Written by: Yaakov Aviezry
A month has passed since that black Saturday. The Saturday that will forever be etched in my mind. For a month I have been trying to comprehend what I experienced that Saturday, to comprehend what I experienced every day since. And in just a little moment of silence, all of the thoughts and memories come to life in this note that I am now writing. I am Yaakov Aviezry and this is my story.
It is Simchat Torah. I wake up to the sounds of explosions and the clock tells me it’s 7:23. I tell myself it must be just a minor escalation. I live in Netivot and work in Askelon. We are used to the fact that the there is an escalation every few months. I go back to sleep, trying to ignore the noise of the explosions.
Just a few minutes later my phone suddenly rings. This time it is 7:41. The screen shows “101”. I am a religious person that keeps Shabbat, but if MDA is calling there must be life at stake. I answer the call, on the other side of the line I hear a nice sounding dispatcher that tells me “Hi Yaakov. I apologize for disturbing you, but there are multiple irregular incidents in the South, we don’t have specific details yet but since you have an ambulance on call I need to give you a few safety instructions.” These safety instructions are given to ambulance drivers every time there is an escalation, a kind of refresher for the time of emergency.
The dispatcher tells me that if a siren is heard the ambulance must be stopped and the driver must run to the nearest safe space, then she suddenly stops. She takes in a deep breath and says: “I just got a report of an irregular event in the area of the Netivot junction. We need you there immediately. Go there carefully to understand what is happening and report back to us.”
I jumped out of bed, put my shoes on, getting in the ambulance as fast as humanly possible. On route I receive from the system information on the incident. “Terror attack – serious injury.” The dispatch center sends me a message to be extra careful.
I get to the location and can see there is an ambulance and a number of police vehicles. That calms me down, it seems the area is secure and everything is fine. I open the ambulance door to go attend to the wounded, and after a single step heavy gunfire starts to rain on us. At that time I didn’t understand the meaning of the noises, and wasn’t aware of the extent of the situation. The EMT from the other ambulance shouts commands at me – “Take cover!”
While I lay there on the ground the realization came to me. I was finally able to understand, terrorists are shooting at us! All of that happened within seconds. Seconds that will never go back. Many civilians who were caught in the area were injured by the gunfire. The cops there were able to incapacitate the terrorists who were shooting at us. As they were eliminated one of the cops signaled me to take the casualties and get them right away to the hospital.
We got a few of the casualties on the first ambulance, another few got on a different ambulance that had just arrived, and a soldier with a gunshot wound to his shoulder was in my ambulance. I get in the ambulance to start the evacuation, but then a military vehicle blocks me aggressively. A few soldiers get out of the vehicle yelling “Help! Help!”
I turn around to see them taking out two casualties who were evacuated from Be’eri. It was a young couple. Both had their legs amputated from the terrorists’ heavy gunfire. I ordered the male to be put in my ambulance and his partner in the first ambulance. I get on my way and drive, drive without looking back. I drive as fast as I can! These people need to get to the hospital and I will do everything in my power to ensure they get there alive!
The view on the way was drastically different. Cars burning on the sides of the road. Fields and orchards emitting huge amounts of black smoke. The road was barely visible. And the smell? That is a smell I will never forget. The stench of death, of burned bodies. Yet there isn’t any time to think. My goal is clear and I am focused on it. In my mind echoes only one voice, screaming – SAVE THEM.
The MDA dispatch has already requested the hospital to prepare the trauma room. The whole way I am begging my patients to stay awake, don’t close your eyes! I tell them: “We’ll be there in just a small moment!” A moment that felt like infinity.
I finally arrived at Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva. I get out of the ambulance and lead my patients straight to the trauma room. At the same time, I reported to the person in charge that multiple ambulances are on their way so they could prepare accordingly.
And then it began here as well. A war broke out here in the hospital. Although in that war there weren’t any soldiers, there were doctors and nurses. That war was not in order to kill but in order to save lives. And the amount of people that didn’t survive this war was something I could have never imagined. I couldn’t know at that time.
While my patients were in good hands, in the hands of the doctors that will do anything to save them, I went back from the ER to my ambulance, glad I was able to achieve my mission, to bring them here alive.
I start the ambulance and return to the Netivot MDA station in order to wash the ambulance of all the blood that accumulated on it, whilst calling my friends in MDA, asking them to join me in my ambulance in case we are needed.
I was glad I was able to complete my mission, but something in me must have known – it was far from over. While we were in the station a siren began. We entered the safe area and then a huge explosion was heard. I look at my team and we all understand, this rocket wasn’t intercepted by the Iron Dome. 30 seconds later the dispatch verifies our concern – there was a direct hit.
We immediately put our protective gear on and leave for the address. At the location, a 16 year old kid is lifeless and 2 more are in serious condition. It was a grandfather, a father, and a son. We began the lifesaving treatment, stopped the bleeds, and raced to the hospital, yet their condition was critical. On the MDA radio I call for a MICU team to join us. The meetup occurred in Gilat Junction. Two days later we were told they didn’t make it.
That black Saturday was the day in which we evacuated dozens of casualties in various conditions to the hospitals, MICUs, and MDA helicopters. Police officers, soldiers and civilians. To me, “Black Saturday” isn’t just a term. That black Saturday was the bloodiest day I have lived. Tremendous amounts of blood, viscous blood, blood that had lost its red color. In these amounts, the blood already seems black.
A Saturday that was painted by the blood of so many victims, that is what that black Saturday was. I must note that I had passed the Team Leader qualification a mere fortnight before the black Saturday. Experience I should have gained over many years, I accumulated in a single day. Never would I have imagined I would be in such a situation, not even in my worst nightmares.
Elchanan, Orianne and Golan, you are the best team anyone could ask for. Because of you, we were able to save lives! I wouldn’t have managed another minute without you.
The days since that black Saturday I passed moving from reserve duty in the IDF to the shifts in MDA. Maneuvering between combat and saving lives. Attempting to give of myself wherever I am, and for every moment that I’m awake. This is also the place to say I am sorry for the loss of all of those who have lost their loved ones, and those whose lives we didn’t manage to save. I am hopeful we will see better says, and may God avenge those who were murdered, and that all the hostages may come back healthy and well, Please God.
Never forget. There is only one Israel. Am Israel Chai and together we will win. I am proud of my country and proud to save lives.