Evyatar Hogeg woke up to rocket sirens in Tel Aviv at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 7. Soon, he was seeing television reports and social media posts that Hamas terrorists from Gaza had infiltrated Israel.
“We thought that maybe 15 or 20 terrorists got in,” Hogeg said.
But then came a message on his family WhatsApp group from his younger sister Ellay Golan that she, her husband Ariel Golan, and their 18-month-old daughter Yael were in the saferoom in their Kfar Aza home and hearing gunshots outside.
Thousands of Hamas terrorists burst through the border that morning and ravaged southern communities, killing more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians, and sparking war. Israel has so far informed the families of 199 Israelis that they are being held hostage by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.
At Kfar Aza, a kibbutz of around 765 residents located 5 kilometers (3 miles) east of northern Gaza, the entire civil defense team was killed. In total, more than 70 kibbutz members were murdered by the terrorists.
The injured from Kfar Aza count among the 4,562 injured Israelis who have been treated at hospitals since October 7.
The Golans survived the onslaught. However, they were critically injured and evacuated by helicopter to the National Burns Center at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. The terrorists had set fire to their home with them inside.
As of October 18, Ellay was still sedated and intubated. Ariel was breathing on his own and slightly improved. Their daughter was in the pediatric intensive care unit and was doing better.
“We told them to stay put, breathe, and lock their doors and windows. We were in contact with them during the whole ordeal, asking them every couple of minutes what was going on,” Hogeg said as he recalled the events of that accursed morning.
“They reported that they were still hearing weapons being fired. Hundreds of terrorists were out there in the community shooting AK-47s,” he said.
Hours went by as Hogeg and other family members tried to reassure the Golans and keep them calm.
“Ellay — who finished medical school and was about to start working as a doctor — texted me that she was utterly afraid. She had never been so scared in her life. I tried to support her in any way I could and told her not to worry, that I was certain that the army was on the way and would be there any second,” Hogeg recounted.
“Then around 1 o’clock, her husband texted me, ‘Pray for us. They are inside. Bring the army. Bring the police. We love you all. Thank you very much.’ That was the last we heard from them,” he said.
The Hogeg family was in shock. They scrambled to contact anyone they could think could help — police, friends who were IDF officers, the media.
After many hours, Hogeg’s mother finally received word that her daughter and family were alive but injured. The family assumed that the Golans had been taken to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.
When the Golans arrived at Sheba they were still conscious and able to give hospital staff their identity numbers and Hogeg’s phone number.
“They called me and I rushed over. I never drove so fast in my life,” Hogeg said.
He was received by a social worker in the hospital and taken to see his sister in the emergency ward.
“I saw her for just a few seconds. I pulled back the curtain. I saw an image that I will never forget,” a shaken Hogeg said.
He then ran to see his niece, who was also in critical condition.
“After imagining that Hamas terrorists had murdered my baby niece, I was relieved to see her. But seeing her as she came in burned alive was really hard,” he said.
Pediatric ICU physician Dr. Reut Kassif told The Times of Israel that Yael came in with extensive burns, but her condition was improving.
“She had second- and third-degree burns on 30 percent of her body surface. She was critically ill and was sedated and intubated, but now she is improving and awake,” Kassif said.
Yael’s grandparents have been by her side the whole time, and now that she is awake, more members of the extended family are with her and hug her.
She, along with another 12 of the most critical pediatric patients, were transferred on October 9 to an underground hospital area at Sheba.
At this point, her parents are faring less well. As Hogeg hopes and prays for their recovery, he wants the world know the truth about what happened on October 7.
“I just want to say that anyone who commits these atrocities are not people who want freedom. These are people who are asking for blood — Jewish blood,” Hogeg said.
He also thinks that something positive might eventually come out of the tragedy that has befallen his family, the south, and the whole country.
“Whatever happens, we are waking up in a different country. It’s not going to be the same Israel. And maybe, just maybe it’s going to be a good thing — a loving Israel, a united Israel,” he said.
Friends of the Golan family have started a crowdsourcing campaign to support their road to recovery.