October 7, 2023 will forever be a searing date of collective grief and trauma for the nation and people of Israel.
Individually, there is a heartbreaking story for every man, woman and child killed, wounded or kidnapped by Hamas that terrible day. Some were partying at the Supernova music festival; many were lifelong residents of kibbutzim that were savagely overrun; others were visiting friends or family.
While each story is different, there is a commonality of sheer horror and brutality, of lives lost or irrevocably changed. This is one such story – a story of commitment to the State Israel; a love of what it represented; and, in this particular instance, the end of aspirations for peaceful coexistence with Palestinian neighbors.
A Quintessential Example of the Zionist Ideal
Said Moshe and Adina, his wife of 52 years, were residents of Nir Oz. The circumstances that brought them together at the kibbutz along the Gaza border are a quintessential example of the Zionist ideal.
Said’s family emigrated from Iraq in the formative years of the state. When he came of age, Said joined the paratroopers, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Sasson. Sasson was killed in the Yom Kippur War almost exactly 50 years prior to the horrific events of October 7.
Said joined the Nahal Brigade, which David Ben-Gurion created as a means of combining military service with the establishment and growth of new agricultural communities, particularly in the south.
And that is how Said arrived at Nir Oz.
Although some soldiers leave kibbutzim following their service, Said, who had a lifelong passion for farming, fell in love with the agricultural kibbutz and remained. He also fell in love with Adina, who herself came to Nir Oz via the Nahal Brigade. Together, they raised four children.
Uncle Moshe, as Said was affectionately known, became a pillar of the kibbutz, not only for his agricultural achievements, but also as the organizer for every commemoration, celebratory or somber. Adina was an educator, teaching children at Nir Oz and other kibbutzim throughout the region.
Both Said, 75, and Adina 72, were ardent believers in peace and co-existence. Nir Oz was among the first border communities to hire Palestinians from Gaza to work the fields. If a Gaza child needed medical care, kibbutz members would drive them to hospitals in Israel for treatment.
“No, it Cannot Be”
On October 7, Israel Maimon – former major in the Golani Brigade, government secretary, and immediate past president and CEO of Israel Bonds – was celebrating Sukkot with friends on Long Island. Later that evening, texting with his WhatsApp family group, he saw alarming texts from his sister.
His first thought was rocket attacks. “Then, I started seeing the videos. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought, ‘No, it cannot be.’”
Maimon rushed home to Israel. Tragically, one of the first things he did upon arriving was attend the funeral of Said, his cousin – “the man who loved to pat potatoes.” Adina was not present – she had been cruelly abducted by Hamas terrorists and taken to Gaza.
The day of horror unfolded with residents of Nir Oz awakening to rocket sirens. “It was,” says Maimon, “like nothing they had experienced before. The sheer scope of it was unbelievable.”
Said and Adina ran to their safe room and began communicating with other kibbutzim via a WhatsApp group chat. Said reported hearing Arabic, and suddenly, says Maimon, “they were seeing terrorists in vehicles and on motorcycles storming Nir Oz.”
Throughout the region, desperate texts were sent to the IDF, pleading for rescue. Maimon cites one from a family beseeching the army to save them. “It read, ‘help us, help us, they are entering the house.’”
As the attacks continued, Adina sent a final, heartrending text from Nir Oz: “Said is bleeding, I don’t know if we will be able to survive the situation.” As he read the many unanswered pleas for rescue, Maimon recounts, “I couldn’t stop crying.”
Evidence found in their home shows Said died heroically trying to save Adina. Maimon remembers his cousin as “a socialist who believed in the goodness of people. He did so many things to help Palestinians. It’s unbelievable,” he adds angrily, “how he was paid back.”
A few hours later, Hamas posted a Telegram video, where Maimon saw Adina on a motorcycle, frantically clutching her captors to keep from falling. “You could see terrorists cheering,” he says contemptuously. “It was disgusting. She didn’t hurt a soul in her life, and only tried to do good for the Palestinians.”
In the aftermath of the barbaric attack, Nir Oz lay in ruins. Out of its 400 residents, at least 100, including Said and Adina, were murdered, kidnapped or missing.
Maimon’s nephew Roei was also a victim of Hamas terrorism, but fortunately lived. Attending the Supernova festival with three friends, they drove into a hail of machine gun bullets while trying to escape. Two girls in the car were killed. Roei and his friend were shot but survived by pretending to be dead until the attackers departed.
“We will Prevail”
Since returning to Israel, where both his son and daughter have been called up for IDF service, Maimon has maintained an active social media presence. He explains, “Because of my previous positions in government and with Israel Bonds, I feel it is important to share information – the truth – with friends all over the world. This is among the most justified wars ever.”
Maimon continues: “I also do it to give respect to my cousin, to tell Said’s story and try, as hard as I can, to help free the hostages. The Jewish people united can, and must, make a difference. We don’t have a choice. We will prevail.”
(Photos courtesy Israel Maimon)