Residents of Kibbutz Nir Oz on Tuesday returned to their devastated community to set a dinner table with posters honoring those murdered and taken captive during Hamas’s October 7 shock onslaught on southern Israel.
Natalie Madmon, whose mother Ofelia Roitman was one of some 240 hostages taken by the terrorists from Gaza-adjacent communities, told Channel 12 news she knows every family in the kibbutz. She was placing the photos of victims “as they would sit if they were here.”
The dining hall is “the center of life where everyone comes, workers, students, young and old,” she said.
Channel 12 also showed kibbutz residents placing stickers reading “kidnapped” or “murdered” on mailboxes belonging to victims of the onslaught.
According to the report, 38 people were confirmed killed in the kibbutz, and 75 were abducted. These statistics mean that Nir Oz is home to nearly a third of the estimated 243 hostages currently confirmed to be in Gaza.
Residents have been living since at a hotel in the Dead Sea but plan to temporarily move to a neighborhood of the southern city of Kiryat Gat until the kibbutz is rehabilitated and the war is over.
Madmon told the network that she had been in touch with her mother in the early morning of October 7, as gunmen swarmed through the homes and community, killing, assaulting, and abducting dozens of people.
At 9:30 a.m., she received a text saying everything was ok, then seven minutes later, a voice message arrived. “They’re here. Please, they’re here,” Roitman said.
“Life will only return when the hostages come back, now,” Madmon said.
Yael Ben Ezra, whose father Said was murdered and mother Adina was kidnapped, said that she felt she needed to set aside her grief in order to come back to the kibbutz and set up the dining hall.
“There’s a huge gap between my desire to be with him, to grieve in silence, and… my feeling that this is his will, to fight for her,” she said.
Dozens of communities, Nir Oz among them, were forced to evacuate due to the war, which began on October 7 when hordes of Hamas terrorists from Gaza invaded Israel, massacring some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and abducting at least 240 men, women, and children, who are being held captive in Gaza.
The attack came under the cover of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli population centers. Israel has responded with a military campaign and vowed to eradicate Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.