Israeli farmer who lost wife, son and leg on Oct. 7 returns to his fields

“We underwent a tragedy. But you can’t change the past; only the future,” says Avida Bachar.

By Etgar Lefkovits | | Topics: Gaza
Avida Bachar surveys the fields at Kibbutz Be'eri, April 15, 2024. Photo by Rina Castelnuovo.
Avida Bachar surveys the fields at Kibbutz Be'eri, April 15, 2024. Photo by Rina Castelnuovo.

“A farmer does not leave his land.”

Six months after losing his wife, his 15-year-old son and one of his legs in the Oct. 7 massacre perpetrated by Hamas terrorists in southern Israel, Avida Bachar is back on his land.

Walking with a cane and a prosthetic leg after nearly half a year in the hospital, the 50-year-old farmer stares out at the avocado plantation in Kibbutz Be’eri, where he was born and which lies less than a mile from the border with Gaza.

On Oct. 7, Bachar’s wife and son were killed in front of his eyes after terrorists overwhelmed them in their two-story home, which was utterly gutted. But despite the pain, he is determined to choose life.

“We underwent a tragedy. But you can’t change the past; only the future,” he told JNS on Tuesday. “This is not the closing of a circle. This is a continuation.”

 

‘I can’t breathe’

On that nightmare morning, Bachar was at home with his wife, Dana, and their two teenage children, Carmel, 15, and Hadar, 14, when the sound of sirens and incoming rockets awakened them. Like all the residents of Gaza border communities, who have faced such attacks for over a decade and a half, they were expecting the military to show up and then announce an all-clear.

Instead, the sound of gunfire burst out and their community WhatsApp alerts warned of intruding terrorists. The family huddled in their safe room. Like most safe rooms, which are designed to protect against rockets and mortars, there was no lock on the door.

By late morning, terrorists burst into their home and tried to force their way into the safe room. Bachar and Carmel held the door shut from the inside, knowing that it was the only thing thing between them and certain death.

The terrorists riddled the door with bullets, hitting Carmel’s arms and piercing Bachar’s leg. The door handle was also hit, jamming the door shut. The terrorists then set the home on fire.

“They were very organized and very systematic,” Bachar recounts. “The first group was charged with breaking into the house, getting into the safe room and murder. A second group would set the homes on fire if people didn’t come out, while the third was charged with torture and looting.”

Avida Bachar reviews the damage of his burnt home at Kibbutz Be’eri, April 15, 2024. Photo by Rina Castelnuovo.

Talking to a medic by phone, the family tried to create a makeshift tourniquet to stop Carmel’s bleeding. The safe room began to fill with smoke. The family covered their faces with urine-soaked towels to help them breathe, he recalled.

As the family lay huddled on the floor, his son bleeding to death, his wife suddenly cried out “I can’t breathe” and lay deathly still.

Hadar, who was relentlessly phoning police and rescue officials, called medics and asked what to do. They were told to undress her and look for bullet wounds but could not find any. They later learned that a bullet fragment had pieced her ribs, causing her death.

Later in the afternoon, as he breathed his last breath, Carmel requested: “Bury me with my surfboard.”

Terrified, Hadar begged her father: “Don’t leave me.”

“I won’t,” he promised.

It was only in the evening that Israel Defense Forces made it to their home, dragging them out through the window and applying tourniquets to their wounds.

Graves of Israelis who were murdered by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, in Kibbutz Be’eri, Nov. 15, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

“You’re OK, but you have almost no blood left in your body,” a medic told Bachar. Ambulances rushed him to the emergency room. En route, he asked for some water. The medic gave him some, even though he was not supposed to drink before an operation.

“I didn’t think you would make it,” the medic would later tell him.

After his leg was amputated, Bachar underwent months of recovery in hospital.

Photos of his wife and son would pop up on his phone, reminding him of things lost. “But I realized it doesn’t matter what you believe in—God, or a tree or whatever—the greatest lesson of my life is seeing the half the glass of life that is full,” he related.

Bachar dreams of returning full-time to his farm.

“Of course we will return to Be’eri,” he said. He currently splits his time between the Dead Sea Hotel, where he is temporarily housed, and his farm in the community, which lost 10% of its 1,100 members in the attack.

His eldest son is already long back on the kibbutz, working in the print shop.

“I am coming home,” said Bachar. “I am coming back to my land.”

Avida Bachar at Kibbutz Be’eri, April 15, 2024. Photo by Rina Castelnuovo.

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