The Heroic Battle of Re'im
"Me and my best friend are fighting shoulder to sholder for the place where we are raising our children"
Along with five of my friends, we fought a battle in the fields against dozens of terrorists for hours. This is his story: "We are fighting for our lives, for the soccer field, for education, culture. This is a battle for our home.
It started at around six-thirty in the morning - a red alert siren," says Amri Bonim (41), a member of Kibbutz Re'im. "We rushed to the shelter, which also serves as the children's bedroom, calmed them down, and asked ourselves where to go this time. To my wife's family in Zikron? Maybe we should head to Eilat? There were many explosions. It sounded very bad. After a few minutes, we heard gunfire from very close by. It's something we're not used to. I immediately took out the weapon, looked for my combat gear, put on my sneakers, and went outside. Harel Oren, the security coordinator, gathered us, the Kibbuts guardian team of 6 in the western area of the kibbutz, on the side facing Gaza.
The scenes that unfolded before us were bizarre. Terrorists' disturbances on the roads. Heavy movement. Chaos. Full of Gazan cars and motorcycles.
They were shooting towards the base of the brigade. We asked ourselves: What's happening here? Are we alone against all the Gazans? We heard gunfire coming from the direction of the kibbutzim: Kisufim, Bari, Ein Hashlosha – kibbutzim located between us and the Gaza Strip. We understood that they would soon reach us as well. We were just six armed friends. We divided into three pairs. I teamed up with Niv Tovia – the deputy security coordinator and the commander of the southern front. Niv is an old friend of mine, the IDF service in Golani Brigade's. He's the one who brought me to Re'im. We have been the best of friends for 20 years now – the most organic force there is, and now we're going out against something unclear to protect our lives, our values, our community, and the place where we are raising our children. When I'm with Tovia, I feel like it will be okay.
We headed towards the southern side of the kibbutz, along the last line of houses. The fighting began around seven-thirty. The goal was to delay the terrorists as much as possible until the army arrived. The terrorists approached, and we would emerge from different spaces between the houses, fire a few rounds, and move. We tried to create the illusion that we were a large force, that the gunfire was coming from different points. We attempted to keep them as far away from the houses as possible.We knew every bush and every tree. This is our home.
The terrorists were moving from the west, and we followed in their footsteps. We couldn't engage in direct contact because we knew we were the last line between them and the kibbutz residents. We knew that if we fell, they would enter the houses. We realized that the terrorists had arrived in three groups from three different directions to the kibbutz. We saw them entering the houses, and understood that they were looking for hostages. The group in the south-west of the kibbutz, consisting of 15 to 25 terrorists, began setting houses on fire. We moved between the neighborhoods, trying not to expose ourselves, and attempted to shoot at them from different vantage points to disrupt them.
Trees and houses were catching fire. There was heavy gunfire from all directions within the kibbutz, and in the surrounding areas, many fires had started. We received messages from friends in all parts of the kibbutz about the gunfire they heard, about shouts in Arabic. They were asking, 'Where are the army?' In our training, we learned to deal with a few terrorists, but here we were facing groups, dozens of terrorists divided into different cells. In the most hypothetical scenario, there couldn't be a situation where dozens of well-armed terrorists are roaming around, and we have no army. This isn't something we can handle on our own. Where is the IDF? Where is the Air Force? We are alone against all of Gaza, and there isn't a single aircraft in the sky…
What strengthened us was that all six of my friends kept reporting. We didn't feel that we were alone in this. Our familiarity with the area, the fact that we had communication devices, and our training helped us hold our ground. We knew where to position ourselves, and they would inevitably pass through there. After about an hour of combat, we began to hear the sounds of other firearms. We realized that it was a police force trying to engage the terrorists from the outside. We moved in a different direction and joined in firing at them.
Oren Ahark, a member of the Kibbuts guardian team, approached us around ten o'clock. He had left early in the morning to work at the field returned to fulfill his duty. On his way to the kibbutz, he encountered the terrorists and barely managed to make it here. He teamed to four policemen who jumped out of their houses to help. Four true heroes – I don't even know if they were an organic team.
The police's positioning on the axis allowed us to move to the kibbutz's southern gate and open it to let Oren in with the officers. We felt a consolidation was happening. Our force went from 6 fighters to 11, in addition to the police force fighting the terrorists outside. Our defense line doubled. It was a significant reinforcement.
We took the police officers to Oren's house. He brought equipment. Oren is also a long-time friend. Together, we run the kibbutz's soccer clubs for the children. The moment I saw him running on the soccer field, it changed everything for me. If up until then I thought I was going to die that day and that there would be nothing left of the kibbutz, at that moment, I understood that we would win. We would win because we are together, and we are fighting for our home. The kibbutz won't die.
When you run with your friend, there's a feeling that we're fighting for our home. For everything the home symbolizes to us – because a kibbutz is a home. We're fighting for the place where we raise our children. We're fighting for the soccer field, for education, culture. It's a battle for the home in the broadest sense but also in the smallest details.
At this point, we debated whether to split the force or stay together. We decided that Tovia and Oren would stay to guard the neighborhood. I wanted to go with the police officers who were unfamiliar with the kibbutz to show them where houses were on fire. We crept up from behind, and when we approached the area where the fire extinguishers were, we saw that they were no longer there. The police officers who had confronted them had probably done the job. Kibbutz members emerged from one of the burning houses. They came out from the window of the safe room and shouted that they were on fire. We understood that we needed to go house by house, evacuate everyone from the burning houses, keep them safe, and move them to the safe rooms in houses that weren't on fire. We went between the burning houses, reaching the last one, and when we opened the safe room, a family came out, including two of them in wheelchairs. It was a complicated procedure, and there were tense moments. A family that had narrowly escaped. They had been holed up in the safe room all that time in silence, convinced they were going to perish in the flames.
There were residents who grabbed hoses and began spraying water on the roofs to extinguish the houses. The police officers stayed there to support them. At this point, I ran back to the southern neighborhood to regroup with Niv and Oren.
From there, we moved to a newer neighborhood located in the center of the kibbutz. As we were running, we came across the body of a terrorist that we had neutralized. We advanced slowly, taking cover from one another, like we had learned in the military. Meanwhile, two more friends from guardian team, Omri Ben Yishai and Ron (Bobo) Asaf, joined us. Together, we went to check on the Thais. We found that everything was open, and the Thais were missing.
We continued through an olive grove. We suspected we saw movement there, and within moments, we were fired upon. We began issuing commands to each other to contain the terrorists when I heard a shout from one of the houses of a friend who served in the regular military. He called my name and said that he had a gunshot wound inside the safe room.
we arrived at our friend who had called us. When he opened the safe room, about 15 young people emerged from it. They had come from the 'Nuba' nature party. They had hidden in the safe room in silence all this time, without ventilation, packed closely, not speaking. We took them out and brought them to a clinic located about forty meters to the south. It was locked, so we broke the window and entered. The condition of the kids who had come from this party was dire. They were vomiting.
We continued to fight the terrorists who had hidden in the area of the new neighborhood and the olive grove, and one of the policemen was hit in the leg. He was bleeding. I explained to him where he needed to evacuate himself and approached team leader Zahi who told us that the army forces were on their way. From there, I called the southern gate to let in more forces.
We wented to pick up another member of the guardian team, Eyal Aharon, but as we approached the neighborhood, we saw a safe room window open, looking out a kibbutz friend who did not live in that house. It turns out he had gone there to protect three children who had witnessed their father and his partner being killed in front of their eyes. The terrorists murdered the couple and wrote with the woman's lipstick on the wall that they wouldn't kill children. He opened the window and told us about these threatening things. We looked at the lawn in front of their house, where I used to see the child playing soccer with his dad every day, and the lawn was full of soccer balls. They just took away three children's beloved father. In another house, we heard that an 85-year-old woman was murdered in her bed.
During all these hours, my wife and children were locked in the safe room, holding the door. All the kibbutz members did the same – they held the safe room door with all their might and fought against the terrorists who tried to break it open. My wife called me home. She said she needed to use the bathroom, and I also ran out of ammunition. So, I ran with Eyal and Oren to my house. I entered the safe room. We guarded the house while my wife went to the bathroom, and in the meantime, she passed me two crates of balls that I had at home, filling them for me.
From there, we continued to fight, and additional security forces joined us. Our role changed, and we were guiding and coordinating the forces. We searched for those who needed help. The situation was quite strange because the kibbutz was burning, and people were still in the safe rooms. There were terrorists, but there weren't any, and it was unclear.
After midnight, I went home. I lay on the couch and turned on the sports channel. I saw that Celtic Glasgow fans were cheering for the Palestinians. It shocked me to my core to see that they were happy about the 'freedom fighters' who burned my kibbutz, murdered anyone they saw – infants and the elderly.
I fell asleep in my uniform and the gun next to me.
At one-thirty, I received a message from Tuvia, a guardian team member: "We have terrorists in the house, come quickly." I rushed from behind my house, where I met Harel. From there, elite unit joined us. I couldn't believe that I would need to run to Tuvia's house, where my children played all the time, with toy guns and toy balls. I lay down on the sidewalk behind his house so that if the terrorists came out from behind, I could neutralize them. The elite unit sealed the house, threw a grenade inside, entered, and killed the two terrorists. Tuvia and his family were saved, and I simply started crying and couldn't stop. I lay down there behind Tuvia's house, where I go every day to pick up my children after school. I just lay there and cried.
I want to commend my friends from the a guardian team of Raim: Harel Oren, Niv Tovia, Noam Gavai, Amri Ben Yishai, Yaniv (Gisno) Ariel, Oren Aharek, Eyal Aharek, Avi Avital, and Ron (Bubo) Asaf. These people saved many lives.
I want to send my condolences to all the residents in Ashkol, Ofakim, and Sderot – all the western Negev residents.
And to the dear community of Raim, who aren't at the kibbutz right now, when you return, we'll rebuild everything here and show the world what an amazing community we are. And for those for whom it's not clear, we will win.