Sara Gómez Armas
Ein Bokek, Israel, Nov 3 (EFE).- With 85 residents murdered and 30 taken hostage, Kibbutz Beeri was one of the hardest hit in the Hamas massacre on Israeli soil, but more than 900 of its residents, now evacuated to a Dead Sea hotel, are preserving the communal spirit and solidarity of the kibbutz.
“I want to believe that my parents are well and together, leaning on each other. I cling to that thought, but every day it’s harder to keep faith,” Julie Ben Ami, 27, told EFE. Her parents Ohad and Raz are among the 241 kidnap victims being held in the Gaza Strip whose identities have been confirmed by Israeli authorities.
Julie lived with her boyfriend in an apartment in the same Kibbutz Beeri where she grew up.
On that fateful Oct. 7, when Hamas launched a brutal attack on Israeli soil targeting the communities closest to the separation fence, she received a last message from her parents around 10 am, saying they were locked in the bunker but that “terrorists” had entered the house.
That same evening, the al-Qassam Brigades – the armed wing of Hamas – posted on its Telegram channel a video showing her father in Gaza with two militiamen. But it wasn’t until a week later that she learned about her mother, when she saw a photo on Facebook of her, barefoot and in pajamas, being led somewhere by five Hamas men.
Ohad and Raz’s faces are on a wall of remembrance at the entrance to the David Hotel, on the shores of Israel’s Dead Sea. There the community remembers the thirty or so neighbors held captive in Gaza, candles and flowers in honor of the abductees surround their pictures, and friends and families come to pray for their “safe return home.”
Although worried, especially because her mother has an unidentified neurological disease and needs medication for the intense pain, Julie appreciates that being in this comfortable spa hotel in Ein Bokek, surrounded by her “neighbors and friends,” is helping her overcome the trauma of Oct. 7.
“We are one big family. We all lost family members, loved ones, friends and neighbors. That’s why we transferred the communal spirit of Kibbutz Beeri to this hotel,” Alon Pauker, director of this community, founded in 1946 in the Negev and home to 1,200 people, told EFE. Kibbutz Beeri is one of the few that preserves the communal and socialist essence of the early years of Zionism.
A kindergarten has been set up in the hotel’s bar, tents have been erected in the garden as playgrounds for children, and around the swimming pool relaxation therapies and massages are being offered to help the people of Beeri deal with the trauma of what they experienced almost a month ago in the kibbutz, where Hamas committed one of its worst massacres.
“I call on the world to help us recover our abductees and destroy Hamas, just as the free world destroyed the Nazi regime. Even if it means bombing homes or killing civilians. Just as the whole world united in the fight against the Islamic State, we expect the same,” said the 57-year-old, who defines himself as an advocate of peace and a two-state solution with the Palestinians, but only “when Hamas is gone.”
Pauker said he was confident that Beeri would be rebuilt because it is a “strong and united community,” but “first Hamas must be destroyed,” he insisted.
Michal Pinyan, shares the same opinion. The 43-year-old woman lost her parents in the Oct. 7 massacre while she was trapped for more than 20 hours in a bunker only a few houses away with her brothers, husband and children.
“The last time we heard from my parents was at 10 am. We knew that terrorists had entered the house and thrown grenades. Hours later, a friend from the kibbutz who came to rescue us told us that she found their bodies on the lawn, handcuffed and shot in the forehead,” she said, still in shock.
“I have anger, but above all I have hope,” declares her neighbor Nir Shani, whose son Amit, 16, is a prisoner in Gaza, but who finds comfort in being surrounded by other friends in the same situation.
Beeri’s neighbors have also taken over the hotel lobby, where there is a “clothing store” based on donations, as they had to flee with only the clothes on their backs, as well as a mental health room and an area for group psychological therapy, including art workshops, that was set up with the help of the Israel Aid organization.
“There are several communities like this one that evacuated collectively, that have a communal structure in their DNA, mutual support. I think that in emergency situations like this, having a community, a support network, is a great advantage,” said the spokeswoman for Israel Aid, an expert in psychosocial assistance. EFE