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Three IDF women’s astonishing acts of courage amid the terror of October 7

Extreme bravery in wartime is far from uncommon in Israel. Female heroism, however, stirs the soul with particular poignancy. These are the stories of just three of the many young Israeli women who fought back when the forces of evil descended

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Captain Bar Zohar

l During the first hours of the attack, Captain Bar Zohar and her team encountered two vans carrying 12 Hamas terrorists armed with Kalashnikovs and shoulder-fired missile launchers. They came under heavy fire and one of the soldiers from Bar’s team was killed immediately, while Bar herself was seriously injured.

Despite her injury, Bar remained calm. She ordered her crew to abandon their vehicle and take cover behind it, while she fired continuously from the front at the vans of terrorists, standing up, fully exposed to the fire, to provide her team with backup.

She knew her chances against 12 terrorists were slim, but she nonetheless remained upright in her punctured vehicle – which was about to explode at any moment – and continued to fire at the terrorists. Despite being weakened by her severe injury, her shooting was accurate and she managed to allow her team enough time to run to a nearby ditch and hide.

As she was shooting, one of the terrorists’ vans smashed into her vehicle. The Hamas driver had been panicked by Bar’s accurate shooting and abandoned his van. Despite being on the verge of losing consciousness and covered in blood, Bar somehow climbed into the abandoned vehicle and started driving it towards a kibbutz, shouting to her team to jump in from the ditch.

In doing so, Bar was applying one of her qualities for which she was renowned by her fellow soldiers: an ability to improvise, a trait she was born with and which was discovered during the challenging tests she had to pass to join the special unit in which she served.

The other terrorist van gave chase. Bar’s car began to zigzag because she was drifting in and out of consciousness due to loss of blood. But that zigzagging meant the terrorists were unable to shoot accurately at Bar’s team. They, however, started returning fire at the terrorists – and were able to help Bar control the vehicle.

After a bold and tense chase, the zigzagging car reached the kibbutz where they were met by an IDF team. Bar stopped the car, but her head immediately slumped onto the steering wheel.

Her team ran towards the IDF troops in the hope they could save the heavily bleeding Bar. Tragically, despite their efforts to save her, she died from massive blood loss.

At the age of eight, Bar Zohar had been identified as a genius-level mathematician and began studying the subject at Bar-Ilan University. At nine, she informed her parents that she was missing her friends and the games they played together, and that she was no longer interested in studying with adults. This special girl was self-possessed enough to tell her parents that she was not prepared to relinquish her childhood.

In 2001, she joined a secret elite intelligence unit, after preliminary army tests revealed that she had outstanding qualities such as a phenomenal memory, a uniquely comprehensive reading of given situations, quick perception and thinking, and the ability to improvise under pressure. Bar excelled in this elite unit and received a medal from the IDF Chief of Staff for her contribution to a special covert operation, which had used information that Bar Zohar  analysed and consolidated on her own.

Lieutenant Adar Ben Simon

l Adar was killed in battle at the army training base near Kibbutz Zikim while fiercely, and with supreme bravery, defending the soldiers under her command. She fought face-to-face with terrorists who had infiltrated the military base on October 7.

About 50 Hamas terrorists, armed with Kalashnikovs and shoulder-fired missile launchers, attacked the base. Simultaneously, the sky was filled with rockets fired from Gaza. Adar announced the attack on the radio, ordering her soldiers to take up their weapons and deploy around the perimeter fence to stop the terrorists.

Many were still half asleep as it was early on a Saturday morning when the entire base was at rest.

The soldiers immediately jumped out of their beds and started running towards the fence. But the terrorists knew from their own intelligence that they were inexperienced young men who had only joined the army a few weeks before. As a result, many were injured or killed before they could respond. Meanwhile, the terrorists had breached the fence. They drove motorcycles, tractors and vans, and some arrived using paragliders, shooting at the soldiers from the air.

Before their attack, the terrorists had neutralised and destroyed the sophisticated electronic deterrence system that Israel had erected on the Gaza border. They were helped by Gazan farmers who had been permitted by Israel to cultivate their land near the barrier. These “innocent” farmers had photographed the exact location of the sensors on the fence with micro-cameras hidden in their hats.

Adar felt a deep sense of frustration and helplessness as her desperate calls for assistance from the air force and tank troops located at a nearby base went unanswered. So she decided there was no choice but to storm the terrorists.

Before Adar went out to fight the terrorists, she sent a message to her sister Shahaf: “We are being attacked. Dozens of terrorists in front of me. I am going out to fight them. Shema Israel”.

She shouted to her remaining soldiers to stand up and charge after her as she directed massive fire towards the terrorists while simultaneously lobbing grenades at them, approaching them at zero distance – so close that she could see the colour of their eyes. Her actions saved many soldiers – and by encouraging her young and inexperienced soldiers to charge instead of hiding, as such young soldiers might have felt was safest, she motivated them to bravely take on the terrorists themselves, many of whom were killed.

In the post-event debriefing it became clear that by her heroic actions Adar had saved the lives of more than 25 soldiers who would have otherwise been slaughtered by the terrorists due to their lack of combat experience.

Sergeant Ravit Assayag

l On the morning of October 7, most of the residents of Yachini, a religious moshav (a cooperative agricultural community) in southern Israel were in synagogue. While they were praying, around 100 terrorists quietly infiltrated the moshav.

Sergeant Ravit Assayag was on duty that morning in the command room of an operational unit located three kilometres from the moshav. She was among the first to hear of the unfolding horror, picking up panicked reports from nearby Kibbutz Re’im, including desperate calls begging for help from the wounded and people trapped in smoke-filled rooms.

One caller over the radio shouted that all the members of the kibbutz had been murdered and that he was left alone. Ravit decided to act and with three other soldiers they made their way to the moshav in a military jeep. When they arrived they were shocked by the number of terrorists they could see and the massive barrage of rockets soaring overhead – but, above all, by the complete absence of Israeli forces. Ravit noticed some of the terrorists entering a grain warehouse, and quietly told the three other soldiers. They cautiously approached the warehouse, communicating with hand signals to maintain silence in order to surprise the terrorists inside. But they had been spotted and suddenly came under attack from other terrorists outside the grain warehouse. A huge, noisy firefight began.

Ravit kept her calm. Without any backup, while her colleagues fought the terrorists outside the warehouse she stormed it, breaking down its wooden door while firing with highly accurate shots at the terrorists inside. It turned out that these nine terrorists had entered the warehouse to pray (a Muslim custom before committing jihad). The nine were surprised by the sudden onslaught from the lone woman soldier and began to return fire. But the heroic Ravit eliminated four of the terrorists and wounded all but one of the others. This last functioning terrorist had hidden himself behind a bale of hay. Ravit threw a grenade at him and threw herself down on the dusty floor.

Unfortunately, the noise of the exploding grenade attracted the attention of the terrorists nearby, who burst into the smoky warehouse and killed Ravit.

The other three members of her team were also killed in a daring battle against more than 100 terrorists. Nineteen year old Ravit, who had dreamed of a career in music and making people happy, found herself pitched into a battle against human evil. “From the photo you can understand how special Ravit was,” said her close friend Nofer Sarmeli.

“On the one hand, gently strumming her guitar, travelling with it to sing to children in hospitals. And on the other, a fighter who is able to attack terrorists with all her strength and might.”

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