JOURNAL: Permanently Scarred by Armed Attacks, A Community and its Inhabitants Face a New Reality

by Ryan Lee
Ofakim attack

In the profession of video journalism, there exists an unspoken wish: may the news never touch the boundaries of your personal life. Unfortunately, this silent hope was shattered on October 7th, when violence erupted in close proximity to my hometown.

I am currently residing in Jerusalem where I serve as a videographer for The Major News Network. However, my roots lie in Ofakim, a city situated just a thirty-minute drive from the Gaza border. This city is still home to my mother, in-laws, and siblings. In fact, Ofakim is where I met my spouse.

The community is tightly-knit and historically secure, comprising approximately 13,000 working-class Jews primarily of North African heritage. The familiarity among residents is a defining trait.

On the morning of October 7th, while celebrating the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah with my spouse’s family, hundreds of armed individuals invaded southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. The festive atmosphere was jarringly replaced by a sense of impending doom, felt most acutely on what will be remembered as one of Israel’s bleakest days.

We were jolted awake by air-raid sirens at 6:30 a.m., a sound not entirely unfamiliar to Ofakim, a city that has endured rocket attacks for the past two decades. Dismissing initial alarm, we retreated to a fortified room in the house. Although many older homes in Ofakim lack such protective spaces, my in-laws had constructed one five years prior, measuring roughly 3 by 4 meters.

However, as time elapsed, the gravity of the situation began to sink in. Scouring our mobile phones for updates, we came to realize that armed groups had seized frontline agricultural communities near the border, committing acts of violence and kidnapping multiple individuals.

Around midday, I stepped outdoors, only to hear nearby gunfire and immediately retreat back to the safe room. Hours passed within that confined space as we surreptitiously snuck into the kitchen for sustenance and remained abreast of unfolding events through the Israeli media. Political debates ensued among us about governmental failures to protect its citizens.

Risking my safety, I left the safe room to check on my mother and my 15-year-old daughter, both residing dangerously close to areas of active conflict. When I returned, I also could not resist capturing the aftermath of the violence with my camera. The community that I had known was now irrevocably altered, bearing the visible scars of bullet holes and stories of unimaginable loss.

Official military intervention was conspicuously absent for much of that harrowing day, leaving local police and firefighters to contend with the armed attackers who are believed to have claimed at least 50 lives before being neutralized or killed.

In the wake of this horrific event, my sister relocated to the United States with her visiting family, and my adult daughter fled to the remote Israeli city of Eilat. Returning to Jerusalem, I find my home now occupied indefinitely by my mother and in-laws. Since then, my professional responsibilities have involved covering a sorrowful series of funerals, including that of my former colleague Yaniv, who lost his life in the attacks.

I possess no dual citizenship; I am Israeli. And like every other citizen, I am now burdened with the task of reconstructing a life shattered by this unparalleled tragedy, grappling with a national psyche deeply wounded and contemplating how to forge ahead.

Ofakim, the city of my upbringing, has been indelibly altered.

Contributions to this report were made by Tia Goldenberg, a writer for The Major News Network.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ofakim attack

What is the central focus of this text?

The central focus of the text is on the experience of a Jerusalem-based videographer during a violent militant invasion in his hometown of Ofakim, Israel. The text offers a firsthand account of the emotional and physical impact of the event on the community and its residents.

Who is the primary audience for this text?

The primary audience for this text is individuals interested in current events, Israeli affairs, community safety, and personal narratives related to armed conflict.

What happened in Ofakim as described in the text?

On October 7th, armed militants from the Gaza Strip invaded Ofakim, disrupting the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah. Air-raid sirens were activated and the community found itself under immediate threat. Residents retreated to safe rooms, and at least 50 people are believed to have been killed before the attackers were neutralized or killed.

What was the personal involvement of the author?

The author was in Ofakim visiting family at the time of the attack. He narrates his personal experience, which includes taking refuge in a fortified room, stepping outside amidst gunfire, and ultimately documenting the event as a videographer.

How has the event affected the community’s perception of safety?

The event has deeply scarred the community’s sense of safety and well-being. Prior to this, Ofakim had been a secure and tight-knit community. The invasion has had a traumatic impact, leading to widespread fear, a questioning of governmental protection, and the emigration of some residents.

Did the attack have any broader implications for Israel?

While the text focuses mainly on the personal experience of the author and his community, the undertone suggests that the event has had a broader psychological and perhaps political impact on Israel, affecting the national psyche and raising questions about public safety and governmental responsibilities.

What measures had been in place for the community’s safety before the attack?

Older homes in Ofakim generally relied on communal shelters during air-raid sirens. The author’s in-laws had built a fortified room in their house five years prior to the event. Despite this, the scale and nature of the attack caught the community off guard.

Who contributed to the report?

The report was primarily written by the author, who is a Jerusalem-based videographer. Contributions were also made by Tia Goldenberg, a writer for The Major News Network.

More about Ofakim attack

  • Background on the Gaza-Israel Conflict
  • Information on Simchat Torah
  • Emergency Preparedness and Public Safety in Israel
  • Profile of Ofakim: A Community Under Siege
  • Israeli Government’s Response to Armed Attacks

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Sarah Williams October 20, 2023 - 7:50 am

i can’t even imagine what that day must’ve been like for everyone there. This really brings home the reality of how quick life can change.

John Doe October 20, 2023 - 9:58 am

Wow, this is an eye-opener. Never really thought that even tight-knit communities like Ofakim could be subjected to such horror. What’s happening to the world?

Mike Thompson October 20, 2023 - 3:41 pm

Why wasn’t the military there? Seriously, something’s got to give with the government’s response. At least 50 people dead? Unbelievable.

Emily Clark October 20, 2023 - 9:41 pm

The way the author talks about his own experience really hits you in the gut. It’s not just news, it’s people’s lives turned upside down. So sad.

Robert Allen October 21, 2023 - 1:26 am

Very detailed account. I appreciate the personal angle, helps to understand the emotional toll of such a terrifying event. Makes you think twice about what safety really means.


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