By Eddy Azran
UJA’s Representative in Sderot, Israel
On the morning of Shabbat and Simchat Torah, my family and I woke up to an extensive barrage of rockets. The sound was different. This was no ordinary bombing. It went on for an extremely long period without any breaks in the ammunition being fired. We all became concerned.
I immediately wrote to the groups in the area that are responsible for ensuring the safety of our families if threatened by an intrusion of terrorists or any other security breach. I wrote in my Kibbutz’s WhatsApp group, "Probably a drill in preparation for an infiltration” but, I was still calm and confident that if there were in fact terrorists, that they would be dealt with immediately.
I was so confident that even after I began receiving messages about the attack in Sderot, I didn’t believe it. As quick as it began, so did the beginning of an influx of messages from colleagues and friends in the kibbutzim around us and on the border, describing terrorist shootings and vicious attacks in our neighboring cities and villages. People were begging for help.
I called my friends in the immediate area and in the kibbutz and we began organizing. Those who were able joined in trying to protect our families. We had people on the roofs of homes on the lookout.
A friend from the army who lives in Nir Moshe, which is a village near to ours, informed me that the terrorists were attacking Moshav Yachini. My friend said, "Brother, we have no chance, we have to hang up, take care of us, we have are as good as dead."
I left my family and went into the fields in the direction of Yachini. I asked a member of our kibbutz to be on the lookout from the roof, fearing that terrorists would be coming from the direction of Yachini which is only a few kilometers away. An army border vehicle drove by me and I told them what was happening. Without hesitation they drove there to help residents. Later I found out that both the officers died fighting to protect the kibbutz.
The magnitude of the massacre is indescribable. We were shocked by the degree of cruelty and disgusted, but we are focused now only on being victorious. We have no other option. We know that we may still suffer from more loss and destruction, but we are united.
Already in the first hours of the brutal attack, people began to organize and evacuate Sderot and the surrounding area. We decided to divide into shifts. I took the night watch 1:00 am - 7:00 am. We received constant updates on the battles. The number of casualties is heartbreaking. I was going on without sleep and food for more than 24 hours by then. At the time, I didn’t realize that the next time I will get to sleep (for a short while) was three day later.
On the morning of Sunday, October 8 (the second day of fighting), I left everything and went to Sderot – my hometown, where most of my family lives and where I work for UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. On my way there, I saw with my own eyes the horrors of the savage attack. The dead bodies and damaged vehicles remained in the streets.
Soldiers stopped my car and told me that I could not drive any further. I pleaded, telling them that I needed to check on my parents who I had not been able to reach because of the collapsing of the cell phone service and power outage. I knew that they were only trying to protect me, but I knew I needed to move on. They wouldn’t allow me to proceed. By chance someone I knew passed by and together we convinced the soldiers to let us through. That is Israel for you.
When I arrived at my parents, they told me they did not want to evacuate. All I could do was to show them how to charge their phones in the car (as the power was still out) and ensure that they had food and water. I returned to my kibbutz. By the time I arrived home, entire families had already organized and were evacuating. Our kibbutz was emptied within hours.
Two days later, we decided it was the best time to get the family out of the area. My parents did not agree to evacuate and decided to stay but my sister and her children as well as my wife's parents and brothers along with their families evacuated Sderot with us.
Since then, I have been thinking about how we can bring value and help on all levels to the evacuees, the victims and the emergency teams that are still functioning in the field. Currently, there are still combat zones and people who have not yet been evacuated. I am assisting them with putting in place situation teams that can assess needs and respond quickly, and working to get much needed live-saving equipment for the people who evacuated. Efforts which the Toronto Jewish community has been supporting generously.
We need to be prepared for hard and long work. We know how strong the Jewish people are, both in Israel and in the Diaspora and believe that our mobilization and cooperation will only strengthen our nation.
At the end of this bitter road we will all experience the pain and be left scared. But we will recover and take care of each and every one who lived through the trauma of the last 22 years and survived the disaster of October 7, 2023.
On Shabbat, we read in Parashat Genesis: “And God created man in His image; in the image of God created him.”
Immediately afterwards, Cain kills Abel and, with his own hands, destroys that image. The interpretation says that "Abel seemed to his brother like an animal". Are we doomed that, for eternity, we will always live with some in this region who view Jews as human animals?
This week, we met the sons of Cain who butchered us. And this is what we are standing against: those who would destroy the only Jewish state in the world, and those who would destroy the image of God in man.
Let the whole world know.
Wishing us all Shalom, and thanks to all the people who prayed for my wellbeing, we will meet again soon.
UJA Representative, Sderot