Flora (“Perach”), in her 70s, lives in Kibbutz Be’eri near the Gaza border.
Her incredible story left a huge impression on me, regarding the power of faith and the ability to be grateful, even in moments when all hell has broken loose around us.
Early that fateful morning of October 7, the rocket siren made her jump out of the armchair in which she had been dozing most of the night.
Due to years of rocket fire from nearby Gaza, such an alarm is a fairly routine occurrence where she lives; and thus she ran out of habit toward her home’s reinforced concrete bomb shelter room. (It is important to mention that she has 15 seconds to reach her bomb shelter from the moment of the alarm before a rocket’s trajectory could make it land on her house. Usually rocket barrages last a matter of minutes.)
She endlessly thanks the Holy One, blessed be He, who, according to her, guided her path all the time. The first little miracle she had in this event was the bottle of water that was next to her which she picked up as she ran into the bomb shelter. A second before she closed the door she still had time to enter the bedroom next to the bomb shelter room and pull a thick blanket inside with her.
Then she slammed the door shut.
She sat down to catch her breath for a moment, and then came the news that terrorists had infiltrated the kibbutz!
She stops the interview for a moment and says that as soon as she is calmer and can breathe normally, she will sit down to make a list of all the miracles that happened to her, because every minute she spent in the bomb shelter she experienced a miracle.
One of the miracles was that a few years ago she had realized she needed to put a serious lock on the door to the bomb shelter even though it was just one of the rooms in her house. A few years ago, she says, when there was a Hamas infiltration from Gaza through the tunnels into the kibbutz area, she and her household were very frightened; and she realized at that time that the bomb shelter was worthless in such a scenario without a lock. You don’t need to lock the door against rocket fire, but if, God forbid, there is an infiltration of terrorists, in order to be safe she must lock the bomb shelter securely. So there was a lock, thank God!
In her kibbutz smart phone app, people’s messages started coming one after another, and Flora could not believe what she was reading. The Hamas horrors were described in detail, and it filled her with fear. According to the various people who sent the messages, whom she of course knows well and knows where each one lives… she understood the direction in which the terrorists were progressing through the neighborhood; and by noon she said to herself, they will soon be at my place.
She sat down in the corner of the bomb shelter and began to give thanks to God:
“Thank you, O Blessed God!”
She began to search her head for all the names of God she knew, to thank Him:
“I thank you and I thank your angels! I know that you are watching over me. I feel that you are protecting me. I know that half the world is praying for me. And with God’s help nothing bad will happen to me. I am protected, I feel protected, and again – thank you, Blessed God.”
This is the only thing that went through her mind, even when noises made her jump, terrible noises of what was happening outside. Even when Hamas tried to break through her bomb shelter door with bullets and explosives.
She continued to sit on the corner of the bed and repeat to herself: “I am protected, I am protected.”
“Thank you, Blessed God. I am protected.”
She repeated it countless times, all the while outside was war. Only later did she realize the magnitude of what was taking place. It turns out that 12 terrorists barricaded themselves in her house. So the IDF was unable to come and rescue her, because the IDF was fighting the terrorists; and all of this was just beyond the door of her bomb shelter room! At one point everything finally became quiet, and she realized that this was her chance to get out of the bomb shelter, which by now felt suffocating. She opened the steel plate protecting the window of the bomb shelter, and she could not recognize where she was. Nothing looked like what she was used to seeing from her window.
There were no gardens, only burnt houses – remnants of what used to be homes. And she could not understand in her head what was happening. But there was also a strong voice inside reminding her that miracles were happening to her all the time. She told herself, now is not the time to understand what’s going on; what’s important is that I’m breathing and I’m fine. And again she thanked God that she was protected.
She jumped down to the ground from her bomb shelter window.
At one point she also expressed thanksgiving for having this faith and trust. This is what strengthened her in the terrible moments she went through. This faith helped her survive and get out of the terrible place at the right time and reach the IDF soldiers at the gate.
Ever since, despite the pain and storm of emotions, despite all the destruction she encountered, she expresses endless gratitude to God and to everyone who prayed.
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