gaza war

Out of the horrors of Be’eri Kibbutz: Death, escape, captivity, determination


Or Gat was celebrating the engagement of friends while his family was sleeping in the early morning of Oct. 7 in the Be’eri Kibbutz in Israel near the Gaza border.

The first reports he heard of the Hamas terrorist attack were that it was missile strikes. But after many attempts to reach family, he finally heard from his dad, Eshel, and he realized the gravity of what took place to his family.

During a conversation at the Young Israel Ohab Zedek of North Riverdale/Yonkers last Sunday night, Gat put the reality of what happened into perspective. More than 1,400 Israelis, including multinationals, were murdered on Oct. 7 and an estimated 240 taken hostage by Hamas terrorists. Nearly 200 residents of Be’eri Kibbutz were murdered or kidnapped.

The day’s events were documented by the killers themselves, who recorded the horrors they perpetrated and posted videos to social media.

“One video showed that first they took my mother (Kinneret). And then a second video showed my mother lying down lifeless,” Or said.

“There were many from our kibbutz who were taken and who died. We know Carmel, my sister, was taken by Hamas. My brother (Alon), my sister-in-law (Yarden Roman Gat) and their daughter (Geffen). They took all three. They shoved them into a car.”

Or Gat’s talk in Riverdale was part of an effort by members of hostage families to publicize what happened in Israel on Oct.7 so the world does not forget, and to pressure governments to push for the release of the captives. Or was invited to speak at YIOZ by the synagogue’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Bini Krauss, who is also principal of the SAR Academy.

The Gat family lost Kinneret, 68, the glue that kept the family together and will be remembered as a guiding force in Or’s life, as he put it. They also live with the torture of having two family members taken hostage — Carmel Gat, 39, and Yarden Roman Gat, 35.

At the same time, two miracles occurred that day for the Gat family. Or’s father survived the bloody rampage through his home and kibbutz and his brother and niece escaped their captors and survived.

“When I finally reached my father, he told me it was a big mess there,” Or said. “He saved himself by locking himself in a bathroom.”

As for his brother, Alon, 37, and niece, Geffen, 3, their story was quite harrowing as they ran from the car they were in.

“They (the Hamas captors) drove about 4 kilometers into Gaza back through the fence where they came,” Or said. “It wasn’t that far. Then the terrorists were distracted by what they thought were IDF.

“That’s when Geffen and her dad jumped out of the car. They went to an IDF army post and tried to hide. They couldn’t find a place to hide.”

He went on to explain how the father and daughter kept moving from bushes and buildings to continue their escape. It took them 15 hours to head back to Israel where they were rescued by a bus, Or said.

In order to keep his daughter busy and less scared, Alon, who was a camping tour guide, decided to make their journey into a camping game, Or told the Riverdale audience.

“At 4 or 5 am they started heading back,” Or said. “He made a phone call to me at 7:20 in the morning. I had only gone to sleep an hour earlier.”

“It’s been impossible for me and others to go home for the simple fact that the defense forces have not been able to do enough,” he said. “Our efforts so far are to spread the news, and that is important.

“We’re going to the media and talking to people all around the world and to those people who can make changes. We want to make sure negotiations take place to free the hostages.”

As part of his speech, Or including a slide that asked audience members to do three things:

  • Connect us with federal officials in the Biden administration
  • Connect us with influential social media personalities to help share our story
  • Pressure your elected officials to enact policy that frees Israel’s hostages as soon as possible.

Rabbi Krauss welcomed Or into the Riverdale Jewish family both before and after his speech.

“To Or, all I want to say to you is everyone here is your family,” the rabbi said. “Everyone is Israel is your family.”

This story was first published in The Riverdale Press.

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