A lifelong resident of Kibbutz Magen, Nadav (last name withheld) has long been accustomed to hearing sirens and booms as a result of Gaza rocket fire. But at 6:30 a.m. on October 7, he sensed something was different. More rockets than usual were being launched from the Strip, only four and a half kilometers away.
As the sirens went off in the kibbutz of 350 residents, the elementary school teacher and his family entered their safe room. He had no idea that he would soon find himself in direct battle with Hamas terrorists, he told The Times of Israel from his hospital bed at Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv.
Nadav said he survived that face-to-face confrontation with an injury to his right arm and extensive physiotherapy ahead of him. Fortunately, his wife and three children, aged eight, 11, and 12, remained secure in their fortified room. The family members had to wait two days until they were finally evacuated out of the kibbutz, which only then had been declared free of terrorists.
“The terrorists came in uniform, armed to the teeth, and well-equipped. They were military in every respect,” Nadav said.
The Times of Israel met Nadav in the orthopedic unit at Sheba Medical Center, where he recounted what happened that Saturday morning when over 1,500 terrorists infiltrated Israel and carried out a devastating attack on more than 20 towns and rural communities.
According to the latest information, over 1,300 Israelis were killed and 3,715 injured on October 7 and in the ensuing days of fighting. At least 199 Israelis are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.
Unlike many other communities, in Magen the civil defense team was able to fend off the Hamas terrorists, who entered after they blowing up the kibbutz’s border fence. One member of the kibbutz, Avi Fleischer, was killed. All other residents survived.
“I am a volunteer member of our kibbutz’s civil defense team and I got a message to grab my gear. When I met up with the other members of the team, we could already see figures inside the kibbutz and there were cars and motorcycles driving near the perimeter of the community,” Nadav recalled.
He thought that perhaps it was IDF soldiers who had arrived, so he called out to them.
“Instead of replying with words, they answered with bullets,” he said.
The terrorists were already 20-30 meters inside the kibbutz. Members of the civil defense team spread out opposite the attackers and a firefight ensued.
“The kibbutz security coordinator arrived in his car and was on high ground. His car was hit by an anti-tank missile. He managed to roll his car backward to lower ground near me and open the door and throw himself out and shout that he was injured,” Nadav said.
“I saw that he had a hole in his leg and I tried to drag him to safety, but then the car got hit again. Once things calmed down a bit I was able to drag him behind one of the car’s wheels,” he said.
Nadav took cover nearby and continued the fight from there. At a certain point, when he tried to use his weapon, he realized that his hand wasn’t listening to his brain — he couldn’t use the gun. Then he comprehended that his arm had been thrown over his shoulder and was on his back. He brought it forward and put it on his weapon, but he couldn’t fire.
“I took cover and dragged myself to the patio of a nearby home and covered myself in laundry that was there. Another member of the civil defense team saw what happened and came over and put a tourniquet on my arm and then continued to fight,” Nadav recounted.
“Members of our team were coming over to ask me to give them magazines because they were out of bullets. I just asked them to leave me with one magazine in my weapon and cock it so I could defend myself,” he said.
After more than an hour, kibbutz medical staff reached him. He and three other wounded were driven to Revivim, a kibbutz half an hour south of Beersheba. They took the longer, less direct way in a bid to avoid running into more terrorists.
“Fortunately we didn’t encounter any, but we saw dead bodies along the road,” he said.
Nadav was evacuated from Revivim by ambulance to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, and then on to Sheba, the largest medical center in Israel with nearly 2,000 beds, and 10,400 employees. A Sheba spokesman said that 265 injured people had been brought to the hospital since the beginning of the war.
It wasn’t until Saturday evening that Nadav was able to reach his wife to let her know he was not in life-threatening danger. She had no idea what his status was, only knowing that two people from Magen had been injured and one had been killed.
Nadav had tried to call his wife when he was hiding during the battle with the terrorists, but his phone wasn’t working.
“It looked like it had been hit by a bullet or a piece of shrapnel. It probably saved my right testicle,” he noted.
It was only when he woke up in Soroka and was able to tell the staff who he was that they were able to connect him to his wife.
A week and a day after that devastating morning, Nadav said he was pleased to have a reporter visit him in his hospital room. He looked tired after surgery to repair four open fractures between his shoulder and elbow caused by shrapnel from a rocket.
He said he expected to undergo more surgery in the coming days to close his wound and to have to work hard to regain sensation and movement in the arm, as a major nerve had been damaged. Fortunately, major blood vessels were intact.
Dana Shira Garai, a music therapist, was also by Nadav’s bedside. She played her guitar and sang songs like “Am Yisrael Chai” (The People of Israel Live) for him.
She also took out her Tibetan singing bowl and struck it gently over and over, chanting and speaking softly to Nadav as he lay with his eyes closed, trying to relax.
“You have gone through a very hard experience, but you’re all right. You saved people and now you can rest and take the time to heal,” Garai told him in harmony with the bowl’s lulling tone.