For the first time since the Oct. 7 massacre, Israeli survivors are grappling with difficult questions and reassessing the horrors they experienced.
Today, many of the survivors are now living as evacuees in hotel rooms and communities far from home, talking to mental health professionals. Communities hosting evacuees are also adjusting to the needs of their guests.
“Until now, we’ve been living in a very harsh climate of death and difficult incidents. Most of the children in our community are in school with the children of Kibbutz Be’eri, which suffered a very harsh blow. How am I supposed to explain to my children the situation, where there’s a girl in their class who was killed and another girl who was kidnapped to Gaza?” asked Meir Rosenzweig of Moshav Yevul.
The roughly 700 residents of the farming community south of Gaza along the Egyptian border are staying with residents of Kibbutz Be’eri at a hotel near the Dead Sea.
“The trauma brings back memories of the Yom Kippur War for me. When talking about captives and kidnappings, I was a commander in a combat unit, and I lost close friends in the war. I try to push it away, but this trauma brings back difficult memories,” added Yehuda Hayat, another resident of Yevul.
Many families, particularly of survivors of the Supernova music festival, are forced to cope with the new lives imposed on their children. At least 260 people were killed and others taken hostage at the all-night rave held on the grounds of Kibbutz Re’im.
“My daughter hid in a lemon orchard for eight hours while around her she heard shouts of ‘Allah akbar,’ and [witnessed] how the terrorists made sure to kill people hiding with her in the same orchard,” said Tamar Elul, mother of 24-year-old Avia, who survived the massacre at the festival.
Tamar, who lives in Haifa, said Avia is now in Eilat receiving psychological treatment.
“It’s so sad to know that young people who went to a party of love and peace are now forced to deal with trauma and trying to rebuild their lives. My daughter believes in the goodness of people, but she saw pure evil there. It’s hard for her to understand the amount of evil that was there on that Saturday,” said Tamar.
However, the survivors still find moments of hope.
“Israel has given us so much love. It gave us a sense of life. Today, we have established a community life in the accommodation provided to us near the Dead Sea. We conduct educational activities for the children here and help each other to feel the shared life we had before Oct. 7,” said Rosenzweig.
“We feel a sense of disintegration and reconstruction. We cry and fall apart, but we build ourselves stronger and more united, and that’s what gives us strength,” he added.
Tamar insisted, “We went through hell, but I feel that something has actually strengthened since then, both in my faith in God and in my love for the people of Israel. I realized that our role is to spread knowledge, unity and light to the world.”
She added, “In this world, there are only 14 million Jews, but since the day of the massacre … we have taken on the task of being united and spreading love, first among ourselves and then to the entire world. And that’s what we will do.”