The IDF’s ground war in Gaza to root out the Hamas perpetrators of the Oct 7 terror attack has prompted demonstrations as casualties and the death toll mounts. As tensions continue to mount, groups of benefactors have focused on not allowing Oct 7 to be dismissed. After 45 minutes of gruesome footage shot by terrorists was shown in Hollywood and New York, some survivors are being flown to Hollywood to speak. That happened Saturday at the home of producer Lawrence Bender, and more than 100 gathered to hear the experiences of several survivors. One was Ella Shani, a 14-year old survivor of the attack on her Kubbutz Be’eri. Her father and neighbors were murdered, and her 16 year old cousin was kidnapped and is being held hostage. Another is Tomer Peretz, an Israel American artist on holiday in Israel when he volunteered with the Zaka-Rapid response unit of volunteers for mass casualty disasters, and was one of the first men to witness the carnage. The third was Ariel Ein-Gal, who was on the beach asleep when the missiles started pounding the beach, and suddenly terrorists landed by boat, firing AK-47s at him and his friends. Here is Ariel’s account of his harrowing experience, written as a guest column for Deadline.
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My name is Ariel.
I’m studying computer science & linguistics at BGU.
I served at the IDF for three years as a combat commander in the gunners battalion. I finished my service 5 years ago.
I’m also a former bartender.
The pub I worked at was my second home for the last year and a half, and I left it just 2 days before.
On October 6th, me and the staff of the bar, went to Zikkim beach to celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of the academic year.
We also got together to say goodbye from those who left the bar, me and Mor included. I will tell you about Mor in a bit.
We brought everything:
Generator, lights, food, drinks and even a DJ to make it an official party.
We had a great time, so much that we closed the music at 6am.
I drank a lot that night, so obviously I fainted around 3:30am.
At 6:30 we woke up to sounds of explosions and Red Alarms automatic calls. Here is a video my friend took:
It was crazy. I’m originally from Ma’alot in the northern border of Israel, so during the second Lebanon war in 2006 we got bombed. a lot. One rocket even burned down my grandpa’s bakery. And I was only 9 years old.
But the bombing on October 7th was something else. I never saw anything like it. They fired hundreds of rockets at us within minutes. We found sort of shelters between two containers that blocked the sprays of the rocket from the north and south. We were still vulnerable from east west and from above, but it’s better than nothing.
For 20 minutes we hid there. Praying, hoping and occasionally telling a joke to light the situation such as “when the alarm stops everyone stays to clean! No one runs home!”
We really thought it’s gonna be over in a few minutes.
Until we saw the boats.
Three boats crossing the sea from south to north, moving straight towards us, maybe 50m from the coast.
I remember myself following them with my head like this
And thinking to myself
“Who are they? Our commandos? Hamas?”
Then they started shooting at us.
It was hell.
We shouted “Terrorists! Run!” And began to run away east, as far from the beach as we could get.
We ran half a kilometer, barefooted, drunk and terrified.
At that time the terrorists mounted the coast and started to slaughter everyone.
Fisherman who comes to that beach every Saturday for the last 30 years. Fathers and sons, friends, a couple of soldiers we was the night before sitting together playing backgammon and having fun, and
Even two 17 year old kids that came to sleep at the beach with a tent. They told their parents that they sleeping at the home of a friend. You know how it is when it comes to teens’ love.
They murdered everyone.
While we ran we heard everything. Every bullet they fired and every grenade they threw at innocent civilians.
We ran as fast as could until we got to our cars that were parked near Zikkim military base, that hosted at the moment 90 combat rookies, 14 of the rookies’ staff, and 2 civilians that voluntarily came to the base the night before to celebrate with the soldiers Simhat Tora, to make it feel a little bit like home.
We talked about it. Should we get out of here? Or should we go to the base? What is more safe? We chose the base.
It was the right call, but we didn’t know it at the moment. All the other roads were filled with terrorists that shot everyone.
At first, the guard at the entrance didn’t let us in. They knew that terrorists infiltrated into Israel, and they also knew that the first terrorists that attacked the other entrance came dressed up as soldiers, wearing zizit and kippa. So obviously she didn’t trust us.
We begged her, screaming at her that everyone at the beach is dead and we ran from there.
She believed us and opened the gate.
We found shelter and hid.
Here is some videos and photos from the shelter:
I started to debrief the soldier
What is your name? Lia
How old are you? 18
How long you are in the army? A month
You know how to use that gun? Sort of
So I took her gun and guarded the shelter.
20 minutes later, her officer and 2 commanders from her staff came to our shelter
One of the commanders took Lia to the place they hid all the rookies.
The officer, Yanai Kaminka calmed us down and briefed us of what our next steps will be if something will happen.
We felt safe.
Not long after, Yanai left us to join his friends fight and died there.
He left us in the capable hands of Yariv, Lia’s commander, who shot down two terrorists just 2 minutes before he got to our shelter.
We stayed there for 2 hours.
47 missiles exploded in the base during that time. We heard everything. even the fight and the bullet sounds inside the base.
Silent, alerted, terrified. No one was drunk anymore at that point. All the adrenalin kicked in and our mindset changed to survival mode.
We called the police, the rescue forces and even to the firefighters and no one answered us. We felt completely abandoned for 2 whole hours. No one knows we are here! No one is coming for us!
I will tell you something I only had the courage to tell my mom couple of days ago,
When I was there, I accepted my death.
I convinced myself “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” You will get shot and die. And that’s it, it will not hurt and you will not feel it.
I saw some of my friends writing goodbye letters to their parents, but i couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. If I’ll survive this, then she worried and her world collapsed for a few hours, a feeling I would never wish to anyone. And if I’ll not survive this, at least she had a couple hours more without knowing that fact.
Weird, I know, but at those moments your mind is going to strange places.
When those 2 hours passed, the bombing and bullets sounds got closer, maybe 30-40m from us.
So we decided to run.
That was the time to get to the cars and ran away.
So that’s what we did.
The second we got out, the terrorist from the bushes came out and started shooting at us. Yariv, the commander shot him in the head instantly and killed the son of a bitch.
The first 3 cars out of 6 got on the way.
I was in one of the third car.
We didn’t know the road, so we accidentally drove to the Gaza border, when we realized it we turned around and got back. We asked ourselves if it’s a sign and we need to get back to the base and find another way. Well, we were already on the road, so let’s go all the way.
And we did, we found another exit and drove there.
130 km/h on agricultural roads and fields.
At the end of one field we saw two big white Savannas that was parked facing us.
I shouted to the driver to slow down! It’s cops! They will shoot us if we will come at them that fast!
He slowed down, just a bit to 80-90km/h
30m from the cars we saw a dead body, all dressed up in black, similar to the police uniforms.
It wasn’t a dead body, and he was not a cop.
The dead body suddenly woke up and started shooting at us, at the same time his squad started shooting at us from the side. It was hell.
For 4-5 seconds they just kept shooting.
We lowered our head and drove away from them. In that moment I really believed I’m dead. It’s like the movies. I got shot and I don’t feel it. That’s it. I’m done. I ran my hands on every inch of my body to see where the bullets hit.
They didn’t. I’m okay.
My friend Irena, who sat to my right screamed “I’m shot!”
I looked at her and saw her hand filled with blood. I thought, she is gonna die. Apparently, a bullet scratched her finger and missed her, so Irena is also ok.
I looked, everyone is okay. 5 people in the car and everyone is okay.
We kept driving until we saw the ambulances and the police officers. We stopped to give them the details, where the terrorists are and where are our friends.
I saw blood coming from Irena’s back. I moved her shirt and saw a bullet hole,
She didn’t even noticed it until I saw it.
The ambulance took her and we drove home.
In the meantime, the second car drove through the Gaza border and got home okay.
The first car drove the same road as us and encountered the terrorists as well.
They shot at the car and one of the bullets hit Ahiad’s (my friend’s) leg.
They drove past them and felt safe,
Until the car started to catch fire.
They left it and hid in an old broken building they found in the fields.
They hid there for 20 minutes, while rockets and drones keeps exploding near them. At some point they heard a car and ran to the road and screamed for help.
The soldiers inside the car took them, and placed an artery block on his leg until they brought him to the ambulance.
When I met him the day after, I asked him:
Why did you got out? We just saw terrorists dressed as cops, they have infiltrated everywhere and you can trust no one? He said “I’d lost a lot of blood, staying there would have definitely kill me, I decided to take the risk.”
We called the other cars and told them to turn around because we just got shot, and they turned around and returned to the base.
They stayed there for 8 hours until the army came to pick them up.
We all got home safely.
Maybe it was a miracle, or a divine intervention, or just dumb luck. I believe we will never know.
We are still in shock, talking about it and getting together often to be there for each other.
You remember I told you about Mor earlier?
Well, she was there with us that night.
Mor was a cook at the bar, and she also quit her job at the bar, just a few days before.
So she came to the party to say goodbye.
She stayed until 6:10am, just 10 minutes before it all started.
So the red alert alarms caught her on the way home.
She lived all of her life in the south, so hearing alarms was kind of routine for her.
So she did what she knows; she stopped the car near a shelter and hid in it.
She hid there and called me and other friends to warn us, but we were already running for our lives.
Around 6:50 she left the shelter to drive home and at that time all of the roads were compromised.
They found her and slaughtered her.
Right on the spot. Like it was nothing. And they continued to murder people.
We found her body a couple of days later.
Who would believe that being there, on the beach, caught inside a living hell, was more safe for her then driving home to her mom in the roads she knows for the last 30 years.
I promised her mom and myself that I will carry this day with me until I die, and I will tell everyone what happens that day to Mor.
And how we managed to survive against all odds, while everyone else that was on Zikkim coast was murdered. 35 people died there, but 20 survived.
For all of that, I made that tattoo, for myself, for my friends and for Mor.
21 of us came to the party, but only 20 of us got back.
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