Or Gat was celebrating a couple’s engagement while his family was sleeping in the early morning of Oct. 7 in the Be’eri Kibbutz in Israel.
The first reports he heard of the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel were that it was missile strikes. But after many attempts to reach family, he finally heard from his dad, Eshel, and he realized the gravity of what took place to his family.
During a conversation with the YIOZ of North Riverdale/Yonkers on Riverdale Avenue last Sunday, Gat put the reality of what happened into perspective for the more than 100 people there.
“On Oct. 6, the Be’eri Kibbutz in Israel had a population of 1,260. By the end of the day on Oct. 7, it was 1,085,” he said. “One video showed that first they took my mother (Kinneret). And then a second video showed my mother lying down lifeless.
“There were many from our kibbutz who were taken and who died. We know Carmel, my sister, was taken by Hamas. My brother (Alon), my sister-in-law (Yarden Roman Gat) and their daughter (Geffen). They took all three. They shoved them into a car.”
This story, which was brought to the Riverdale Jewish community last weekend at Young Israel Ohab Zedek and SAR Academy Principal and Rabbi Bini Krauss, brought the horrors of Oct. 7 to the Bronx. It was a day where more than 1,400 Israelis and multinationals and Americans were murdered and more than 200 were taken hostage by Hamas. Since that day, Israel has fought back with missile strikes and a sporadic ground campaign that leaves nearly 7,000 Gazans dead, according to Hamas.
For the Gat family, they did lose Kinneret, 68, the glue that kept the family together and will be remembered as a guiding force in Or’s life, as he put it. They also face the torture of having two family members taken hostage — Carmel Gat and Yarden Roman Gat.
At the same time, there were two miracles that occurred that day for the Gat family. Or’s father somehow survived the bloody rampage through his home and kibbutz and his brother and his daughter escaped their captors and survived.
“When I finally reached my father,” Or said, “he told me it was a big mess there. He saved himself by locking himself in a bathroom.”
As for his brother, Alon, and niece, Geffen, their story was quite harrowing as they ran from the car they were taken captive in.
“They (the Hamas captors) drove about 4 kilometers into Gaza back through the fence where they came,” Or said. “It wasn’t that far. Then the terrorists were distracted by what they thought were IDF.
“That’s when Geffen and her dad jumped out of the car. They went to an IDF army post and tried to hide. They couldn’t find a place to hide.”
He went on to explain how the father and daughter kept moving from bushes and buildings to continue their escape.
It took them 15 hours to head back to Israel where they were rescued by a bus, Or said.
In order to keep his daughter busy and less scared, Alon, who was a camping tour guide, decided to make their journey into a camping game, Or told the Riverdale audience.
“At 4 or 5 a.m. they started heading back,” Or said. “He made a phone call to me at 7:20 in the morning. I had only gone to sleep an hour earlier.”
Or Gat’s appearance at YIOZ is part of an effort to get out the story of what happened in Israel on Oct.7 so that the world does not forget about the hostages and antisemitism that has followed.
“It’s been impossible for me and others to go home for the simple fact that the defense forces have not been able to do enough,” he said. “Our efforts so far are to spread the news, and that is important.
“We’re going to the media and talking to people all around the world and to those people who can make changes.
“We want to make sure negotiations take place to free the hostages.”
As part of his speech, Or including a slide that asked audience members to do three things:
• Connect us with federal officials in the Biden administration
• Connect us with influential social media personalities to help share our story
• Pressure your elected officials to enact policy that frees Israel’s hostages as soon as possible.
Rabbi Krauss welcomed Or into the Riverdale Jewish family both before and after his speech.
“To Or, all I want to say to you is everyone here is your family,” the rabbi said. “Everyone is Israel is your family.”