ICEJ Pays Solidarity Visit to Kibbutz Nir Oz

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By: Laurina Driesse

Last week, a delegation of ICEJ staff joined a group of Israeli first responders from ZAKA on a solidarity tour of Kibbutz Nir Oz, one of the hardest hit Jewish communities along the Gaza border last October 7.

This once beautiful and peaceful kibbutz, with a population of 393 people, is situated just 1.6 kilometres from the Gaza border. It was totally overrun and destroyed on that dark Shabbat of October 7th when thousands of Hamas terrorists stormed the Israeli border to carry out their murderous rampage on unsuspecting Israeli civilians.

As the ICEJ team walked around the kibbutz, they were overwhelmed by the magnitude of devastation. Going from house to house, their hearts were touched to see posters of kibbutz members whose homes they were entering but who are now held hostage by Hamas. Besides the dead, nearly a quarter of the kibbutz residents got abducted into Gaza.

The burned houses bear testimony to once a lively community, as remnants of shattered lives lie scattered all around. It is hard to imagine that anyone could survive the devastation, but they did. 


Ron Bahat, a survivor of the Nir Oz terrorist attack, spoke with the ICEJ team. From where they stood in the kibbutz, he points out in the distance to the area where most of the terrorists came from. A simple dirt road in the middle of a field became the main road to destruction and captivity.

Looking around the kibbutz, Ron shares how he spent most of his life living in Nir Oz and how he was there with his family on that deadly day.

“They came to destroy and kill. They killed and kidnapped a hundred people from this beautiful community,” he recounted.


Jonathan Bar, also a survivor of that fateful day, shows our staff where he and his family lived. He shares how the terrorists came into his home, stealing items and unsuccessfully attempting to enter their safe room, where they were hiding from 6:30 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon. His house was not burned down like many others, but it was destroyed.

“They just destroyed everything… just for damage and fun,” expressed Jonathan. “They took everything they could. They even took our suitcases from the shed in order to pack our stuff and take it to Gaza.”

Although it is more than three months since that black Shabbat, for many of the ZAKA volunteers, the trauma of that day is still fresh in their minds. Yossi Landau, ZAKA’s Commander of the southern region, describes to ICEJ Vice President for Aid and Aliyah Nicole Yoder how they collected bodies that were burned, not realising at the time that it was two bodies burned together.

“Only by MRI did we see the two spines,” explained Yossi.

He continued to share how his team arrived in Sderot on October 7th. Their top priority was to save people who were injured and bleeding, and they worked tirelessly in transporting them to a nearby field hospital. Yossi replays how in one vehicle they checked, they discovered the lifeless bodies of a mother and father, but suddenly heard crying.

“The seat was down, and a four-year-old girl was hiding under the seat. When she heard us, she asked us if we were ‘friendly’,” recalls Yossi.

The little girl asked Yossi to prove that he was friendly, and he immediately knew what to say to help her know they were friends: “Shema Israel” (Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.) This is a prayer that every Jew knows and recites.

The challenges that lie ahead in rebuilding Kibbutz Nir Oz and the many other nearby farming villages destroyed on that devastating day are colossal.

“Now the community needs to regroup, agree on the future, build the vision and make it happen…” explained Ron.

“Our hearts are grieved over all we have seen and all we know that these dear families experienced, and they need our help,” Nicole Yoder related after the visit. “We want to help them look to the future. We want to help them rebuild these lives… these precious, precious lives. And we want to say to all our friends around the world, please join with us to help them look towards a better future. To have a future that is hopeful.”

With your help we will bless Kibbutz Nir Oz and all Israelis in crisis.