and his determination to return to combat, while pointing out footage of himself taken at the music festival and in the thick of the Gaza fighting.

“If this war continues, and they’ll need me, I’ll be there. Even if they don’t need me. Even if they’ll tell me, ‘Sit at home,'” said Kochavi, who serves in the Oz Brigade, also known as the “Commando Brigade,” a special operations force.

Kochavi was at the Supernova concert with his girlfriend when the terrorists attacked on Oct. 7. More than 360 people were killed and 40 kidnapped.

Kochavi and Amir arrived by car early that Saturday morning. Shortly afterwards, the terrorist assault began with a heavy barrage of rockets.

Amir related how Kochavi had bought a tent, shade canopy, mat and other camping equipment. When the rockets started, “he insisted on packing away all the things and taking home all he’d invested in.”

Amir said she couldn’t function. She was in shock from the shelling. “I stood on the side and cried while he folded up everything.”

“I took my time and today I know that there’s a possibility that this is what saved us,” Kochavi said, suggesting that if they’d started off immediately, they might have been caught on the way and killed by the terrorists.

When they finally reached Kibbutz Be’eri, they spotted a white security vehicle stopped along the road; a security officer warned them that terrorists were ahead. They turned back to the site of the festival.

Amir wanted to enter a reinforced structure they had passed, built to withstand rocket attack. It was filled with people. “I thought, ‘They know what they’re doing,'” she said. Then they saw a man exit a nearby vehicle with a bullet in his foot and they realized the terrorists were close. Amir still wanted to enter the structure but Kochavi said, “We’re moving.”

Most of those hiding in such structures were slaughtered.

As they traveled south, they reached a traffic jam. They abandoned the vehicle and continued on foot. When Kochavi heard shots, he told Amir, “Run as fast as you can and don’t stop”—words she said still echo in her ears.

Kochavi filmed part of it with his cellphone and young people can be seen running. “Everyone’s fleeing,” he says, out of breath.

Ultimately, what saved them was a vehicle that passed by. They jumped aboard and insisted, “You have to take us.”

They reached their apartment in Tel Aviv but “didn’t have time to digest what they’d experienced,” the report noted.

Kochavi, who had only recently finished a commando course, received his IDF call-up notice two hours later. He headed south.

“Shiraz tried to convince me: ‘Don’t go. Don’t leave me alone,'” Kochavi related. “I explained to her this is my time. It’s for this that I trained. For this I fought. For this I have my team, who are incredibly strong, and it’ll be OK. Don’t worry.”

It was on the first day of fighting in Beit Hanun, a city in the northeastern Gaza Strip, that Kochavi received his first wound. Terrorists in a building fired a salvo at his head, missing him by centimeters, he said. He suffered a shrapnel wound to his hands and a comrade had to pull him to safety.

“I had a feeling something would happen to me and that I won’t return,” Kochavi admitted, which led him to write a letter to his family and to Amir in the event of his death.

Kochavi teared up as he read the letter aloud during the Channel 13 segment: “My Dear Family, If you’re reading this letter, it’s a sign that I’m in a better place. I’m there above. I hear you and see you. I want to tell you that maybe physically I’m not there, but I’ll always be by your side even without your noticing.”

Zohar Kochavi reads aloud the letter he wrote in the event of his death, his mother and girlfriend at his side. Screenshot.

While the first injury was a near-miss, the second, a few days later, was more serious. Hamas used a drone to drop an explosive on a group of IDF soldiers as they were resupplying.

Remarkable footage from the terrorist drone was shown in the television segment as the rocket falls and blows up beside the soldiers, dropping a number of them to the ground. Thirteen soldiers were wounded, including Kochavi.

“This happened really in a place where a soldier is supposed to feel the most protected,” Kochavi said of the resupply area defended by raised sand walls, where soldiers return to stock up on food and water.

The soldiers didn’t know that it was a drone at first and they fired on nearby structures. Kochavi took part in helping another wounded soldier. He felt as if a fist was pressing continuously in his side. He expected it to go away but it only grew worse.

He continued to fight but after 10 minutes his hand fell asleep and he started to feel weaker. His GoPro camera filmed the event and Kochavi can be heard groaning from the pain even as he fires on surrounding buildings.

Only when he woke up in Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon did he learn that two pieces of shrapnel had entered his side, one practically touching a major artery. “Everything hurt,” he said. “I couldn’t walk.”

“It will sound a little weird,” Amir confided, but her concern for Kochavi saved her. “I didn’t function after Nova,” she said. “And when [the injury] happened, I left the house. I moved into the hospital and I had something to worry about. That was my treatment.”

Zohar Kochavi recovers in Barzilai Medical Center, in Ashkelon, with support from his girlfriend, Shiraz Amir. Screenshot.

Kochavi’s mother, Fanny, admitted she was happy that he was wounded because it took him out of Gaza.

Kochavi is determined to return to combat, however. He is taking physical therapy to build back his strength.

Amir and Kochavi had what they described as a “very difficult conversation” about it. Amir, in the end, decided to support him. “If that’s what will help him go on with life with a tranquil spirit, I’m with him,” she said.

“My stomach churns. It’s hard to hear it,” said Fanny. “But I can’t hold him back. He’s 27 years old.”

At the end of the television segment, Kochavi brought out his army fatigues to show where the shrapnel entered. “This is the first and this is the second,” he said, pointing to two small holes in his shirt. “And I will wear it still.”

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war.

JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you.

The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support?

Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Topics
Comments
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates