Southern Israel – my journey into hell

On a material level the attacked Israeli communities will rebuild. At some point the houses will be put back together, the streets will be repaired, and apart from an inevitable memorial on site – the external reminders of the October 7 atrocities will be gone.

I wanted to digest some of the reality of what took place during the deadly attacks before the rebuilding begins. October 7 conspiracy and denial has already taken hold, and I felt it was important for me to be able to say ‘I saw it’. So when I found out I could be taken to the scenes of the terrorist invasion- I got on a plane and headed to Israel.

I am not here to shock or to share horrific images. That is not my style. For those who wish to see it there are plenty of sources online carrying live footage that Hamas terrorists proudly streamed live. I am not even going to link to them. Others may be unlucky enough to get to see the official 47-minute horror show that Israel put together – and I would advise people strongly against it.

The Israeli South

The area that was attacked is very familiar to me. When I first came to Israel, the nearest town to my kibbutz was Sderot. Long before the era of rockets I worked alongside Palestinians from Gaza in the fields. Some of my fondest memories are of friendships built over Arabic coffee and early morning camp-fires on a moshav that was totally dependent on Gazan labour.

It was a different world – a time where the best market for Israelis in the region was inside Gaza. I still stay in this area almost every time I come to Israel. I am even here now – writing this on Kibbutz Bror Hayil – and Gaza is just a short drive from here.

Kibbutz Kfar Aza & Kibbutz Be’eri- the sites of two of the worst Oct 7 massacres, are 12 & 15 miles away respectively. A bit further to the south sits the campsite at Kibbutz Re’im that hosted the Nova festival. Sderot? just over 4 miles from me and I used to cycle there. This is all part of the first neighbourhood in Israel that I fell in love with.

I named those four sites (Kfar Aza, Be’eri, Re’im & Sderot) specifically because these are the sites I was taken to see. The army did not mess about – it wanted us to see the worst – it wanted to show us how Hamas had turned idyllic communities into a living hell.

The trip

As part of a small group I was taken under army supervision through an active military zone. Before entry I was kitted up with a helmet and some body armour. We were also given plenty of instruction before the group was allowed to continue. This included strict advice about only taking photos in places in which the families had given permission. The army was everywhere I went, and our trip was constantly moulded around the active battlefield. At times I found myself standing inside a burnt-out house just across from where IDF artillery was pounding at Gaza.

I promised no shocking images – and there won’t be any – but I still have a story to tell. The image below shows the key point at which the terrorists broke through to attack Kfar Aza. The part of the kibbutz immediately behind me as I took this photo was the site of an unspeakable massacre. The built up area in the background is Gaza – this is how close Gaza is to the idyllic community the terrorists came to destroy.

All of us have been affected by what took place on October 7. But as I walked through the devastation, what broke me was not the physical damage – it was the signs of humanity that still remained. For example, in one house – that was completely burnt out, a few playing cards lay scattered on the floor. Everything was gone, much of it consumed by fire – but somehow the playing cards had survived.

Or this one. This house like many was not burnt – but the insides had been brutally ripped apart along with the family who had live there. And on the wall – a sign of optimism and love – and a poignant reminder that life is short.

Here is another one. From the house of another family that had visibly experienced a living nightmare. The scenes inside are never to be forgotten. But this sign was by the front door. It simply reads ‘how fantastic – how great that you came to visit – it is so long since we saw you – where have you been – welcome’.

the welcome sign

These are the images that stopped me in my tracks. How can a welcome sign in a house that saw such devastation from unwanted intruders do anything but destroy you inside.

And in every house – the clock had been ticking – and normal life was taking place – until it all stopped. So in one – a place in which the living area looked like a war zone – the kitchen looked virtually untouched. The most obvious result of deliberate destruction of human life. They destroyed the living area – because that is where the people were. An empty kitchen? Of no interest. And there sitting on a kitchen top were sweets waiting for the children to eat them. Given what happened in this particular area – it is unlikely those children survived.

I went inside dozens of homes such as this. Scrawled on some walls outside are warning signs about ‘bodyparts’ that may still exist inside – with instructions not to touch anything. In truth they refer to fragments – potential DNA samples – and this is part of Israel’s search for the remains of several dozen people they have yet to find. Endless, unspeakable, tragedy. And every single home I saw, was once an entire family.

Away from the residential areas – and onto the site of the biggest single massacre of the day. The 100s of young people who had gone to enjoy a rave and never returned home. Much of the clear up has been done – but not all. The mess that is still visible on the ground, along with picnic chairs and coolers is all circled by the signs that still mark the campsite. In this place the signs of massacre have already gone – it looks as if the kids just left a mess (behind me).

Finally I went to Sderot and saw an empty lot where the police station had once stood. Residents who are still there (most have left temporarily) recounted the horror that unfolded on that day. But by this point I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I had no questions left to ask. I remain glad I did it – but there are scars which will take time to heal – and this is from someone who only saw what was left – what about all those who actually survived it.

It is morning now and I have spent the night writing this at Kibbutz Bror Hail. All evening I have been listening to a relentless attack from air and from land. There is a not a single minute when a ‘boom’ is not heard and felt. The IDF are pounding Hamas into hell. After what I had seen earlier in the week in those Kibbutzim, I admit to finding it somewhat therapeutic.

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12 thoughts on “Southern Israel – my journey into hell

  1. Thank you for going to hell, David, so we don’t have to. An incredible piece of reporting.

    1. Who paid for your trip Mr Collier?

      When a government foots the bill for a visit by propagandists, you only see what they want you too see.

      Stay safe.

      1. I did. I am supported by myself and donations from the community. That’s it.
        I always try to stay safe.

        1. Hello David. Hope your lockdown find you well.

          Come clean! Sure I’m not the only one who doubts that you travelled to Apartheid Israel and into a war zone without the support of “The Embassy.”

          At least admit you were provided with support of the apartheid government before and/or during your visit.

          Stay safe!

          1. The border police did let me in to the country – so there is that assistance (but nobody can get in the country without going through passport control).

            The army did escort me round the kibbutzim that were attacked – so there is that asistance (but they do that to everyone going in – it is a war zone).

            My uncle helped me a bit – he let me stay with him for a night.
            I have a few friends there – a civilian bought me a coffee – does this count?

            As for the Embassy… Um – did speak to Israeli officians here a while back – maybe a year – because my kids needed passport renewals… they assisted with that – although that is the consulate more than the embassy… so it doesn’t count either…

            And that is it. No finance. No assistance. No help. Sorry.

            – and if you’ve noticed I have taken to putting all your vile posts into Spam again. Let this one through because it is so stupid.

            1. Not sure how I feel about Brucie’s latest spell on the naughty step, given that at least 85% of my raison d’etre here is taking the piss out of him. Jack and Gabriel just aren’t as much fun and their banter is crap.

              Ah well. Back to some more of that genocidal slaughter of murderous ISIS /HAMAS savages I suppose. Mind how you go, all.

  2. Pre Oct/7/23 racist Arab / Islamist-fascist atrocities:

    Take a look.

    For years there have apparently been ‘peace agreements’ with the Arabs, and even with Hamas there were silent agreements according to which they were given a lot of money, they opened the gates for the flow of workers to Israel so that they could make a living, they did so much for them in order to make things easier for them.
    And what it turns out is that the leaders of Hamas are not at all interested in the people living in Gaza, as they explicitly said that this is the role of the UN, they are only interested in the billions that go into their pockets, and in the meantime they armed themselves with many weapons for an opportunity as it fell into their hands on Simchat Torah, they infiltrated the kibbutzim and other places close to Gaza and slaughtered Jews, tortured them in the most savage way and did acts that cannot be written down.

  3. Netanyahu in a (16-Nov-2023) CBS interview elaborated on Hamas human shields usage including at hospitals, on their findings command center on Al Shifa hospital. On the messianic mad cult that doesn’t give a hoot about their people. VS Israel’s efforts in avoiding civilian casualties including via text messages to Gazans to evacuate certain areas. Asked anout a “two state,’ on the aftermath, he replied about the need of a drastic change, the need of deradicalization of hate and terror among Palestinians.

    Replying to the them question about “extremists settlers”:
    Netanyahu: I have condemned it in Hebrew and in English and gere again with you..
    Or committing vigilante justice I said that in the Judea Samaria community and by the way they agree with me.
    99% of the settlers community in Judea Samaria are law abiding.
    It’s only, a tiny, tiny fraction and some are teenagers who come from ouside the area. But even a tiny fraction is unacceptable.
    But I wouldn’t make a false symmetry. There is no moral equivalence against the hundreds and hundreds of attacks and by Hamas. Even today, in Jerusalem.
    And, this is a big one. Every violence by extremists we condemn, by anyone. Yet, we are 42 days into the worst killing of Jews since the Holocaust, the horrific raping, the burning of babies, slaughtering children in front of their parents, slaughtering parents in front of their children and Mahmoud Abbas is yet to condemn it. Not only that but officials in his government lauded, lauded this.
    There is no symmetry betweem Israel and its foes.

    1. I know that this blog plays mainly to a diasporan gallery and there has never really been any scope for sincere discourse on the subjects presented here so this is simply a post in response to earlier comments about our current PM. Polls conducted here last week indicate that if elections were held now, Mr. Netanyahu and the Likud would be heavily defeated and that Mr. Gantz would have the largest mandate with up to 34 seats. However, the polls also factored in the scenario in which Mr. Bennett was to reenter politics. In this case he would win around 18 seats and would be more likely to form a broad unity government including Messers Gantz, Lapid, Liebermann, Saar, Abbas and members from the left. This would be the most inclusive and most representative of most Israelis. The outcome would consign the extremists from the right back to the margins and eliminate the incitement to violence that they threaten in Judea and Samaria. This outcome also gives us the best chance of a leadership most qualified to answer the question “what happens the day after?”.

      1. Thanks Ian… I understand current assessment is looking at an election mid 2024… but as we both know Israeli politics is fickle and we are still all in the middle of a war. I think it is obvious to everyone the Likud will get pounded and this is the end of the Netanyahu era… whether they go off and regroup and return at a later date (Likud) remains to be seen. As for the results – it does seem likely Gantz will be the next PM – although what coalition he builds will no doubt be depenendant on who runs – under what flag – and whether new parties join the fray. In any event – this government is certainly fried. I do hope however it is not the only casualty from what was a massive conceptual failure.

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