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In tiny Israeli village decimated in Hamas terrorist attacks, residents return to mourn

Kibbutz Nir Oz,Israel: No one lives in Kibbutz Nir Oz anymore, but some residents are returning to bury their dead.

On Thursday afternoon, a cortege of ambulances, civilian cars and military trucks drove silently into the empty village and through its burned-out streets, halting at its sand-covered cemetery.

From the ambulances, the mourners pulled out six wooden coffins.

They contained members of the Siman Tov family. All were killed in a massacre at the village Oct. 7. That day, at least 1,500 attackers surged into Israel from the Gaza Strip, sweeping through border villages like Kibbutz Nir Oz, and killed at least 1,400 people and kidnapped about 200.

Nearly a quarter of the village’s roughly 400 residents were killed, kidnapped or reported missing.

Now, the village’s houses stand empty, many of their rooms stained red with blood or charred with ash. In a child’s bedroom Thursday, reporters found a bunk bed covered in dried blood. Several living rooms were burned, the furniture charred, the walls covered in soot. A bloodied duvet lay next to a toy camel.

The survivors have been evacuated to other parts of Israel. But dozens returned Thursday under military escort to attend the burial of the Siman Tov family.

In a small, freshly dug grave, they buried Carol Siman Tov. In a larger pit nearby, they lowered the coffins of her son Johnny; his wife, Tamar; and their children — twin daughters, Shahar and Arbel, 6; and their son, Omer, 4. It was such a tight fit that one of the coffins was briefly stuck.

At a Jewish funeral, the bodies of the dead are often buried in a shroud. This funeral broke with that convention: The bodies were too disfigured from the massacre, officials said.

Tamar’s father, Gadi Kedem, said the Kaddish, a Jewish prayer of mourning.

“May the one who brings peace to the universe bring peace to us,” he said.

Minutes later, mortar shells from the Gaza Strip started landing nearby, and Israeli soldiers stationed at the village fired back with artillery.

(Published 21 October 2023, 03:55 IST)

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