With Israel at war, Linor Attias, director of communications for the United Hatzalah volunteer-based emergency medical services organization and a first responder on the frontline of efforts to rescue victims of the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel, appeared on Jay Ruderman’s “All About Change” podcast to provide an intimate look inside the unprecedented Hamas attack.
United Hatzalah’s 6,500 volunteer medics help save thousands of lives each year across Israel by providing medical treatment in an average response time of three minutes or less.
“At 6:30, 6:40 a.m. we had the first rocket, and I was saying to myself…it’s a mistake,” Attias said regarding the events of Oct. 7. “But then another missile attack happened and another, so it was clear something was going on. So, I just ran over to our dispatch center in Jerusalem. Around 7:30 we received phone calls that terrorists were shooting at us, ‘Please help. Please rescue us.’ And it was devastating to hear those voices screaming and yelling for help and to hear that it wasn’t like regular guns, it was rifles. This is what I heard. I went down to the south…and I assisted to open the first triage…It was chaos.”
A “war zone,” she explained, is simply not the way to describe the scene of the Oct. 7 massacre.
“A war zone is when a military is fighting against another military,” Attias said. “It was towns and cities with civilians, and they were in between missiles, terrorists, and IDF soldiers who can also make a mistake, so it wasn’t a war zone. I disconnected my emotions. For me to survive and to make the very best decisions…I could not think from my heart. I needed to focus on all different aspects, on information-gathering to understand which information is true, which is just only like a guess or mistake, and to create the right operational picture, so we’ll know how to act…sometimes we put seven or nine people on the ambulance. You couldn’t treat them, you just put them inside and escaped, and then you started to treat them.”
Attias recalled an emotional moment at Kibbutz Be’eri, when she heard a baby crying.
“I didn’t even understand if it’s a baby or maybe it’s a kitty cat. My heart told me, I need to check it out,” she said. “So, I went inside the house and I saw two beautiful twins, 10 months old, and their parents were murdered. [The parents’ bodies] were over the babies. They had protected the babies. The mother was with one baby, the father was with the other…As a mother, I thought, I cannot just take them to the ambulance…I need formula babies, I need diapers. So, I went to the kitchen and I saw the refrigerator, the magnets with the pictures of this beautiful family.”
After finding the formula and diapers, United Hatzalah took the babies to the hospital, “and I don’t know what happened, what will be the next step for them,” Attias said.
Summing up the scene of the attack, she said of the Hamas terrorists that “they took the video games and made them alive.”
“I know that the reality I witnessed is something that obviously, I’ll need to take care of myself with the psycho-trauma unit of United Hatzalah…But to see so much blood, to see so many hundreds [dead] — at least in the beginning, it was hundreds. Right at the beginning, hundreds of people that I saw, that I counted, on one road I counted 35, on another road I counted 11, then in another house, another field, I counted 25. It was a hundred [bodies] immediately,” said Attias.
The hope of saving just one more life is what kept propelling her forward.
“Hope. This is what held me up over there,” she said. “Just the hope that maybe I can save someone. Those who I couldn’t save, I couldn’t do anything for them. And just I was hoping that maybe someone survived this barbarism, this brutal terror attack and maybe someone can be safe. Then when we found someone, it gave us the adrenaline and the power to go forward, to see more and more bodies, to smell the blood, to see the dogs hiding terrified, to see everything that we saw…But the adrenaline, the feeling that we received with every person we grabbed out from this battlefield, this brutal battlefield, gave us the power to continue. This Saturday, October 7th, we will never forget. We will never forget October 7th.”
The “All About Change” podcast — hosted by Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation — shares stories of adversity where people have come out the other side ready to better themselves, their communities, and the world.