My husband and I woke up to the sounds of explosions. We heard them before the alarms reached Ashkelon. Apparently interceptions from rockets fired at other cities. At about 7:00 AM the first alarm sounded in Ashkelon, we don’t have an emergency room so we went out to the stairwell. The alarms didn’t stop. We already know how to distinguish between the explosion of a rocket strike, and the explosion from an interception and we understand that we were only hearing rocket strikes….
Without thinking twice, even though we are both religious and keep Shabbat, we started the car and drove towards the smoke that was rising near us. We scanned the area, there were no casualties, and we worked alongside civilians with a water hose to extinguish the fire. We waited for about 20 minutes for the fire department to arrive. When they arrived we innocently asked them why they were delayed and they answered that there are over 15 fires in the city due to rocket strikes… for the first time we began to understand the magnitude of the event.
There was a lull in the alarms so we decided to go to the synagogue. While praying, a round of alarms started and we heard falls. My husband Moti, a volunteer paramedic at MDA, started receiving messages on his phone, every minute someone else entered the synagogue and shouted at us: “What are you doing here? There are terrorists, there are explosions, there are rocket strikes, go home!” We debated whether to lock the doors or get out, there was a rumor that there were terrorists inside the city.
It was clear to Moti and I that we were going to the station to take a first-response ambulance. We tried to leave the synagogue and every moment an alarm sounded, we went back inside, shielded ourselves, waited 10 minutes, left and the alarm sounded again. Like this back and forth many times. We finally managed to get to the car, but the whole ride to the station, alarms sounded. The trip lasted 40 minutes, when on a normal day it lasts 10 minutes, or less.
Dispatch sent us out quickly on to the front line. We treated several cases and then we arrived at Kochav Michael, where we treated gunshot wounds, soldiers, police officers. Everyone who came, was met by an ambulance team who stabilized their condition in the field, evacuated them to a hospital and then returned.
On the way from Ashdod we saw Ashkelon, covered in smoke, ruined. My husband and I are from Ashkelon and it was hard to see our city destroyed. Destroyed vehicles, smoke everywhere, entire neighborhoods without shelters. I saw rockets fall and I knew that they probably fell on a house and someone was hurt. There is nowhere to go, no way to defend yourself. I prayed and hoped that everything would be fine. Our neighbor, who lives right in opposite our house, suffered a direct hit. He lost both his legs and died in the hospital. While we were outside the city and we were evacuating the wounded – in our neighborhood a real disaster happened. It was hard to believe that this is our city, that this is what happened in it, it was terrible.
We were approached by a driver who signaled us to stop and help him, we discovered a large number of bodies. Motti, the driver and me, started taking bodies down to pathology and no one understanding what was going on. The pathology rooms were overflowing with numbers I have never been exposed to. We also saw bodies of children, women, in unimaginable numbers.
After we finished removing all the bodies, a military ambulance arrived there, we opened the doors and were amazed to see another huge pile of bodies. The whole thing is full from floor to ceiling. We understood that as long as there are no emergency calls or Red Alert sirens we stay to help. Language needs us. We started unloading bodies, while I unlocked my phone to let my mother know we were fine and then I saw messages about hostages, captive fighters, many dead. One big mess. This is how we continued the shift until the end of Shabbat. We cared for the living and paid our last respects to the dead.
Someone who arrived in a private vehicle said that he held the handle of the safe room and almost passed out from the pain, he held the door for so long while the terrorists tried to open it. At the last moment, just before he passed out, they left the door and he was saved. He said that he went out and saw his neighbors and friends dead, picked them up with his car and came with them to pathology. Truly stories of heroism. This was our October 7th that hit us so hard.
The event that is engraved in my memory was the case in which we treated the security officer of Kibbutz Gevim. He got up in the morning, left his family, went to the gate to fight and saved his family, entire families and his community. Even though he was injured, he sat with me in the ambulance, wanted to check that the security response team were fine, but he was still there, he’s still alert – but he’s not with us. He doesn’t care that he’s in the ambulance, in pain, he doesn’t feel anything. He only cares about them. He took out the phone to call them and I stopped him and suggested calling his wife, telling her that he’s fine, that he’s alive, to check on the children. I tried to remind him that it’s behind him, that he’s being taken care of now. That he did his part, saved the community and that he’s a great hero, we tried to make him feel again, the feeling of warmth, what he needed. We were seeing a hero with our own eyes, there are no words.
One of the strongest things I saw that day was the unity that existed, even at the meeting points and in the hospitals, the war had not yet started and there were already centers of people who brought food and drink to the MDA teams, to the hospital teams, some of them came to the station, expressing concern.
There was concern for everyone around, there was unity, and this is one of the most important things, to maintain unity, to be together and take care of each other. Of course we, the security forces, MDA personnel, the police, give the most professional and best response available, we do our job, and the people, those who can do their part, do good. We must maintain unity and togetherness. And with God’s help, I pray that they return all the hostages, that all the injured will return home safe and sound and that everything will be fine. We hope for the best.
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