ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 288

Tamar Noy. (Dafna Talmon)
Tamar Noy. (Dafna Talmon)

'Yes, awful things happened, but there were millions of miracles. Just the fact that we get up in the morning and breathe is a miracle'

Tamar Noy, married mother of five and grandmother of 25 who was evacuated to Netanya ● This is her story

This is part of a series, “Uprooted.” Each column is a curated monologue from an individual among the tens of thousands of internally displaced Israelis during the war with Hamas who were evacuated from the country’s northern border and the Gaza envelope. This article was originally published in Hebrew on Zman Yisrael on March 30.

Saturday, October 7

I was woken in the morning by a terrible and constant volley of rockets. I don’t remember anything like it because there has never been anything like it on Kibbutz Alumim. That morning, we were celebrating Simhat Torah, and my husband Yair, who always leaves early for the synagogue, had to go through the dining room to check a few things that had been prepared for kiddush (a blessing said over wine on Shabbat and Jewish holidays) after prayers.

On the way to the dining room, he was met by Zvika, a member of Alumim’s emergency response team, who told him to run home, get into the bomb shelter, and lock all the doors because there were terrorists in the kibbutz.

Yair and I are the founders of Alumim. We’ve already been through a conflict with Gaza once or twice and we don’t like the bomb shelter. Every time there was a red alert in the past, we would stop, count to 10, hear an explosion, and move on. This time, we locked the front door, got into the bomb shelter, and closed the door behind us.

And then Yair realized that there were gunshots and terrorists, so he needed to turn his phone on. It turns out that there’s a permanent order that says at least one person in the house has to leave their phone on over Shabbat. We didn’t know about this order, but Yair said that the situation required us to have a phone on.

We got messages from the local security team telling us to stay in the bomb shelter. We didn’t want to make calls on Shabbat, but my daughter, Yael, called upset and asked, “Mom, how are you two? In Be’eri, it’s a disaster, a holocaust!” And then one after the other, our kids began to call and tell us about Be’eri, Kfar Aza, and Nahal Oz — the three kibbutzim near Alumim.

Images of Kibbutz Alumim, March 2024. (Dafna Talmon)

Very soon we began to hear gunshots from revolvers and then automatic weapons and realized that it was the terrorists. It sounded serious. From time to time, we got messages updating us that the emergency response team was working and a repeated order to stay in the bomb shelters because there was a war outside.

At some point, they announced that a few of the emergency response team members had been injured, but because we’re not usually scared, we went out for a minute, made kiddush, ate something, and went back into the bomb shelter. We didn’t turn on the light or any other electronics other than the phone we were using to receive important messages and talk to the kids.

At 1 p.m., our daughter Ayala called to ask how we were doing. I told her I didn’t know, that there was a war outside, and I was trying to sleep. And then we heard terrible gunfire nearby.

At around the same time, the army arrived, and, together with the emergency response team, they went from house to house to see how the residents were doing. Some people hid so well that they didn’t hear the soldiers knocking on the door.

Thirty terrorists invaded Alumim and were repelled by our emergency response team. A battle was waged from 6:30 until noon when the IDF arrived. When their attempts to get to the residential area failed, the terrorists went to the barn and murdered 23 foreign workers from Nepal and Thailand, took eight of them hostage, and then burned the silo and the dairy.

The foreign workers called their managers and said, “Come, Gaza is here,” but because of the fighting, it was difficult to get to them and treat the wounded.

Kibbutz Alumim’s dairy barn burns after being attacked by terrorists on October 7, 2023. (Stevie Marcus)

Back to the roots

At 1 a.m. on Sunday, Ayala called and said, “Get up, you need to prepare a suitcase. You’re being evacuated at 3 to Tiberias.” At 2:50, we were told the evacuation was being delayed by a few hours so I went back to sleep. At 8 a.m., they announced that whoever wanted to take their car could join a convoy leaving at 8:30. We stayed and waited for the evacuation by bus.

At around 3 p.m., we got on the bus and were asked to close the curtains so we wouldn’t see the horrors. Whoever drove their cars, saw everything. On the way out of Alumim, they announced we were going to a hotel in Netanya.

Netanya is the city I was born and grew up in. I married Yair when I was 21. We were in Bnei Akiva and met in Kibbutz Sa’ad where I was trained to found a kibbutz. In September of 1966, eight months before the Six Day War, we moved to Alumim.

While I was in Bnei Akiva, my friends went to study at university. Wordy subjects were never for me. Whatever information I needed to read books to get, stayed in books.

It was clear to me that I was going to a kibbutz, and my mother, who saw all my friends studying, said I was wasting my time and why aren’t any of my friends being pushovers like me and going to work in a kibbutz for free? But it was what I wanted. We founded Alumim from nothing. We lived in huts. There was an unplowed field, an orchard, and we sowed wheat and reaped it for silage.

Before the war, the kibbutz’s image changed with a decision to privatize services in the kibbutz. And now, after October 7, it’s obviously not the same kibbutz, and might never be again, but our family helps a lot.

A general view of the coastal city of Netanya, on January 14, 2024. (Shahar Yaari/Flash90)

Before the war, during the protests against the judicial reform, I cut ties with relatives who spoke unkindly about people in my family who didn’t hold similar opinions to them. I told them that I wouldn’t take part in those conversations and left the WhatsApp group. Now, when I have gained a newfound appreciation for the importance of family, I have asked to be added back in.

Five months in a hotel

Back to Sunday: At 7 p.m., we reached the hotel in Netanya in a state of shock. At the entrance, we were met by members of Bnei Akiva singing “Am Israel Chai” (the People of Israel live). The hotel staff welcomed us outstandingly and gave us wonderful service and good conditions. God protects us. We had so many miracles that Saturday.

We took a suitcase of clothes and medication for three days, and no one brought clothes for Shabbat. Very quickly, we started to get deliveries of clothes from good people from across the country. Our statesmen are the low of the low, but the People of Israel embraced us with warmth.

We split up into two hotels — a hotel for older people and apartments for families with children. Some families left the hotel and found apartments in the area to stay in the schools that were set up in Netanya for children from Alumim. The municipality, Bnei Akiva, and the community centers helped set up the school.

In the first few weeks, one of our kids or grandchildren came to visit every day. The visits strengthened us and deepened my understanding of how significant family is. On my birthday, everyone came to the hotel and gave me a board with photos.

Our children (Ayala, Yael, Michal, Ofer, and David) asked what we do all day in the hotel, but we weren’t in the room all the time. We went to the synagogue, to the laundry, for a walk on the beach, or shopping and we made sure to always have an afternoon nap.

Tamar and Yair Noy in Kibbutz Alumim, March 2024. (Dafna Talmon)

The days passed and were full of activities, and there were two social workers, one of whom, wonderful Ayelet, would come to the hotel at 7 a.m. and stay forever. We had to send her home by force at the end of the day. We were given emotional support, and twice a week, a doctor came to the hotel.

I have only good words to say about Netanya, my hometown, about the municipality who was helpful, about the social workers, the residents, and the discounts we got as evacuees.

After two weeks in the hotel, Yair went mad. At the kibbutz, he was the Kashrut supervisor in the kitchen, volunteered in the Defense Ministry with bereaved families, and drove patients from Gaza to the hospitals in Israel as part of The Road to Recovery which Yael leads.

A social worker invited us to volunteer at the Netanya municipality for two hours a day. While Yair was there, I would open the patient bed in my room and give treatments to the women from the kibbutz, the female staff at the hotel, and the women from Kiryat Shmona who had also evacuated there. For 25 years, I’ve been studying different alternative treatments, including bioargonomy. It did me good to be able to treat people.

The crisis with Gaza

When Israel was founded 76 years ago, we hadn’t come to a perfect country and weren’t promised anything. Suddenly, we find ourselves once again at war for our independence. You need to understand, they don’t want us. They want us dead in the sea. We need to fight, not defend. Fight!

Some time ago, an exemplary educator came over and told us that he was angry at Hamas because he blamed it for the fact that he has no mercy for the children in Gaza now. We saw what happened, we saw the mob wait on the hill opposite and wait to storm, rob, rape, and loot us, but they understood that we fight, and I really think that in the places where the residents put up a fight, the Gazans moved on.

Palestinians line up for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 16, 2024. (AP/Fatima Shbair)

I always knew the Palestinians were our enemies. We cannot keep living in delusion. They don’t accept Israel’s existence as fact. True, not all of them are murderers, but we have to recognize that they are enemies, and enemies need to be fought.

We gave them too much priority, and the time has come for us to learn what we don’t want to as if we’re peaceful people from America and don’t live in the Middle East. For 76 years, we’ve wanted this war to end, but it isn’t ending, and I don’t see how it will.

On October 7, we got a call from Noha’s father, Hamid. Noha is like Yair’s granddaughter from Gaza. At the age of six, she was transplanted with a kidney that her mother donated to her, and now she’s 13 and constantly undergoes treatments.

All those years, once to three times a week, Yair would drive Noha and Hamid from the Erez Crossing to the Schneider Children’s Medical Center as part of his volunteer work with The Road to Recovery. He brought them fruit and sweets. Their souls connected and this has been an awful crisis with mixed emotions.

That Saturday, Hamid called Yair and said, “Take care of yourselves, be careful.” In every conflict, he would call and ask after us, take an interest, and make sure we were okay. This week he called again and told us that Noha went to Europe with her mother through Egypt for treatments.

Visiting home

After the initial shock dissipated a bit, Yair began going to volunteer at an orchard in the kibbutz. On the eighth night of Hanukkah, a special prayer service was held in the synagogue by the IDF Rabbinate for Rosh Hodesh (the first day of the month) Tevet (the fourth Hebrew month). That was an experience. After the service, they held a funeral for kibbutz member, Stevie Marcus, who worked at the dairy and went back to working there five days after the war began.

The entrance to Kibbutz Alumim, March 2024. (Dafna Talmon)

Stevie worked on rehabilitating the kibbutz and explained what needed to be done to volunteers who came to help. One night, he had a heart attack and didn’t get up for work in the morning. I think he died of a broken heart.

After the funeral, our kids organized a celebratory candle lighting in Alumim. Representatives showed up from every part of the family, and it was emotional. We’d never sung “Maoz Zur” (a song sung on Hanukkah about how Jews were saved from those who wanted to hurt them throughout ancient history) like that until the end before, and we were even able to make latkes and get a smell of home. A month after Hanukkah, my daughter-in-law (Ofer’s wife, Michal) organized a family Shabbat in Alumim that everyone came to.

When did you go back to living in the kibbutz?

Two weeks ago. Yair wanted to go back the whole time, but most of the residents weren’t ready. The houses in Alumim were untouched by the terrorists, but the opposition to going back was so strong, that the people didn’t even think about what would happen to those who did want to go back.

So far, 15 families have returned, but they’re only families of older people like us without small children. Some families talked about coming back after Passover which was celebrated this year in the hotel. In the meantime, every Shabbat, one of my kids comes over with food because they don’t trust my cooking.

The kibbutz isn’t completely abandoned. The emergency response team members are always here. The convenience store is open an hour a day and food is brought to the dining room and distributed, so you see some people. The noise of war is constantly all around us, but it’s mostly from the IDF.

The future

I’m not good at seeing the future. I want the present. In my treatment room, which currently stands empty, I have a sign that says, “All of life comes to me easily, joyfully, and full of light.” That’s how I try to live. I try to see the good things and not get hung up on the bad.

Right now, I’m in my office, my place. I never thought of anywhere else and God gave us miracles. Yes, awful things happened, but there were also millions of miracles. I think if you believe, you can see a miracle in everything. Just the fact that we get up in the morning and breathe is a miracle.

I have a close friend, a lovely ultra-Orthodox woman from Beit Shemesh. After October 7, she called to ask how I was doing, and I said, “We were so lucky. God worked so many miracles for us, and the whole time I was asking, ‘What for? Why did they die and we didn’t?'”

My friend responded, “More than Israel kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept them,” [a religious phrase that says that Shabbat protects the Jewish people] and that really touched me.

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