Rami Davidian
Rami DavidianRega shel Chochma

Since October 7th we have been filled with stories of good and evil, of darkness and of light. One of the heroes of October 7th was Rami Davidian, a 58 year-old farmer from Moshav Patish, an Israeli farming community located about 10 miles from the Gaza Strip who saved 750 people from certain death during Hamas’ attack on the Nova festival. I recently sat down to interview him.

Tell us about October 7th:

“Like all of Israel, and especially the residents of the South, we woke up early in the morning to the sound of incessant alarms. At 6:45am I received a phone call from a friend who asked me to go and rescue his friend’s daughter, who was near a farm in the area. I didn’t hesitate, and I went out to the location I had received via Whatsapp. All the while, my family members were warning me that it’s dangerous to go outside when there is a missile attack. I told them that it would take a few minutes to get to her and then I’d be back.”

When did you realize something was off?

“On my way to the entrance of the moshav, I saw two bicycles lying in the middle of the road, and I already understood that something was wrong. I got out of the car to see what was happening, and I saw three severed fingers lying on the road. To this day I am not sure what happened there. I took the fingers, put them in a bag on ice and put them on the side in a safe place. I picked up the bikes and called my son-in-law to come and get them, and to post a message to the WhatsApp group to ask who they belong to.”

Then what?

“I continued driving for the purpose for which I left the house – to rescue the girl. 500 meters later, on the left-hand side of the road, I saw a white van with smoke coming out of it. I got out to see what had happened, and I saw people in the car who had been shot. At that moment I realized that something was really wrong. I heard gunshots from all sides, so I went back to the car and called the police. There was no answer. Two kilometers later I met a swarm of exhausted and frightened young adults shouting for urgent help and assistance. I tried to calm them down, while at the same time I phoned friends from the moshav to come out and help with the swarms of people outside.”

They must have been terrified?

“I got this initial group to rescue the teenagers. I managed to get them together and reassured them that they should trust me and that they were in a safe place. I asked them to make the extra effort and go to the moshav, and I made sure that someone would come to from the moshav and get anyone who was unable to get up and walk to the moshav.

I gathered most of the group of teens in the center of the moshav for further care by the moshav residents; and I called the deputy mayor and told him to send buses to the center of the moshav to drive the teens to a safe place where their parents could pick them up.

Unfortunately, Pikud HaOref (Home Front Command) said this was not possible. At this stage, I understood that there were many other people waiting in the field – but I had no idea of how severe the situation was.”

So after you returned to the moshav with a group of people, you realized something serious was happening?

“I returned to the field to rescue more of the young people who were hiding there. I went to the point I was sent to in the first place, and to my joy I was able to reach and rescue those who were in one of the wadis. They were able to get to my house very quickly. I received information from one of the boys I rescued that a group of girls were left behind and needed my help. I got their location, and fortunately I arrived very quickly and was able to rescue them and bring them to my home.

During those hours my phone didn’t stop ringing and receiving messages from parents begging me to save their children from the Re’im area. I understood that there was a larger number of people and we organized more teams from the moshav to widen the rescue effort. The residents of the moshav responded very quickly and joined me to save more of the youth out in the field.

The rescue mission was carried out inside the wadis; I was able to reach every group whose locations I was given, and for many of them I was just in time. It’s important for me to mention that during this time I also saw other teams rescuing people, and I directed groups of boys and girls to these teams, who got them quickly to the center of the moshav.”

And yet, you continued on?

“I continued on to the location points I had received, and I realized that the further I went into the area the more dangerous it was, and that it was full of terrorists, with gunfire coming from every direction.

I arrived at the location of a group of girls inside the orchards. I stopped, but I couldn’t get to them because there were motorbikes with terrorists who were patrolling around the orchard, waiting for the girls to come out – so that they could kidnap, rape or murder them.

I looked at my watch, and I saw that each patrol of the terrorists lasted about a minute and a half. I told the girls that we had one minute and thirty-five seconds to run and then lie between the flowerbeds. After 3 rounds of doing this, I was able to get the girls into my car, and then we reached the center of my moshav very quickly.

It was already 12:00 noon, and I was alone in the field on my way to the next destination, to the next rescue point.

Once again, I was sent a new location on whatsapp inside the orchards. The people being rescued were sharing my information with others. At this point, Adva Dadon, a well known journalist for Channel 12 joined me in the rescue, even as she feared for her life as the area was infested with terrorists. Dadon was with me, and saw the number of messages and calls I received from thousands of parents and people begging us to rescue their loved ones or to be rescued themselves.”

You encountered terrorists on this day, right?

“We were racing back to Nova from the moshav yet again -and to my joy, I also managed to rescue this group and transfer them to the teams that were waiting beyond the orchards.

I received a call from Amit – a girl who asked me to rescue her. During our conversation she sent me messages explaining that I won’t be able to reach her because she’s deep inside the area that had been overrun by the terrorists.

First of all, I reassured her that everything was fine and that I’ll manage to rescue her. Amit’s voice was getting faint, and I couldn’t understand what was happening around her anymore. At one point I did not have an internet connection to find her location anymore. I kept talking to her, and I realized that in order to reach her, I would have to play hot and cold – I told her to listen for the horn of my car and update me with the words “hot” or “cold” if I’m getting close. After 5 minutes I reached her, and she shouted: “I’m here, I’m here!”

I got out of the car and ran towards the wadi. I got to her – but Amit wasn’t alone, she was being held by six terrorists around a tree. I don’t know where I got the strength to face the terrorists, but I realized that this was my chance to rescue her. I spoke to them nicely in Arabic; I asked how they were doing, and what they were doing here, I made sure to say that I’m a Muslim like they are, and that my name is Abu Rami. In the same breath I told them that in 5 minutes soldiers will be arriving, and that they’ll kill us all, so we needed to run away!

I directed them in a different direction from where I was going, and I told them to give Amit to me because she could delay them. To my delight they handed Amit over to me. At that point, I wanted to hug Amit and calm her down, but I couldn’t, because I realized that they’d understand I had lied. So, only after I put her in the car and we were on our way home, did I manage to reassure her that she was in good hands. A few minutes later, she was at my house.”

Again and again you returned, despite knowing Hamas was there and of the mass destruction and devastation which was happening.

“As I had done each time, I returned to the line of fire – someone named Ofek was waiting for me to rescue him, and I had promised him that I would come back for him. Again I had no internet, and it was very difficult. After a few minutes I stopped the car, I had a feeling that they were there. I got out of the car and went towards the wadi by foot, and shouted: “Ofek, Ofek where are you?” To my joy and good fortune, Ofek and his friends came out of the wadi, and I took them back quickly to the moshav. It was already early afternoon, and I continued returning to the wadi to follow up on the many locations that were sent to me of people out there.”

What happened at Re'im?

“This time I arrived at the area of Re’im – where the bomb shelters were. Unfortunately, here I was not able to rescue anyone because the terrorists had murdered everyone there. As I was looking at their bodies, I received calls from the parents of the boys and girls who had hidden inside the shelters. It was not my place to tell them that their children were no longer alive, so I informed them that I wasn’t able to enter the area because it was a closed-off military area.

I rushed on to the next destination, deep in the line of fire. On the way, I met two soldiers from a tank brigade who were trying to get to Kibbutz Be’eri. Crying, I shouted out directions to the kibbutz, and I continued on to the next location. Eliya’s family had sent me his location, but unfortunately, Eliya was no longer alive.

As I got to him, I received a call from his sister asking me if he was alive. I answered her: “Does your family believe in God?” She said that they do, and I then said: “Pray to God that you will find comfort with Eliya, because many people won’t find comfort.” I was referring to all the bodies I had seen on the way to the rescues.”

What happened come nightfall?

“At 6:30pm I received another rescue request and asked the youths to describe what they saw around them, and they said they saw a room full of televisions and cameras. I immediately understood that they were referring to a factory I know, called Yacham. I reached them very quickly. There, too, terrorists had taken over the area and the shooting didn’t stop; but we didn’t give up and we also rescued them from the hell.

On the way out, we looked back and saw the whole factory explode, and the next day we realized that the factory had burned down, and no one inside had survived. I sent these boys with my son-in-law to the moshav, and then I continued on to the next rescue. Adva Dadon sent me a message with the location of someone in the Re’im bridge area in the Be’eri forest; I had recently been there. Of course, I couldn’t refuse this request, even though it was already getting dark. My conscience wouldn’t let me leave them out there, despite the difficulty involved and the sights I had seen.

I reached his location, but unfortunately the man was injured and had lost a lot of blood; I felt him, and he was very hot. I realized that there was no chance to save him. I picked him up and brought him to a point where I had already placed several bodies during the day so that they wouldn’t be left in the field. It was getting late, and I realized that I would not be able to sleep that night. I continued searching, but at this stage I was only finding corpses and body parts, so I concentrated on getting them to one place. I covered them with mats I found in the party area.”

Any other stories from this day?

“I’d like to share another story with you from that Black Shabbat. At 2:00 pm, an IDF officer called me, and asked if he and his father could take part in rescuing the young people. At first, I didn’t agree. But he pressured me, and nevertheless, he came and joined my son-in-law on the way, helping him evacuate the wounded and the dead. I only met him the next morning in the Re’im area, and I told him that it was still full of terrorists and that he should be careful, and that there were places where we should not go to. The next morning, together with reporters from Channel 12, we continued to search for any piece of information that could help save lives.”

You lost family members as well yes?

“At a quarter to ten in the morning on October 8th, I received a call from my cousin Asaf who had also participated in the rescues on October 7th. He was crying and shouted that we were able to save everyone but his daughter Ofir ­– she had been murdered on her army base. I collapsed, and I couldn’t function anymore. I asked God to give me more strength, and I phoned my brothers to go to Asaf and to hug and comfort him. I then continued to more location points between the wadis and the burned cars with the reporters.

This went on for 48 hours. On my own, I was collecting bodies and body parts, reassuring parents, and gathering every piece of paper with information about their loved ones that I could pass on to the parents. It was only on Monday morning that I came across the IDF forces, and I realized that being in this place was very dangerous and that I must leave.

I went home, but after only a few hours I returned to the field – my conscience wasn’t clear, and my brain wasn’t functioning. My body was not calm because of the knowledge that there might be more information that I could pass on to those parents and more people that could be rescued. Even though it was forbidden, I went back out there.

Lots of people have asked me why I didn’t document and take pictures of what I went through, what I saw and who I rescued.

My answer is that there was a lot to do and very little time. I didn’t bother with anything else – my only goal was to rescue people. Only after a few days did I realize how many boys and girls we rescued from that area, bringing them to safety, how many souls we were able to save for the coming generations. After everything was clarified and the final records were compiled, we realized that our rescue mission had saved over 750 people – 750 souls who returned home intact.”

Thank you Rami Davidian. May your name be remembered for generations. As the Talmud teaches us “Whoever saves a single life is considered by scripture to have saved the whole world.’

Ronn Torossian is an Israeli-American entrepreneur and author.