Dozens of people gathered in Ofakim northeast of Beersheva on Sunday to celebrate 20 Israeli women who put their lives at risk to save others during Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.
As part of the ceremony, emceed by Miss World 1998, Linor Abargil, the KKL-JNF inaugurated the “Path of Heroines,” planting trees at the entrance of Ofakim Park in honor of the women before awarding them with certificates of valor.
“This war differentiates itself from others through the important role played by Israeli women, whose courage and creativity helped save countless lives,” KKL-JNF chairwoman Yifat Ovadia-Lusky told JNS at the ceremony.
“The ‘Path of Heroines’ is meant to inspire many more women to show similar initiative, to tell their stories and remember them as part of the legacy of the Jewish people,” she added.
Ofakim Mayor Yitzhak Danino paid tribute to the women, delivering a message of hope.
“On Oct. 7, civilians and security officers left their houses on Simchat Torah to battle Hamas terrorists. Dozens of residents were killed in Ofakim during this massacre, but these men and women’s courage prevented us from experiencing greater losses,” he said. “I am committed to ensuring that these stories live on together with the memory of those who perished.”
The municipality of Ofakim has earmarked 10 million shekels ($2.7 million) to rebuilding parts of the city destroyed by Hamas terrorists.
“Wherever they sought to bring death, we will create the foundation for a better life,” added Danino, who also called for the release of Matan Tzagauker, a resident of Ofakim who has been held captive by Hamas in Gaza for more than 90 days.
Einav Tzagauker, Matan’s mother, was one of the women honored on Sunday, for fiercely fighting for her son’s return.
Shifra Boochris, a Border Police commander, went on an improvised mission with three of her friends on Oct. 7.
For 12 hours, the team traveled back and forth from the site of the Supernova music festival at Kibbutz Re’im, where 364 people were slaughtered, rescuing critically injured people each time.
“The planting of a tree is like the birth of a child. It signifies life and happiness. While the enemy tries to destroy us, we are strong and we will stand victorious,” Boochris told JNS on Sunday.
Valerie Dykstejn, a volunteer for ZAKA’s international emergency response team, helped recover the bodies of those who could not be saved on Oct. 7. When the sirens began on that fateful Saturday morning, she donned her vest and rushed first to the Barzilai Medical Center and then to the site of the Supernova event.
“We saw things one should never see. No image, no video can depict or convey the horrors that happened there,” said Dykstejn.
“We will never forget, but we need to keep our head high. This is the Jewish people. No matter what we went through, and the pain, we must continue for the generations to come,” she added.
Tali Medina, a farm manager from Kibbutz Urim just over 5 miles from Ofakim, was at home with her children when the Hamas assault began, while her husband was out cycling.
“We heard sirens and heavy bombing. I went down on the floor with my two kids. I called my husband who did not answer,” Medina recalled.
“I told my staff to stop milking the animals and seek shelter. I heard shootings, one of my workers told me he’d heard terrorists nearby. I immediately wrote to my husband who informed me that he’d been shot,” she said.
On Oct. 8, while soldiers were still battling terrorists inside Urim, Medina sent her kids elsewhere but insisted on staying to take care of her staff and the farm.
“We’ve produced milk three times a day throughout the war. The first day, we stopped for two hours but that was it,” she said.
“In my line of work, we don’t have the privilege of stopping. I couldn’t abandon the cows and the crew. I knew in my soul that I could not, even though I was taking a major risk,” she added.
Tali Haddad was at home in Ofakim with her son Itamar when Hamas terrorists assaulted the city. Itamar decided to confront them, and Haddad followed.
“He’s my son, after all,” she said.
“We heard shootings and spotted terrorists walking around. When I went out and saw the wounded, I decided to run to my car and start evacuating as many as I could to the nearest hospital,” she recalled.
However, the first casualty she ended up evacuating to the hospital was Itamar, who had been shot by Hamas terrorists soon after they left the house. Haddad later returned to rescue more than a dozen people that day.
“It’s hard these days but I am happy to see these trees, the flowers, and the people gathered around. The people of Israel live on,” Haddad told JNS.
Below is the complete list of women honored by KKL-JNF for their bravery during the Hamas assault:
- Shifra Boochris
- Tali Haddad
- Yamit Sultan
- Einav Tzagauker
- Moran Tadgi
- Tali Medina
- Shiran Avoharon
- Shoshana Mali
- Amit Gur
- Valery Dykstejn
- Nurit Cohen
- Batsheva Yahalomi
- Margalit Yahad
- Noa Hanuka
- Tali Polobitz
- Noa Abotbol
- Adi Moriah
- Maayan Shanior
- Samdar Shamilovitz
- Linoy Vizman