“Helping my country and my people by reuniting them with the last missing member of their families is the best feeling in the world,” says Adam Benett.
By Amelie Botbol
November 20, 2023
Adam Benett and his friend Yoav Ben David have rescued over 600 animals, including some 430 dogs, 200 cats, birds, fish and guinea pigs, in southern Israel since Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror massacre.
“On Oct. 10, I joined my friend Yoav to rescue dogs in the South. We thought we were dealing with 10 or 15. We didn’t know the scope of the crisis,” Benett, 30, from Kibbutz Kvutzat Shiller, told JNS. “I then posted on Facebook to let everyone know we were going and offer assistance to those missing a pet.”
Within a few hours, Benett had received thousands of phone calls and over 800 messages from volunteers and families seeking to retrieve their pets.
He and Ben David worked overnight to gather information, file paperwork and be ready to operate their new organization, Mechaltzim Ve’nehenim, the next day.
“We made sure to obtain permits to enter Sderot for rescue teams though terrorists were still active in the area,” Benett explained. “Some of us were escorted by the Israel Defense Forces, others waited until it was safe to enter by themselves.”
Benett opened an operations center in Beit Kama, located 30 minutes from Sderot, to receive the rescued animals. There, they are identified and hopefully reunited with their owners. Otherwise, the organization finds them foster homes or sends the animals to advanced clinics for further treatment.
Benett said that while the process of identification was very straightforward since by law every pet owner in Israel is required to register their animal, finding and catching the pets was trickier.
“The first day, we were in the field and didn’t really know what we were doing. Then some of the volunteers that joined us were professional dog-catchers and medical staff. They were perfectly trained to be in the field,” he said.
Among the volunteers is Tami, 53, from Mishmar Ayalon, who works on the user interface of the David’s Sling, an air defense system designed to intercept missile threats.
“I volunteered every day. I stopped my activity completely and told my boss that the dogs needed me more than my workplace,” Tami told JNS.
She recounted being bitten by a terrified Pekingese which had been left to fend for itself for days in an area constantly bombarded by Hamas rockets.
Nevertheless, she says there was magic in the air whenever volunteers gathered to save the animals.
“Adam and Yoav are magicians. They deserve so much credit,” said Tami. “They helped us all come together as a team and help over 600 animals. We synchronized like we had been practicing for this forever. So much love, bliss and good came to this war zone as we started.”
While Tami says she wasn’t particularly afraid, even though terrorists were still roaming the south when she first volunteered, she recalled one evening when alerts were sounded while her team was attempting to secure a parrot flying around inside a house.
“It wasn’t even a siren, it was a voice on a megaphone asking us to seek shelter. We had a few seconds to get on the ground when a rocket landed about 100 meters [328 feet] from us,” she said.
“Although I lived most of my life in Israel this was the first time I heard a blast so close. It really changes something in you, she said.”
Karin Ofek Burshtein, 42, from Emek Hahula, is a veterinarian who volunteers for the rescue group.
“I treated animals dealing with both physical and emotional pain. Some of the animals were hungry, dehydrated and scared, others were shot or had injuries from wandering around. We sent them to the nearest veterinarian hospital for treatment. We even had a hypothermic baby chick,” Burshtein told JNS.
“Some animals suffered from PTSD, they would either eat non-stop or refuse to feed themselves. Some barked for no reason, some even had nightmares and would cry in the middle of the night while others were lifeless,” she added.
Yair, 22, from Nahal Oz, survived Hamas’s Oct. 7 assault at The Nova Music Festival.
He contacted Benett to retrieve his dog.
“When Hamas terrorists launched the assault on the festival, I ran away and hid in the forest for hours,” Yair told JNS. “I then walked to Netivot and stayed there for a night before joining my family in Mishmar HaEmek in the North. The whole time I could not stop thinking about my dog, hoping she was still alive,” he said.
“She’s a rescue from Gaza, a group of people working in the fields found her near the border, she was severely traumatized,” he continued, adding: “I’ve had her since. I was worried about her mental health but she’s been much better than I expected since we reunited.”
Benett, who did not serve in the IDF, told JNS that this was his way of giving back to the nation.
“Helping my country and my people by reuniting them with the last missing member of their families is the best feeling in the world,” he said.