Arutz Sheva - Israel National News sat down with Zion Leshem, a resident of Moshav Naveh, a community near Israel's southern border with Gaza, who is one of the tens of thousands of Israelis who have been evacuated from their homes in southern and northern Israel following the outbreak of war with the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip.
Zion described the morning of October 7, when he was in synagogue at 6 am with over 100 people. At 6:30 am, they heard red alert sirens warning of rocket launches from Gaza. Unlike previous rocket attacks, the sirens did not stop. It was then that the residents of Naveh understood that this attack was different.
The electricity and phone service were cut, preventing the residents from learning what was happening in the neighboring communities. It was midmorning when the rumors of the horrors of the Hamas attack began to reach them.
"Our specific town was not attacked by terrorists, Baruch Hashem (thank God). We know that they were on the way. They were tackled before they made it to our moshav, thank God," he said.
They could hear the sounds of battles and see IDF helicopters and planes flying overhead. At about noon, Naveh began to receive wounded and casualties from the surrounding communities.
"It doesn't make any sense, " he said, because we don't have a medical center, we don't have any special medical equipment. Why are they coming to us? And then we understand: The road is shut. Ambulances cannot hit the road on the way to the hospital because if they hit the road, they're gonna be shot at. The terrorists took over the roads and killed everyone who was on the road. So they took the injuries and casualties to us. We have a few doctors on our moshav, they started doing what they can."
Helicopters eventually arrived to take the wounded to Soroka Medical Center without using the roads. The residents spent the next two days patrolling the area around their community to ensure they would not be attacked by terrorists still inside Israel.
They were evacuated as a community to the Shalom Hotel in Jerusalem three days after the Hamas attack, where they have been for the last month.
"It's not easy. We're not complaining," he said. "We're close to a thousand people in the hotel, about 700 children."
The residents have attempted to maintain their children's schools even after being evacuated from their town.
"The moment we are able to go back, we are going back, as a community, as a whole. I haven't heard one person say 'We're not coming back,'" he declared, saying that he hopes to be able to inspire the survivors of the massacres in the surrounding communities to return and rebuild when it is safe to do so.
He said that Naveh must ensure its residents' safety by properly training and equipping its local security team, which proved to be the first line of defense in multiple communities on October 7. In addition, they must ensure that every home has a bomb shelter to protect residents from rocket attacks. To this end, the residents have launched a fundraising drive to build these bomb shelters and ensure that their security force is as well-prepared as possible.