“We had a number of miracles in the kibbutz.”
Kibbutz Beeri and Kfar Aza became household names around the world after Oct. 7, infamous for being ground zero to some of Hamas’ deadliest attacks and kidnappings which decimated these communities.
But just a little further south along the Gaza border is Kibbutz Re’im which, though lesser known, was no less a target for Hamas on Oct. 7.
“People don’t know about Kibbutz Re’im because ‘only’ six people died,” said Omer Maroodi, a resident of the community. “Only.”
Time has stood still at Re’im since Oct. 7. The smell of smoke still lingers in the air and glass crunches underfoot. Homes that weren’t gutted by fire are pocked with shrapnel.
A jumpsuit wore by a Hamas terrorist is draped over rubble in what is known as the young neighborhood, a section of the kibbutz designated for the community’s pre-army teens and young soldiers so they can experience independence but still live close to their parents.
The extent of the damage is surprising given that Kibbutz Re’im is rarely mentioned in news reports. The same goes for other communities such as Holit and Sufa.
Maroodi indicates a tree where one kibbutz member, a young man, was shot dead while trying to escape Hamas kidnappers. Then he points to a bush where the naked bodies of two women, not kibbutz members, were found. They were likely among those trying to escape the attacks at the open-air concert that had been taking place across the field.
But there were few safe places in the region that day when around 1,200 people were killed and 250 kidnapped in the Hamas attacks.
It is estimated that up to 3,000 Hamas fighters crossed through the fence, perhaps among them other Palestinians, on Oct. 7. Maroodi said that between 80 to 100 of them infiltrated Kibbutz Re’im beginning around 7 a.m. Fighting remained intense until 2 a.m. The terrorists were held back at first by the first responders—there were only six of them—and then army and police who arrived hours later.
Along with six killed, six others were kidnapped including one teen, Liam Or, and five Thai workers. All have since been released in previous hostage deals between Israel and Hamas.
Eight soldiers and eight police officers were also killed in Re’im, Maroodi said, and more bodies piled up just outside the kibbutz which is across from a sprawling field where an overnight concert was taking place. Concertgoers who were able to escape the massacre in the field sought safety in bus stop bomb shelters on the main road—and were subsequently slaughtered there or kidnapped into Gaza. More than 370 died in the concert fields.
Damage on Kibbutz Re’im is seemingly random. In one neighborhood, a home is completely destroyed next to another that was left intact. On another block, an injured man survived in his home while the house next door, which became a hideout for Hamas, was blown to smithereens by an RPG fired by the Israeli army.
“We had a number of miracles in the kibbutz,” Maroodi said.
One of the miracles was Maroodi’s. Just as he entered the bomb shelter after a rocket barrage started at 6:25 a.m., he detected the distant and unexpected sound of rifle fire. Maroodi made a split second decision and got his wife and baby to the car and sped away from the kibbutz heading east.
“Five minutes later they were in the kibbutz and it was too late to go,” Gal-Lee Maroodi had said in an interview in Eilat on Oct. 13.
Within minutes of their escape, dozens of terrorists infiltrated Re’im from three directions. On their way to safety, Omer and Gal-Lee accessed the baby monitor camera from their phones and watched in horror as terrorists broke into and rampaged around their home.
The 450 residents of Re’im are still evacuated, most of them cramped into Tel Aviv apartments. But Maroodi and other volunteers stay in the empty environs, armed, to guard the kibbutz which is acting as an army depot during the Israel-Hamas war.