We will get through this - together!

26 February 2024

I am Michal Uziyahu, a mother of three. We live in the Eshkol Regional Council farmlands which consists of 32 communities along the Israeli border of Israel and Gaza. Out of the 65 kilometres that borders with Gaza, Eshkol takes up 40 kilometres. Before I get to the massacre that we had to go through and the fact that we are survivors today, I want to share the narrative of our amazing community. 

Eshkol is not a territory under dispute. Eshkol is part of the 1948-established borders of Israel. For 20 years this community has lived under an emergency routine. This was always part of our life. I can’t say that we accepted it, but we lived side by side with it. We’re not always in a state of emergency; it can be several rockets, it can be infiltration such as balloons or kites with explosives attached, but life moves on. We always say that our goal is to thrive and to bring more people to live in our community. 

Life on the border with Gaza is 95% heaven and 5% hell, and we focus on the 95% because if we focus on the 5%, it will become 100% - it will become all consuming. So, we do our best to focus on the good side of life: on our communities, on our children, on education, on the economy; on rebuilding and thriving day by day. These are amazing, proud, capable communities. People that are aspiring for peace. The head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, Ofir Libstein, who was murdered in the 7 October massacre, worked to better the lives of the Palestinian people in Gaza. He was making plans for an industrial area that would better the quality of their lives. The people of Eshkol are people that would even volunteer to bring sick children from Gaza to Israeli hospitals. 

On 7 October, our world fell apart. At 6.30am, we heard massive explosions. We ran to the shelter and for hour after hour we heard them massacring our people. Our men fought bravely to defend our communities. And then we heard of captive children, mothers and elderly people who were taken as hostages to Gaza. 

It’s something we cannot imagine would ever happen in our lives. Suddenly we were placed in a position in which we need to mourn while learning how we can grow out of this as survivors. I admit that they crushed our hearts; we are heartbroken. But I want you to remember that we are also strong. We will mourn. We are grieving, but we will rebuild. 
Yes, it’s hard but we know we are not alone. We know that when we look back and to the sides, we have you right next to us - Jewish communities and friends of Israel around the world, just like Australia and UIA giving us hope and comfort. 

There are 174 people that we know have been murdered from our community. There are a further 120 people from our community that are in Gaza or dead, but we don’t yet know. But just like we say in the Israeli national anthem that ‘hope is still strong’ - they will not kill our hope. We will rebuild ourselves. We won’t let these dark forces bring darkness into our lives. The answer to this darkness is to light a candle, and another candle. And soon Chanukah will be here, and we will show them that we are the people of light. How can we do this from the crisis and devastation: together, Yachad.