‘99.6 per cent is occupied by Arab countries in the Middle East; Israel occupies just 0.4 per cent of the entire Middle East.
‘That 0.4 per cent is also a big issue for them.’
Oren Daniel Benjamin, an Israeli citizen, moved to Israel 17 years ago from India.
Oren, whose wife’s colleague’s daughter was kidnapped and later killed along with her boyfriend by Hamas, recounts how Israelis have changed after the October 7 Hamas attack, what worries them post this attack and how ordinary Israelis are expressing their love for their country.
Oren refused to share his photograph and the name of the city, where he is currently residing, or the place where he lived in India before moving to Israel, lest he discloses his location to would-be attackers.
“One member from each and every family has gone to the army. Everybody is making a beeline to be part of the Israeli Defence Forces. Nobody is worried, nobody is scared. There are people who have come from abroad just to join the army. This is something I’ve seen for the first time in my 17 years in Israel,” Oren tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com.
‘I thought it was a bomb blast’
It was Saturday, a Shabbat (according to Biblical tradition, Shabbat commemorates the original seventh day on which God rested after completing Creation) holiday for the whole of Israel. We had a big festival, a Jewish festival that is called Simchat Torah, celebrated by Jews, globally.
You know how festivals are. Families come to meet each other, stay with each other, celebrate; there are feasts. Everybody’s enjoying. On that Saturday, at around 6.15 am, I heard a sound, a big sound.
I thought it was a bomb blast. When there is a holiday and when everything is quiet in the morning at 6.15, you can hear everything. The quietness is completely jarred by a sound, a big sound. And then suddenly there was a siren; we came to know it was a missile attack.
Whenever sirens blare like that we know there is a missile attack. That means that city has been attacked by a missile. Immediately, I went to my bunker room. It’s a small bunker room; each and every Israeli has it. Those who do not have, they have got it underneath their buildings.
I closed the door, the windows have to be completely closed and locked. It is a bomb-proof room. After some time we started hearing the sirens every five minutes and when we checked our phones we realised there are sirens everywhere.
First we thought it is a regular attack (by Hamas). Once in a while it happens, but I got worried when sirens continued blaring. When I came out of the bunker room after 10 minutes I started my television to see what exactly was happening.
Then after 20 minutes, there was one more siren and then there were sirens every five minutes.
I was not able to have my breakfast, tea, nothing. News channels flashed there were attacks everywhere in Israel.
Then I realised it was something very serious. Till that time, we did not know what was happening.
I have an application on my phone which alerts me about an impending siren and helps us prepare to move towards the bunker room.
’17 years ago I was scared; today I am fearless’
Let me tell you a very important thing — when there is a siren and there is a missile attack, it is 99.99 per cent Hamas; and it always happening from the Gaza side. For the last 20-25 years, Hamas is attacking Israel from the Gaza side.
17 years ago when I was new in Israel I was scared about these rocket attacks. That time I was scared. Today I am prepared and fearless.
Even if I’m travelling on the road and something happens, I know exactly what has to be done at that moment.
You have to get out of the car, go to the side of the road and hide yourself completely — your face, your whole body. And then you have to wait for the Iron Dome to intercept the missiles sent by Hamas from the Gaza side.
You are instructed to cover yourself to protect yourself from the possibility of iron shrapnel hitting you or from chemicals coming out of some weapon or bomb.
You have to wait for approximately five to ten minutes. That day (on October 7) the situation was confusing. We did not know what exactly was happening. We knew that it was a serious terrorist attack.
By 10 am we came to know that there was a serious attack in the south of Israel from the Gaza side. In the afternoon, we came to know that there has been a serious attack by the terrorists at a musical event, which happens every year. It’s a peaceful party where everybody comes to enjoy. There were almost 3,000 to 4,000 people there.
‘They kidnapped a handicapped girl, a Holocaust survivor’
Israeli cities are very small. Not one single missile fell in our city as it was intercepted by the Iron Dome.
Like, whenever rockets are fired, we know 99.99 per cent of the times it is a Hamas attack and similarly we know that 99.99 per cent of the time the Iron Dome will intercept those missiles.
Life has changed for every citizen. We are in a state of shock. It is not the attack, or the missiles which we are worried about. Missiles don’t affect us because we know it is going to fall today, it is going to fall tomorrow and we are ready to intercept them.
What happened on October 7 was that terrorists entered the cities of Israel, the settlements, small villages with populations of about 1,000-1,200.
These terrorists entered those cities and settlements from the morning and massacred hundreds of Israelis.
They started killing people, searched for people inside their houses; whoever tried to come out was killed.
Then they started burning houses, killing small children. Small babies were killed.
They had come prepared to kill. They killed people in their homes. Then they started kidnapping old people, toddlers, small babies who were nine months old.
You will be surprised to know that they even kidnapped a handicapped girl who didn’t even know what was happening. They kidnapped this one lady, who is a Holocaust survivor.
They raped young girls, burned them.
They burned a family of five. The whole family was burned. They killed them, then they burned them.
There are lots of reports which cannot be in the press. Hamas posted those videos; they did TikTok reels.
They took telephones of those kidnapped people and they made video calls to their families to show them what they were doing; they were very proud; they (Hamas) were dancing.
‘Now I will not get a hug from my daughter’
Her daughter had gone for the party (at the Nova music festival) with her boyfriend. They were not found for a week. After a week, they found perhaps her boyfriend’s body; it was burnt. They are still verifying the identity by checking his DNA.
Marina Davidov, my wife’s colleague’s daughter, was found dead. She was found in a very horrible condition; they didn’t even show her face at the last rites.
The mother told my wife that she was not even able to see her daughter’s face because it was so brutal. She was 25. Her mother is still in shock.
She is saying, ‘Now I will not get a hug from my daughter. I don’t know why this has happened to me.’
It is very difficult to accept these realities.
‘We want to look forward’
What has to happen has happened. How it happened, why it happened is part of a thorough investigation. We are not going to waste our time right now. Our focus is what has to be done now for the future.
Let me give you some information that many won’t know. The Palestinians in Gaza are being provided with water, food, electricity, medicines and jobs by Israel. The borders connecting Gaza to Jordan and Egypt are completely blocked. The Egyptians and Jordanians don’t want to accept the Palestinians from Gaza.
These Gazans have permits to work in Israel. They come here, they construct buildings.
A technologist from Gaza was working with an Israeli council to get Israeli technology to get windmills in those areas. Now windmills help get fresh water. Because of this windmill, almost 10,000 Palestinians would have got jobs. But see what happened, this person was also massacred, killed by Hamas.
Hamas dug the pipelines which was giving water to the Palestinians. Those pipelines were used for making missiles.
Now, with this happening do you think the people of Gaza will get such infrastructure? They are not getting it because Hamas is ruling Gaza.
How Israel has changed after October 7
The army and police are doing their job. Now, the citizens have also decided that they should also play a role in defending their cities with the help of the police and the army.
So what happens now?
Every morning, afternoon, evening, men, women, girls, boys — of course, they have the knowledge, they have been trained in these security drills — are taking care of the security for their cities everywhere.
The checkpoints — and there are checkpoints everywhere — leading to every town are now manned by locals.
This is how Israel has changed after the October 7 Hamas terror attack.
The citizens have changed a lot. Israelis are showing a lot of unity. We have given our full support to the Israeli army.
Importantly, one member from each and every family has gone to the army: 19 years old, 21 years old, husbands, daughters, etc. Everybody is making a beeline to be part of the Israeli Defence Forces.
Nobody is worried, nobody is scared.
There are people who have come from abroad just to join the army. This is something I’ve seen for the first time in my 17 years in Israel.
‘Not any religion; our fights is against terrorism’
We are not fighting a war against any religion. This is a fight against terrorism.
Do not give our fight for peaceful existence a communal colour.
We want Gaza to be free from Hamas. There is a two-State solution which was agreed in the UN. Israel agreed to that; we are ready to have a state next to us. But the Palestinians did not agree, Hamas did not agree.
The prospect of a better future for Palestine lies only if Hamas is gone.
Do you know how much land area Israel occupies in the whole of the Middle East?
99.6 per cent is occupied by Arab countries in the Middle East; Israel occupies just 0.4 per cent of the entire Middle East. That 0.4 per cent is also a big issue for them.
If the world does not get united now, support Israel against the brutal terrorism it has been facing, it (the kind of terrorism unleashed by Hamas) will come to all the places. This is going to come to all places.
Everybody has to wake up, because it is possible.
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