Acts of courage: Amid horror, Israelis rise to occasion
Photo: Facebook
Inbal Liberman

Israelis caught in the murderous rampage by Hamas terrorists demonstrated heroism, determination and fortitude.

By David Isaac

As Hamas terrorists made their savage way through Israel’s south, slaughtering more than 1,300 people and displaying the worst humanity has to offer, Israeli men and women carried out countless acts of courage.

For some it was their final act. Kibbutz Be’eri’s 22-year-old paramedic insisted on staying and helping the wounded, then hid for six hours in the clinic’s kitchenette grasping a knife, waiting (like so many) for help that never came. As the terrorists closed in, she texted her last words to her sister, “I love you.”

There was the young couple from Kibbutz Kfar Aza, who hid their 10-month-old twins in their safe room before engaging in a hopeless fight with the well-armed terrorists.

Or the old-timers, former IDF officers, now grandfathers and great-grandfathers, who sped south to engage the enemy, killing dozens.

Doubtless many more acts of bravery went unseen and unheralded.

Here are a few that have made it to the headlines:

The heroine of Nir Am

Inbal Liberman, 25, saved her entire kibbutz from the gruesome fate of many other kibbutzim in the region.

Serving as military security coordinator of Kibbutz Nir Am since December 2022, Liberman heard explosions on Saturday morning, the day of Hamas’s sneak attack.

Inbal realized that the explosions were different from the rocket attacks that she had become accustomed to. With little time to spare—Kibbutz Nir Am is located just a stone’s throw from the Gaza Strip, just over a half mile—she rushed to open the kibbutz armory.

She distributed weapons to her 12-man security team, made up of other kibbutz members, arranged them along the kibbutz fence and set ambushes for the terrorists.

When the bloodthirsty killers arrived, expecting another easy slaughter, they got the surprise of their lives. The security team gunned down 20 — Liberman herself killed five — as the Hamas murderers encountered a wall of fire.

Sa’ar Paz, one of the security team, said Inbal had only been told by the Israel Defense Forces to be on standby. She took initiative in what he described as unsurpassed decision-making, sending her team to different sectors to protect the kibbutz and laying out a plan of defense.

A post on social media captured her heroism succinctly:

“The woman in the photo is named Inbal Liberman. When it’s all over, this woman will receive the Israel Prize. The story of her heroism is a story that will enter Israeli myth for generations. Inbal is the reason that there is one kibbutz in the entire surrounding area that remains unharmed—Nir Am. Liberman, a daughter of the kibbutz, was the first in the entire State of Israel to understand what was happening.

“She ran like mad from house to house, organized the emergency squad and prepared a work plan to protect the kibbutz and placed men in ambushes on the kibbutz’s fence. All the terrorists who came to the kibbutz were killed at the fence: 25 terrorists. A hero of Israel.”

The couple who saved each other

Erez and Yifat Yatzkan took turns saving each other, along with their daughter. It was an otherwise sleepy Saturday morning at Kibbutz Kfar Aza when they heard the sound of explosions. They assumed it was another round of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. They immediately went to their safe room, a reinforced space against missile attack.

This time, they also heard gunshots. The gunfire grew closer and Yifat and Erez understood that terrorists had entered their home. The terrorists quickly located the safe room and tried to pry it open. The door didn’t have a lock and Erez held it closed as the terrorists tried to pull it open on the other side.

“It was a crazy struggle—they pull and he pulls back. They were several people and he was one. Until now, I still can’t understand how he was able to overcome them,” Yifat told Channel 12.

Photo: Courtesy
Erez and Yifat Yatzkan.

When the Hamas terrorists failed to overcome Erez in the tug-of-war, they attempted to shoot out the door handle. When that, too, failed, they placed an explosive charge on the door. “There was a crazy boom. We all flew back hard from the force of the explosion. Erez took it the hardest. Both of his hands literally exploded from the struggle and the explosion,” said Yifat.

The explosion blew a small hole in the door but otherwise appeared to work in Erez and Yifat’s favor: It sealed the door closed. The terrorists shook the handle but couldn’t open it. They gave up in frustration and left the house.

But Erez was in bad shape. His hands were bleeding profusely. In extreme pain, he told them to bind his hands with a tourniquet. Their daughter took an old phone cord and tied a tourniquet around both her father’s hands.

Yifat and her daughter began reaching out via cell phone to update everyone on the kibbutz. They didn’t understand yet the seriousness of the situation. “First I called my friend at Hadassah Hospital, who put me in touch with a trauma doctor and he explained to us how to treat Erez: Bring him a lot of sugar and water and lift his legs because he lost a lot of blood,” said Yifat.

“I tried to call the nurse of the kibbutz. Maybe she would help. In retrospect, I realize that she and her husband had been murdered,” she added.

Erez, finding it hard to breathe, begged them to open the window to the safe room. Yifat risked it. The daughter heard IDF officers and shouted to them for help. One of the soldiers, himself wounded, threw two tourniquets to them.

At this point, Yifat made a very brave decision. She realized her husband needed help. She jumped out the window. What she saw was “like a movie”—explosions, shouts in Arabic, her house riddled with bullets. “I heard shots in the air. I crouched down and ran to the warehouse to get a ladder to help me climb back into the safe room. Then I ran back to the house and brought everything that was missing. I made this passage three more times.”

The IDF fought the terrorists but as the hours passed, Erez’s condition worsened. “Erez told me he wouldn’t last. We told him he had to.”

After seven hours in the safe room, IDF forces arrived and helped them out the window. Even as they left the kibbutz they weren’t out of danger. The army vehicle they were in encountered a squad of terrorists who opened fire. The driver managed to get away.

Erez and Yifat were evacuated to Tel Hashomer Hospital by helicopter. On Monday, Erez underwent initial surgery on his hands. It will be the first of many.

A police officer saves his daughter

Israel Police Deputy Superintendent Shimon Portal, intelligence officer of the southern district and former police commander of Ashdod, received a call from his daughter Neta on Saturday morning.

Neta, who lives in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, said terrorists had entered the kibbutz and her life was in danger.

“I hadn’t been called up yet. So I called myself up,” Portal told Israeli media afterwards.

He asked Neta if she was in the safe room and she told him that she was and the door was locked. He then got a message from her saying terrorists were shooting.

Portal, armed only with a handgun, wrote a one-word reply: “Coming.” He jumped in his car and sped toward the kibbutz, about an hour away.

Photo: Police Spokesperson’s Unit
Police Deputy Superintendent Shimon Portal.

Portal ignored terrorists spread out along highway 232 as they fired on his car. “I’m driving like mad toward the kibbutz. They shoot at me, shoot at my car and I keep going,” he told Channel 13.

Stopping at a gas station, he met a police officer he had sent south, Boris Berdin. Berdin had killed a terrorist, but the terrorist had wounded him. Portal pulled Berdin back to safety and then continued his journey to rescue his daughter.

By the time Portal reached his daughter’s home, terrorists had entered it and were struggling to break into the safe room where she and her boyfriend, Santiago, were hiding.

Portal approached her house shouting, “Neta, Neta, Neta,” but then saw three terrified children hiding from a group of terrorists. He decided he had to rescue them first, taking them to his car and driving them to a safer location. Then two more people, a couple, exited a burnt house. He took them to safety as well before returning to rescue his daughter.

Meanwhile, his daughter was taking fire.

“I catch a bullet in my right foot. Santiago also catches a bullet on his left foot [fired] through the safe room,” Neta recalled.

“I open the window of the safe room. … I see a group, I think it’s what my father saw, of 10 or 15 terrorists standing and leaning on a vehicle smoking cigarettes and cracking up with laughter.”

This battle against the terrorists lasted almost three hours before Portal managed to reach Neta. He carried his bleeding daughter on his shoulders away from the scene and to safety.

Portal said he still can’t sleep. His thoughts are with the little children he rescued from immediate danger. “I don’t know who those children are. I have to know, to see that they are OK. I have no idea,” he said.

Neta said, “I have a hero father. I have a hero partner. Neither of them stopped fighting for me. They were ready to sacrifice their lives for me.”

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