Discover more from Hopium Chronicles By Simon Rosenberg
Congress Has Important Work To Do Now
Tom Bonier Joins Us Wednesday, The Remarkable New Jobs Report
With a fierce land war raging in Europe, and the ongoing attack on Israel, Congress must return now and do a few immediate things:
Pass military aid packages for Ukraine and Israel
Break the Tuberville blockade, fully staff the Pentagon
Approve stalled MENA Ambassadors and other State Dept officials, including a new Ambassador to Israel
Cut the MAGA bullshit
Read my new essay on why the Republican Party’s years of appeasing/encouraging Putin has helped destabilize the world and bring about this dangerous moment.
Other Things We Are Working On
Our “Winning Virginia” Discussion With VA Delegate Dan Helmer - Please Watch, Donate, Volunteer Today
Amir Tibon’s Story From Israel
Earlier this year Hopium Chronicles hosted an Israeli journalist, Amir Tibon, for a discussion about the fight for democracy in Israel. On Saturday his kibbutz in the south of Israel, near the Gaza border, came under attack. Thankfully he and his family survived. This is an excerpt of his account in the newspaper he writes for, Haaretz - My 62-year-old Dad Fought Hamas Terrorists To Free My Family. The Israeli State Failed Us:
After an hour of non-stop sirens and explosions, we heard for the first time the blood-curdling sound of automatic gunfire. At first, we heard it from a distance, from the fields. Then, the sound was much closer, coming from the road. And then, it was right inside our neighborhood, near the window of our house. We also heard shouting in Arabic and understood immediately what was going on: It was our worst nightmare playing out. Armed Hamas militants had infiltrated our kibbutz and were literally on our doorstep, while we were locked inside with our two little girls.
Miri and I moved to Nahal Oz nine years ago, right after the 2014 Gaza War. What drew us to this particular place was a desire for a bit of adventure and community life, as well as some old-fashioned Zionism. Relocating to a kibbutz on the Gaza border was not an obvious choice for a young Tel Avivian couple. Our parents were proud of our decision, though, and Nahal Oz became our home. That’s where we got married in 2016, at the swimming pool situated just a few hundred meters from the border fence. And that’s where we returned after a three-year stint in the United States, where I served as Haaretz’s correspondent in Washington.
When we moved to the kibbutz, the most frightening word in our lexicon was “tunnel.” But since the government had invested billions of shekels in an underground obstruction wall meant to neutralize Hamas’ network of underground tunnels , we allowed ourselves to sleep peacefully. This Saturday morning, we realized that this underground wall was our generation’s equivalent of the Maginot Line and that we are in the midst of a disaster on the scale of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Israel had poured tons of concrete into the earth, when all Hamas had to do was to overrun the above-ground fence with its tractors.
First, we lost our electricity. The whole world turned dark. We used our cellphones for light, while reading WhatsApp messages from our neighbors. The terrorists moved around our neighborhood freely, in some cases breaking into homes. They fired gunshots on ours, and our girls were woken up by the blasts. We explained to them that we needed to be quiet, to lie in bed and wait, and to our astonishment, they cooperated fully, demonstrating a level of maturity we did not think possible at their age. We had no food in our safe room. Nor a flashlight. Residents of northern Israel who might be reading this, I beg you to equip yourselves properly for the likely possibility of a similar scenario on the Lebanese border.
We gradually started losing our cellular connection. Whenever possible, I updated my parents about our situation, as well as my colleagues Amos Harel and Yaniv Kubovich, who cover the military beat for Haaretz. I am grateful beyond words to the two of them for the efforts they made throughout the morning to update the military about what was going on in Nahal Oz. But the updates I got from the outside world through them made me realize the gravity of our situation. What had happened in Nahal Oz had also happened in a long list of kibbutzim, cities and army bases. We understood that it would take a long time before help came. Meanwhile, outside our locked window, the constant sounds of gunfire could be heard.
We passed nerve-wracking hours of uncertainly that way. We had no idea what was going on in the kibbutz and couldn’t even see one another in the darkness. My little girls were true heroines. They remained completely silent, with no food, and waited. Once in a while, they asked to open the door and play in the living room. We patiently explained to them that it was impossible because of the dangers outside. We didn’t even know if the terrorists had broken into our home.
One text message we received gave us a sliver of hope: My father, General (Ret) Noam Tibon wrote that he was on the way from Tel Aviv. We had no idea how he would get here. But just like our girls put their faith in us during these critical hours, we also put ours in him. Only later, in the evening, did I hear what he and my mom went through that day, how many people they helped save, and the heroism they showed on their trip down here.
Their first stop was Mefalsim, a nearby kibbutz, where they found dead bodies strewn on the ground and cars going up in flames. Suddenly, a few young people who had escaped the massacre at a nearby rave showed up near their car. My parents put them inside and dropped them off at a location further north before turning around and heading down to Nahal Oz again. On the way, my dad met a group of combat soldiers just standing in the middle of the road who seemed to be waiting for instructions. They had no contact with their commanders, and it was a scene of total chaos and confusion, as my dad later reported. One of the soldiers agreed to join my dad in the car and drive to Nahal Oz with him. My mom stayed behind in Mefalsim.
Near the entrance to the kibbutz, they witnessed soldiers from a special IDF unit come under attack by Hamas militants. My dad and the soldier who had joined him got out of the car and helped the soldiers gun down the terrorists. They then packed two injured soldiers into the car and drove back to Mefalsim. There, my parents decided to split up. My mom brought the injured soldiers to a hospital in Ashkelon, and my dad headed in the direction of Nahal Oz. He was joined by another retired general who had put on his military fatigues and, without anyone asking, driven down south to try to save lives. And so, two retired officers, both over the age of 60, were making their way into a war zone in order to try and save us and other families.
On their way to Nahal Oz, they met other IDF forces who had divided up the area among themselves for scouting and “cleansing” purposes. My dad joined a group that were going door to door and ended up killing six terrorists and freeing dozens of kibbutzniks who had been locked up in their safe rooms for 10 hours. Some of our neighbors were shocked to see “Amir’s dad” among the soldiers who had come to rescue them. They sent us text messages about his presence, but by then, our batteries were dead. The only sign we had that they were getting closer were the gunshots that could be heard every time they encountered the terrorists.
The final hour in the safe room was the hardest of all. The darkness was oppressive, the air was getting thin, and the girls were growing more impatient. The only thing that kept them calm was our promise that their grandfather was on his way. At 4 p.m., we heard a knock on the window and then a familiar voice. Galia immediately said: “Sabba is here.” For the first time since the morning, we all burst into tears.
In the following hours, our house was transformed into a field headquarters. Soldiers came in and out, they brought over neighbors who had been injured, families whose homes had been broken into, and some of the kibbutz elders who didn’t want to be left alone. The crushing loneliness we felt during the long hours in the safe room were eased by this reunion. But the moments of joy were short-lived. As more and more families entered our home, we learned of the atrocities that had taken place that day. Of the dead, the wounded and the missing. The gravity of this disaster soon became clear.
A quick look outside revealed the dead bodies of five terrorists, one still holding his RPG. It turned out that death was even closer than we feared. But in the evening, while preparing dinner with one of our neighbors for 12 children, we hadn’t yet internalized this. The full shock came in the middle of the night, while sitting on the bus that evacuated us to a place far from the border.
Nahal Oz has been a symbol of heroism ever since the early days of the State of Israel. For us, it was simply a beloved home that we shared with the people we loved most in the world. On Thursday, two days before this tragedy, we even hosted friends from the center of the country who fell in love with the beauty surrounding our community. But with this war, something has cracked. The terms of the contract between us and the state had always been clear: We protect the border, and the state protects us. We fulfilled our share of the deal heroically. For all too many of our beloved friends and neighbors, on this black day of Saturday, October 7, the state of Israel did not fulfill its share.
All my love to the good people of Israel. Keep working hard all - Simon