Druze woman hailed for October 7 heroism gives up Independence Day honor after threats

Nasreen Yousef, who helped save her community, Yated, from Hamas massacre by gleaning information from terrorists, tells organizers she has since faced intimidation from Arabs

Nasreen Yousef. (Screenshot taken from Channel 12/Keshet TV, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law).
Nasreen Yousef. (Screenshot taken from Channel 12/Keshet TV, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law).

Nasreen Yousef, who was chosen to light a torch at the Independence Day ceremony for her actions to save her home community during the devastating Hamas terror attack of October 7, has said she will not accept the honor due to threats to her life and her family.

Yousef, a Druze woman, helped to prevent a bloodbath in Yated on the southern Gaza border on October 7 by using her native Arabic to convince terrorists that she would give them money and smuggle them out, while she gathered critical intelligence and passed it to the IDF.

The day after October 7, Nasrin and her family were evacuated from their community along with all those living along the Gaza border, to protect them from the fighting. The Yousefs were eventually moved to the southern resort city of Eilat.

While there, the story of her actions was published in the media and she faced a backlash from Arabs who recognized her, according to letter sent on Yousef’s behalf to the committee in charge of the ceremony. On one occasion, an assailant tore a Star of David pendant from her neck, it said.

“For this reason and in addition to other threats, Nasreen decided with great pain to withdraw her candidacy from this honorable position” so that she would not suffer further harm beyond the events of October 7, “thus also protecting her family members from all media and communication threats,” the letter said.

“Nasreen and [her husband] Eyad give thanks from the bottom of their hearts for the honor given to them to carry a torch and stand where heroes and great intellectuals stood.”

Speaking to Channel 12, Yousef said that “this is our country and we will continue to defend it regardless of whether we light a torch or not.”

“I think there are people who deserve this more than me, and I want to protect my family and myself,” she said.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev, who oversees the ceremony, said in a statement that she was “sorry to hear about Nasreen’s decision to withdraw her candidacy due to threats to her life and the lives of her family,” and would respect her choice.

The 75th anniversary Independence Day ceremony, held at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem on April 25, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Yousef’s actions on October 7 came to light after she recalled them in media interviews earlier this year.

Nasreen, her husband, and their four children live in the predominantly Jewish village of Yated, four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the Israeli border with Gaza and the border with Egypt’s Sinai.

The Yousef home, the closest to Yated’s perimeter fence, was a first stop for Hamas terrorists ordered to attack the community in the early hours of October 7. Eyad went out to fight the attackers as a member of the community security team. Nasreen Yousef said that she went out and confronted one terrorist, unarmed, striking up a conversation with him in Arabic to obtain information about where other attackers were located. Several attackers were captured and then, when the telephone of one rang, Nasreen answered and convinced the caller that she was trying to help the attacks, passing on the information she gleaned from him in Arab to Israeli security forces.

Yousef’s selection as a torch-bearer had become embroiled in controversy, with Hebrew media reports saying that a review by the Yated community security team cast doubt on some elements of the actions she claimed to have taken and to the contribution they made in protecting the community.

An official from the squad told the Ynet news site that while Yousef assisted in the efforts to save the town, “details were added that did not happen,” implying that there may have been some exaggeration. Channel 12 reported that the team had previously sent a letter to Regev raising concerns.

The Independence Day ceremony traditionally features a torch-lighting portion in which 12 Israelis who are considered exemplary citizens are chosen to participate.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev holds a press conference ahead of Israel’s 76th Independence Day Ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, on May 2, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

This year’s torch lighters were selected for their “heroism” on or in relation to October 7, when Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel, killing nearly 1,200 people and taking 252 hostages.

The “rescuers” torch will be lit by civilians who acted outstandingly on that day.

In addition to Yousef, the torch lighters chosen were Youssef Elziadna, a Bedouin minibus driver from Rahat who saved 30 people from the Nova desert rave while one family member of his was killed and four were abducted; Rabbi Shahar Botzhek from Ofakim, who fought against Hamas terrorists even after being injured; and Rami Davidian from Moshav Patish, who led rescue missions on October 7 that saved over 700 people.

Independence Day starts this year on the eve of May 13.

This year’s ceremony comes under the shadow of the ongoing war, with organizers planning a lower-key event than usual.

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