“You’re not going out. You are not going out.”
Those were 63-year-old Vivian Roitman’s fateful words to her 72-year-old husband Menachem on the morning of Oct. 7, after the Hamas terrorists who had ransacked their home in southern Israel and failed to open the door to the safe room in which they were hiding had left the house.
She didn’t know it then, but the terrorists would be back less than two hours later for another attempt to murder or kidnap them, and then again for a third attempt some two hours after that.
“I cannot believe we made it out alive,” she told JNS on Thursday.
The nightmare begins
Israel’s national nightmare started at about 6:30 a.m. on Saturday when sirens warning of incoming rockets went off in Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak, one of nearly two dozen locations Hamas terrorists from Gaza would shortly overrun in what would turn out to be the most lethal attack on Israel in the last half-century. The couple went to their sealed room along with their dog.
“We knew what we were supposed to do,” said the Argentinian-born Roitman, having endured repeated Palestinian rocket attacks since she moved to the border farming community from Buenos Aires over four decades. “We thought it would just be a matter of minutes,” she added.
But as the minutes passed, the couple was notified by the kibbutz’s security detail not to leave their secured room.
“Something was different this time,” she said. “It was more than rockets.”
Sometime after 10 a.m., the couple heard the screams of Allah Akbar (Arabic for “God is great”), and the shattering of glass. Hamas terrorists had broken into their home.
‘They’re coming in, they’re coming in’
As luck had it, their hardened room had a chain lock, so the terrorists, who were not equipped with explosives like some of the other terror cells did, were not able to break in. They then left the house.
Time went by and Menachem, a veteran of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, wanted to leave the room.
Vivian was having none of it.
“You’re not going out,” she told him. “You are not going out.”
An hour and a half later, the terrorists were back, and again they unsuccessfully tried to break into the sealed room. They then left the house for a second time.
Menachem again wanted to leave the room, telling his wife, “It’s OK; they’re not coming back again.”
“I told him: You are not going out,” she recounted.
The third attempt
Sure enough, two hours later the terrorists re-entered the house. This time, they managed to partially open the sealed door—the chain being the only thing between the couple and certain death or capture.
“They’re coming in, they’re coming in,” Menachem screamed, Vivian recalled, adding that they were able to see their attackers through the crack in the door.
Vivian jumped off the bed in the room “like a missile” and somehow managed to pull the door shut, holding on to the handle with her very life. She didn’t move for what felt like an eternity, she said.
“It seemed like 100 years,” she recounted, but some minutes later, the terrorists left their home again.
The couple remained in the sealed room for over 13 hours, without food, water or a bathroom. Vivian didn’t even text her children about the ongoing horrors.
After 7:30 p.m., the couple got the all-clear from the kibbutz security team. Even then, Vivian wouldn’t leave the room.
“I couldn’t believe it was true,” she said.
Her husband exited first. Only when Israeli soldiers came into her house and her husband told her, “It’s the IDF, it’s the IDF, it’s our soldiers” would she come out.
“I left the room crying and trembling, and the soldiers hugged me,” she recalled.
Her neighbors were not as lucky. They were kidnapped and taken to Gaza, she said—five members of the same family.
“This is not just a war,” said Vivian. “They went house to house to slaughter us.”
“It’s not even animals, because animals kill for food or because they sense danger. These barbarians did it for fun,” she said.
Her kibbutz was relatively lucky, she noted, as homes were not burned down as occurred in neighboring communities. Still, as she relived the trauma from a hotel in the southern Red Sea resort of Eilat where the government bused her and other survivors, and where Israeli civilians have offered every possible assistance—a stranger buying her a pair of sandals, for example—she still cannot believe they made it out alive.