- The Washington Times - Friday, March 29, 2024

EIN HABESOR, Israel — It was early morning October 7, 2023, and Ein Habesor resident Yftach Gepner, a professor at Tel Aviv University, turned to his wife in bed and said the rockets and missiles and shelling they were listening to seemed different from normal.

He told his wife to get their kids into the safe room in their home, and he went outside to see what was happening. At first he thought the video clips of terrorists in a truck that popped in his WhatsApp were bits of fake news. Then he saw with his own eyes a truck of terrorists with RPGs on a nearby road and he realized the assault was real.

With just a few M-16s and guns, Gepner and his brother, Eldad, and other members of the community hunkered at the gate and fired at advancing Hamas terrorists. Gepner’s brother Eldad was injured, shot below the shoulder. Gepner rushed to drive him in his Tesla out the community’s back gate for medical care, but they came upon another group of terrorists in trucks and motorcycles, who began to give chase and fire. 

Bullets tore through the vehicle and struck Eldad again. Another splattered the glass on the windshield, just missing Eldad’s head, as he laid back against the seat.

If it hadn’t been for the acceleration speed of the Tesla, Gepner said, he and his brother probably would have been killed.

Ein Habesor is located about three miles from Gaza, and produces about 60 percent of all of Israel’s produce. Though the terrorists never breached the gate, and nobody from Ein Habesor was killed, adjacent communities weren’t so lucky. For hours, terrorists from Gaza drove the nearby roads — which included those to Reim forest, where thousands of Jewish youth had congregated for the Nova Festival of music — and they fired off RPGs and rifles as they scoured the areas for Jews to kill, rape, torture, capture. 

Gepner said that until October 7, most of those in Ein Habeshor wanted to help the Palestinians, and often provided them medical and health care. After? 


Now, as the community is still trying to recover from the tragedy and horror; from the economic hit of agricultural produce that’s wasted in the field as nobody’s there to pick and process it; from the grief of knowing personally many in nearby communities who were killed, raped, captured and held hostage — now, how do they feel? Gepner’s daughter, Ella, says she’s suffered panic attacks.

“One of my closest friends got kidnapped,” she said.

The residual is real. Gepner had to cut short the interview to bring his children to a mental health appointment, just one continuing consequence of October 7.

It’s difficult to understand evil, he said.

But it’s even more difficult, he said, to return to a time of trusting that those in Gaza, the Palestinians, the Arabs actually want to improve their situation more than they want to kill Jews. It’s especially difficult when half the community doesn’t yet want to return, leaving the fate of children’s schooling, community bonding, familial healing and, dramatically for the entire nation of Israel, agricultural production in a constant state of limbo. 

“They hate us,” Gepner said.

At the same time, signs of hope shine.

Ein Habesor is receiving considerable assistance from the Christian group, CityServe, and the bridges that are being built between Christianity and Judaism are “beautiful,” Gepner said.

“It’s a beautiful story,” he said. “It gives us hope. It gives us light in this darkest time. It’s bridging the gap between Jews and Christians … making a connection that’s beautiful.”

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter and podcast by clicking HERE. Her latest book, “Lockdown: The Socialist Plan To Take Away Your Freedom,” is available by clicking HERE  or clicking HERE or CLICKING HERE.

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