Omer, 4 years old, looks up at me over the Lego we are building together at the kibbutz hotel in central Israel, which has become his temporary refuge. His smile, accompanied by soft Hebrew words, breaks the temporary escape from the reality surrounding us. “Can you fish with me and Grandpa, now that Dad is gone?” he asks.
Kfar Aza was a beautiful kibbutz, an idyll, in a precarious location. Located five kilometers from the Gaza Strip, it was constantly under rocket fire. In 20 seconds, everyone needed to reach a shelter when the alarm sounded, which happened often. The residents were ready, trained, and accustomed. But there was no preparation for what happened on October 7.
Kfar Aza’s 700 inhabitants formed a close-knit community. It was mainly home to secular Jews with a liberal lifestyle. Peace activists, musicians, and artists lived here. A major global plastic producer, Kafrit, had its headquarters on the kibbutz. The land was cultivated, and the fields flourished.
When the air raid siren went off early in the morning on October 7, Aviv made sure his wife and children took shelter in the safe room in their house. When he realized that the attack was more than a rocket assault, that terrorists had infiltrated the kibbutz, he joined the kibbutz’s home guard. As the terrorists began their attack, the group hurried to the kibbutz’s arsenal.
Aviv heard that a friend had been injured and rushed to his aid. On the way, he was shot in the leg. He took cover among the vegetation and called his wife. “I’ve been shot in the leg, I can’t go on. Help me,” he said. His wife, Heli, asked him to be strong, assured him that help was coming. But no one came. No soldier. No tank. No helicopter. “How could I just leave him out there?” Heli wonders now, as we meet.
After over 20 hours locked in the safe room, while the killing and shooting continued outside, Heli and her two children were rescued by the military and taken north to the Shfaim Kibbutz Hotel. For two days, they lived in uncertainty — was Aviv dead, or had he been taken hostage by Hamas? On Monday afternoon, when the Israeli military finally managed to retake parts of Kfar Aza, Aviv was found.
People say this is not the time to ask questions. That now we must win the war against the antisemitic Islamist terrorist group Hamas. But when the time for questions comes, when answers will be demanded, we must all remember Aviv. We must demand answers to how he and his entire community could be left alone by one of the world’s strongest armies. Alone in defending their village, then left alone once again.
My Swedish-Jewish friend writes to me on Instagram: “We must avenge Aviv’s blood.” But no, revenge cannot be our way forward. Our morality must be stronger than that, no matter how difficult it may feel.
Aviv was buried. We will always remember him. For 10 years, Aviv was my partner’s stage manager. Night after night, he made sure the guitars were tuned, the microphones charged, and the tequila and arak poured. He was always there, always happy, always helpful, always warm. Tributes to the deceased may always sound like this, but in Aviv’s case, it was true.
Every time, I needed to cook meat without understanding the Israeli cuts, he was just a message away. Who do I ask now how to cook a סינתה (sinta)?
At night, Omer asks his mom, “Will Dad be born again?”
I look at his little sister Rani. She is 2 years old. What will she remember about her father?
This text was originally published in Swedish on October 16, 2023, on judiskkronika.se