An Arab-Israeli family risked their lives to save dozens of civilians from the October 7 massacres at the Re’im music festival and Kibbutz Be’er because, they said, their consciences "did not allow" them to abandon the victims.
The heroic efforts of the four Bedouin men, from Rahat, came to light after a short film was posted online by Have You Seen the Horizon Lately, an initiative seeking to promote Jewish-Arab political partnership.
In the video, Aya Meydan, from Kibbutz Be’eri, provided testimony about what happened on the morning of October 7.
Meydan had risen early that morning to meet a friend for a bike ride but had barely exited the gates of the kibbutz when a barrage of rocket missiles was fired just overhead, and her partner called for her to return home immediately.
On her way back, Meydan ran into three Arab workers from the cafeteria of the kibbutz who warned her that terrorists had entered the compound and were shooting people at random, according to her testimony.
Out of the horrible darkness of the #Oct7 massacre, there are shreds of light in the form of heroic stories of rescue and humanity.— האם ראית את האופק לאחרונה? (@Horizon_lately) November 4, 2023
Watch this inspiring story that was just now revealed. pic.twitter.com/b2kIMznFth
Meydan and one of the men, Hisham, ran to the mobile bomb shelters for safety from the terrorists’ gunfire. But they were horrified to witness a group of terrorists throwing grenades into shelters, "killing everyone who was inside".
The pair, who did not yet know one another’s names, took cover in a tangle of bushes, where Hisham borrowed Meydan’s phone and contacted his father. His father instructed Hisham to answer a call from his cousin, Ismail Alkrenawi, who would make his way from the Arab Bedoiun city of Rahat, along with three other relatives, to try to save their cousin.
According to Alkrenawi, on their journey, at a spot near Kibbutz Be’eri. the four men encountered young people fleeing the massacre at the Supernova music festival.
“We saw people in mortal danger. Our conscience did not allow us to leave them there under fire,” Alkrenawi said. “Before heading to rescue our cousin, we helped a lot of people who were at the music festival.”
Alkrenawi said that he and his family managed to rescue 30 to 40 people who had been at the festival.
“We said to them, ‘You’re okay’, we hugged them, gave them some water to drink, rinsed their faces off.”
With tears on his cheeks, Alkrenawi recalled the nightmarish scene: “I remember the dead bodies I saw on the road, the dead bodies I saw in the fields. That is something that you cannot forget.”
Meydan embraces Alkenawi in a reunion after he and his family helped to save her life on Oct. 7.
All the while, Alkrenawi was messaging his cousin Hisham using Meydan’s mobile phone. After hours spent evacuating civilians from the area around the festival, Alkrenawi and his relatives approached Kibbutz Be’eri under relentless gunfire.
They managed to pick up Meydan and Hisham in their Jeep just as IDF units arrived and drew their weapons on the vehicle.
One of the men can be heard shouting in a recording from the time: “We are Israelis, we came here to help! Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!”
Meydan said she was then pulled aside by an IDF soldier who asked if she had been kidnapped by the men in the vehicle, to which she replied that they had saved her life.
When Meydan was evacuated by bus with others from Kibbutz Be’eri to Be’er Sheva, she received a call from Hisham’s family, who had left Kibbutz Be’eri in the Jeep.
She said they told her: "We are not prepared to leave you there alone. We'll bring you to Rahat, you'll be safe, we will protect you.'"
Meydan wasn't able to exit the bus, which was packed with people. But when she looked out the window of the, she she saw Alkrenawi's Jeep driving nearby. Over the phone, Meydan said, Hisham’s family assured her: “We are here beside you, and you are not alone.”
Arabs comprise about one fifth of the Israeli population, and demonstrations of compassion between the coexisting communities offer a glimmer of hope for a harmonious future amid the tides of violence between Israel and Palestine.
Bedouin tribes in the Negev desert were especially quick to mobilise volunteer teams to assist in the search for missing Israelis.
"We heard about people missing from both the Arab and Jewish communities, and knew that thanks to our exceptional familiarity with the south we could help," Sleman Shlebe, from the Bedouin town of Bir Hadaj, told Haaretz.
"We divided ourselves up in the cars so that there would be people responsible for different things: gathering information, rescuing and administering first aid.”
Days after the Hamas attack, Arab-Israeli business owner Alaa Amara donated some 50 children's bicycles to families evacuated from communities around Gaza to the majority-Jewish town of Tzur Yitzhak near the Muslim-majority town of Taibe due to the Hamas onslaught.
“I did it to benefit the children," he told the Times of Israel. "They don’t know about war."
The charitable act was not without consequences, however. Amara's shop became the target of an arson attack: “At 2am, people came to the store, stole everything there and then set it all on fire and burned it totally,” Amara’s wife told Walla News. “They were armed and shot out the cameras. Some wore masks… the damage is estimated to be hundreds of thousands of shekels.”
Lucy Aharish, an Arab-Israeli news anchor, declared her support for Israel in a televised newscast on the network Reshet 13 following the October 7 massacres.
In an emotional address that went viral, Aharish said: "Since Saturday morning, the state of Israel is under attack. Our beloved country is under attack. We are under the attack of a brutal, barbaric, and inhumane terror organisation. Not an entity, not a government, not a leadership, but a terror organisation," she said.
Alluding to Israel's ability to unite in the face of an existential threat, she continued: "Don't be mistaken, we experience difficulties, disagreements, and major disputes like any other country on this globe. But it does not mean that we will not protect ourselves and our children, our homeland."
Nusseir Yassin, a YouTuber who has referred to himself as "Palestinian-Israeli," and goes by the moniker Nas Daily, declared that following the Hamas attacks he would refer to himself as Israeli first, Palestinian second.
In a post to his nearly 100,000 followers on X, Yassin explained his longstanding internal conflict over being a Palestinian born in Israel, and called the attacks on October 7 a "shock" that allowed him to see the divide more clearly.
"I do not want to live under a Palestinian government,” he said in the post. “Which means I only have one home, even if I’m not Jewish: Israel.”
“That’s the country I want to see continue to exist so I can exist,” Yassin wrote.
“Palestine should exist too as an independent state. And I hope to see the country thrive and become less extreme and more prosperous. I love Palestine and have invested in Palestine. But it’s not my home.”