Deborah, a Chicago-area native, was raising her family on a Kibbutz near the Gaza border, until earlier this month when Hamas launched a surprise terror attack into Israel.
Due to rising tensions in the Middle East, Deborah asked WGN News to not share her last name or show the faces of her family members.
The word “kibbutz” translates to “grouping” or “gathering” in Hebrew, and generally refers to a community often seen in Israel where people voluntarily live and work together on a noncompetitive basis, following an agreed-upon social contract that benefits the group, more so than any given individual.
Deborah and her family were used to hearing alerts and rocket warnings at their kibbutz, being only a few short miles from the Gaza Strip.
“We get six-to-eight seconds to run to the safe room when we get rocket alerts … You go and wait for the boom and the boom is usually the [Israeli Defense Force] intercepting their rockets,” Deborah said.
But Oct. 7 was different.
“We got a message from security saying stay in the house … close the electric blinds and lock the doors,” Deborah said. “My husband armed himself with kitchen knifes.”
Their kibbutz was one of many targets of the Hamas attacks, but unlike others killed in Israel that day, Deborah, her family and her community survived, and were not infiltrated by Hamas.
“Our staff acted quickly … not without being harmed, you know we have someone in the hospital going into surgery with shrapnel in his legs from a grenade,” Deborah said. “But that could be the only reason I’m here today, because of those few staff members.”
After the attacks, Deborah and her family first evacuated to Jerusalem before she made the decision to bring her girls back to the northern suburbs, where they arrived earlier this week, thanks to the help of some complete strangers.
“I have one family not only loaning us their guest house, but stocking the refrigerator,” Deborah said. “I have someone who lent me a car, added us to their insurance and won’t let me pay for it.”
Even with the outpouring of generosity her family has received in the face of uncertainty, Deborah said she still struggles with the heartache of the situation, especially when it comes to explaining things to her children.
“It’s just heartbreaking to me that my girls are asking, ‘when are we going to go home? How many booms are we going to get?’” Deborah said. “And at least I can tell them there are no booms here, you will not get any booms here.”