Monday, April 15, 2024 -
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In Denver, Oct. 7 survivors bear witness

How do they do it?

Avigail Olman, left, and Sagi Gabay, right, speak with, clockwise from bottom left, the IJN's Hillel Goldberg, Shana Goldberg and Steve Mark, March 6, 2024.

Avigail Olman, left, and Sagi Gabay, right, speak with, clockwise from bottom left, the IJN’s Hillel Goldberg, Shana Goldberg and Steve Mark, March 6, 2024.

Nearly five months to the day after Oct. 7, Sagi Gabay and Avigail Olman are sat in the IJN conference room on March 6, recounting the hell they’ve lived through. This isn’t the first time they’re telling their stories, not even the first time today. They’ve come from a meeting at the Colorado State Capitol with the Jewish members of the House and Senate. After the IJN, they have two more speaking engagements that afternoon and evening. Then it’s off to Dallas. Eventually, it’s back to Israel, where Avigail, an IDF reservist, awaits a May deployment and Gabay, spokesperson for Israel Member of Knesset Gideon Sa’ar, will report back to work.

Gabay and Olman are on a speaking tour, together with others Israelis, of the US and Canada. The delegation is organized and facilitated by StandWithUs. In small teams, the delegation is managing to cover large swathes of North America in a short period of time.

They do this because the stories of Oct. 7 must be told — and they will speak to anyone willing to listen. That includes lawmakers, high school and college students, Jewish groups, Christian congregations, military personnel.

The story they tell is not easy to listen to. It is a story of uncertainty, of fear, of military bombardment, of murder, of bullets whistling past one’s ear in a furious escape attempt.

It is also a story of survival, of resilience, of service, of peoplehood, and of hope.

Sagi Gabay was one of the thousands at Kibbutz Re’im at the Nova music festival. He endured a four-hour journey by foot to make it to relative safety, a refugee in his own country he says. At one point, he was in the bunker where Aner Shapira valiantly fought off Hamas terrorists by tossing back the live grenades launched at those sheltering — until he, and the others, were massacred.

Avigail Olman was in Bet Shemesh, spending Shabbat and Simchat Torah with her boyfriend when the sirens went off . . . and went off . . . and went off. The combat reservist was called to the Northern border as part of her search and rescue unit. Her story is different to Sagi’s. She talks about the thousands who have been evacuated from their homes — and the few who refused to leave their crops and livestock. She talks about the possible coming front, where war is not declared but where rockets are fired on civilian areas, making it impossible for the hundreds of thousands of evacuees to return home.

Anger, sorrow, frustration, even humor, thread their way through Sagi and Avigail’s stories, more of which you can hear in the next episode of IJN Cast, dropping tomorrow, Thursday, at 7 p.m. You will hear an on-the-ground, minute by minute diary. You will be confronted with situations that are reminiscent of the Holocaust. And you will hear about what could have been and what was.

Most of all, you will be in awe of these young people who are finding the inner strength to retell their stories — our stories — over and over and over again. And who stand ready to continue fighting the battle for Israel and for the Jewish people.

Copyright © 2024 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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