Four Bedouin men from Rahat saved dozens of Israeli lives on October 7 while deployed by their uncle to evacuate his son Hisham from Kibbutz Be’eri.
As described by Ismail Alqrinawi in an intense 7-minute video produced by the coexistence organization Have You Seen the Horizon Lately, his uncle pointed at his nephews at about 6:45 that Saturday morning and said, “You four, you’re going to bring back my boy.” They immediately got in a jeep and began what normally was a half-hour trip — but this one was amid the Hamas onslaught that killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, throughout the area and decimated the kibbutz’s population.
On their way to Be’eri they entered the area in which the Supernova rave was under attack, near Kibbutz Re’im, and found people running from the party in immediate danger.
“Our conscience wouldn’t allow us to leave them there, under fire. Before we went to evacuate our cousin, we helped many other people who were at the party… we evacuated at least 30-40 people who were at the party,” Alqrinawi said. Some 260 partygoers were slaughtered by Hamas terrorists; dozens were taken hostage.
With each carload of frantic partygoers that they ferried to a safe location, the four men said they hugged them, asked if they were okay, gave them water to calm them down, and washed their faces. One of the cousins made sure that they called their parents.
Then they’d go back to rescue more people.
Recalling the horrors and crying himself, Alqrinawi says he is hit with flashbacks of the piles of corpses at the party and in the nearby fields.
After hours of saving dozens from the party, the four men decided to enter the heaving gunfire near Be’eri and attempt to evacuate their cousin, who was hiding in bushes with a local resident near the kibbutz where he worked in the cafeteria.
The resident, Aya Meydan, had set out early for her regular Saturday morning bike ride. A triathlete, Meydan was set to meet up with her biking partner Lior Weizman, who was biking in from Sderot. Hearing the massive rocket barrage overhead, she checked in with her husband, Omri, who was at home in the kibbutz with their three children. Omri asked her to return home. He wasn’t clear on the details, but it was dangerous to be outside.
She canceled her ride with Weizman in a text that would be her final communication with the Ironman trainee, who was shot and killed as he reentered Sderot.
As Meydan was about to enter the kibbutz, she was flagged down by Hisham, who explained that terrorists had infiltrated, killing everyone in sight, including children. The pair fled on foot, intending to find shelter through a bike route Meydan was familiar with. She was updated by her brother, however, that cyclists had been shot there as well. They were surrounded. They lay in the thorny bushes and Hisham contacted his father.
“We heard the terrorists on the road; they were riding motorcycles, cars, quads, tractors with plows. Helicopters were flying in the sky. Gunshots, red smoke in every direction, a strong shock wave from something that exploded right next to us,” wrote Meydan in a blog post days after the event. “I now know that a grenade was tossed into the bomb shelter where I had been standing just a moment earlier, and killed the people inside. The smell of fire filled the air. All kinds of rockets and shells passed by us and above us, and I knew we couldn’t get up.”
They lay there for hours, hearing constant gunfire. The cousins checked in and reassured the pair that they were on their way, which Meydan said offered them hope. As the four men finally approached their area, they sent an image showing their location. She recounted that Hisham told her, “Aya, they’re here, they’re actually here.” It was already after noon.
The cousins opened the car doors and Aya and Hisham ran inside. But after driving less than a minute, IDF soldiers surrounded the vehicle with guns drawn. The men shouted, “No no no. We’re Israeli citizens! Don’t shoot!”
“I left the vehicle, I fell on the ground next to the car and I screamed, ‘Don’t shoot!'” said Meydan. In an audio recording made at that moment, she cried and said mournfully, “When will this be over?!” Meydan was asked by a soldier whether she was kidnapped. She said, “No, I’m from Be’eri and they came from Rahat to get us out of there.”
Ismail said that in that tense moment, when the threat came from Israeli soldiers, “I didn’t only think about my children, I also thought about my mother.”
“The Bedouin are people of the land. They know the area well and knew exactly where to go. Along the way, we saw abandoned and burnt cars, and ruins with no signs of life. The horizon toward the Gaza border communities was full of smoke and seemed entirely destroyed. Terrorists were detained at intersections, blindfolded, next to large military forces who apprehended them,” recounted Meydan in the blog.
The family took her to the Ofakim police station, but after spending hours in a shelter, she and other survivors, including many from the Supernova rave, were put on buses to Beersheba due to the ongoing threats in Okakim. Her husband, Omri, and their children were still awaiting evacuation from their Be’eri saferoom, which only came the next day.
On the bus, Meydan received a phone call from the cousins. “Aya, we’re not going to leave you all alone,” said the men. But she said she couldn’t leave the packed bus, which pulled out. Along the way, they phoned her again and said, “Look out your window.” She did, and found her saviors accompanying her.
“If you can’t get off the bus, we’ll drive next to you. We’re here,” they said.
The video was created by the NGO Have You Seen the Horizon Lately, which was co-founded and headed by Shir Nosatzki. In a Channel 13 interview five years ago, she explained that the genesis of the organization came from a group of young Israeli and Palestinian activists who decided to make “hopeful” creative content that shows the possibility of coexistence.
“Optimism is not a dirty word,” said Nosatzki.
In less than 24 hours, the Hebrew video, directed by Nosatzki’s husband, Regev Contes, garnered hundreds of thousands of views. The English subtitled version, released somewhat later, is well on its way to viral status as well.
As one viewer succinctly put it, “This is the only thing bringing me hope; a drop of light during these dark days.”