Filipino caregiver paid off terrorist, saved herself and 95-year-old employer

Camille Jesalva opened wallet, handed over $370 intended for a trip home, and smartphone

Nitza Hefetz with Camille Jesalva. (Shalev Shalom, Yedioth Aharonoth)
Nitza Hefetz with Camille Jesalva. (Shalev Shalom, Yedioth Aharonoth)

A quick-thinking Filipino caregiver saved her life and that of her 95-year-old employer Nitza Hefetz on October 7  by giving a Hamas terrorist who had broken into their Gaza border home the savings she had prepared for a planned trip to the Philippines two days later.

“I opened my wallet and told him to take everything I had, NIS 1,500 ($370), just to save myself and Nitza,” the carer, Camille Jesalva, told the Ynet news site. “I showed him the plane ticket and asked him just not to take that.”

The terrorist then asked if there was more money in the house, in Kibbutz Nirim, and walked around the property, with Jaslava, 31, behind him. He took Jesalva’s smartphone and eventually left.

“It’s a miracle that I stayed alive,” she told Ynet. “I told my mother that I was going to die, and I asked her to send me a picture of my son because I felt that I wouldn’t get out of this alive.”

She has not seen her son, 7, for a year and a half.

Jesalva locked herself and Hefetz in the protected room, where they spent several hours until help arrived.

Having previously worked in Dubai, she understood that the people talking “very aggressively,” first outside the house and then inside, were doing so in Arabic.

Suddenly, she found herself standing in front of the terrorists.

“There were a lot of them, and I was sure they would kill us,” she recalled. “I stood up and said to one of them, ‘Hello sir.’ Then he asked me, ‘Where is the money?'”

Nitza Hefetz, pictured with Camille Jesalva, celebrates her 95th birthday at the Nofim home for seniors in Jerusalem, October 22, 2023. (Facebook/ Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“Nitza woke up and wanted to protest, and he started yelling at her,” she went on. “I was scared, I told her ‘Nitza, please be quiet,’ and I looked at him. I saw that he was getting nervous, and I was even more worried. I told him, ‘Please, sir, she is old and doesn’t understand anything. Please don’t do anything.”

After the terrorists left, the two women remained, hugging each other, in the protected room, until Israeli soldiers arrived.

Jesalva canceled her flight to the Philippines to remain with Hefetz. “I feel like I can’t leave her, like she’s my best friend,” she said. “She trusts me and I trust her. ”

She hopes to fly home in a month.

Hefetz’s daughter, Yael Arieli, 74, who lives on Kibbutz Sha’ar Hagolan in the northern Jordan Valley, said Jesalva had contacted her on that dreadful morning, “very stressed and scared.”

Calling her an angel, she said Jesalva had saved the life of her mother, who has lived on Kibbutz Nirim for 70 years.

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