Honoring the Women of October 7

In honor of International Women’s Day, this blog is dedicated to the Israeli women of October 7.

I decided to share the stories of five women – Rachel Edri, Inbal Liberman, Amit Mann, Shiri Bibas, and Rimon Kirsht. Each woman is unique in her own way, and together they tell the story of what happened in Israel on that horrific day. Choosing which stories to include on this list was not easy; collecting their stories and recounting the horrors brought back memories of that day, memories that I still can’t believe are part of our reality. The one thing I know for sure is that we do not lack stories of heroism from that day. These five stories were chosen, because each represents a piece of a larger picture, and though together don’t complete it, they are able to give you a sense of how brave the women in Israel truly are.

Here are their stories:

Rachel Edri (65) sees herself as a very simple woman, yet she became one of the symbols of October 7. Born in Ofakim, she grew up with 14 siblings to parents who immigrated to Israel from Persia (now Iran) and Morocco. She is married to David Edri and together they have 3 children, two of whom are in the Israeli police. For 43 years, Rachel worked in an army base in the south of Israel in the convenience store. On October 7, as hundreds of terrorists infiltrated her city of Ofakim, and while rockets were being fired from Gaza, five terrorists were able to break into Rachel and David’s home, lock themselves inside, and take them both as hostages. With five heavily armed terrorists in their house, Rachel understood that there is no way for her to escape, so with her keen senses, Rachel realized that she needs to keep the terrorists occupied and to get on their good side, so they won’t harm her or her husband. She showed interest in them and their lives, took care of their wounds, offered them food and drinks, and did anything in her power to ensure they wouldn’t get angry and want to harm her. She understood that hungry people are angry people, so she made sure to feed them constantly. Offering them cookies (which she later became known for). While taking care of the terrorists needs, she realized she is able to pass signals to the police officers in charge of the negotiations (one of her sons among them) and did so to give the policeman the advantage they needed to comprehend the terrorist. At 2 AM, after 19 hours of sheer fear, special force units were able to take control of the house, freeing Rachel, and her husband. Rachel’s courage is a testimony to her ingenuity, her strong intuition, and her ability to function under extreme stress and uncertainty.

Inbal Liberman (26) was the IDF security coordinator in Kibbutz Nir-Am where she lived all her life. Inbal was in charge of the emergency squad of volunteers in the kibbutz who are there to keep the people safe. On October 7 Inbal, like many others, woke up to the sounds of sirens. Instead of heading to the safe room like logic says, Inbal heard some suspicious noises coming from outside the kibbutz gate and trusting her gut she devised a plan. She created ambushes for the terrorists and placed armed members on the fence of the kibbutz. Thanks to this early decision, dozens of casualties were avoided. One of the biggest lifesaving decisions she made was to not allow the power to be restored after it fell due to a rocket hit, which subsequently did not allow the electric gate of the kibbutz to open, keeping the terrorists out. For three hours Inbal and 11 others fought Hamas terrorists trying to infiltrate their kibbutz until they were joined by the IDF. Inbal’s heroism and fast acting lead to zero casualties in Kibbutz Nir-Am.

Amit Mann (22) lived in the city of Netivot and was a volunteer in Magen David Adom (Israel’s national emergency medical service) since she was 15. On October 7, Amit was the paramedic on call in Kibbutz Be’eri and when the sirens started, instead of running to take shelter, Amit took the first aid kit she had at home and ran to the kibbutz infirmary. In the infirmary, t ogether with another nurse and a doctor, they took care of the injured while trying to keep the terrorists outside with the help of two other armed members of the kibbutz. For more than 7 hours Amit was locked down in the infirmary, trying to get help from the Magen David Adom’s call center. In those calls you can hear how calm, responsible, and mature she truly was, even in that distressful situation. After 7 long hours, the terrorists managed to infiltrate the infirmary and murder almost everyone inside, including Amit. Amit texted with her family throughout the 7 hours, asking for help and not understanding why no one was coming. Her last message was a voice recording, capturing her last moments alive pleading for her life. Amit was the youngest of 5 sisters who loved singing, laughing and most of all, loved helping others.

Shiri Bibas (32) I think only a few people in the world do not know about Shiri Bibas or at least saw the picture of her tightly holding her two red headed boys while being taken into the car that will lead them to Gaza where they’re being held hostages for almost 150 days. Shiri was brutally kidnapped on October 7 from Kibbutz Nir-Oz where she lived with her husband Yarden. There was a hope that she will be released during the hostage exchange in November, and when Israel learned that neither her nor her boys will be released, the temporary ceasefire was broken. Later there was a statement by Hamas that both Shiri and her boys were killed during an airstrike, though it’s not confirmed, to this day we do not know their fate. Shiri was a kindergarten teacher and a loving mother who dedicated her life to her family. She was known to be the heart and rock of the family. Her favorite song was “Feel” by Robbie Williams.

Rimon Kirsht (36) lived in Kibbutz Nirim with her partner Yagev Buchshtab. They met when they were both in high-school and bonded over their shared love for music. After years apart, they reconnected, started dating and later got married.  On the morning of October 7 they were both kidnapped from the saferoom in their home. During her time in captivity, Rimon was held together with her partner, and when the opportunity to get released in a hostage exchange arose, she refused, and insisted on staying in captivity to not be separated from Yagev. After getting life threatening threats from the Hamas terrorists keeping her hostage, Rimon was released from captivity on November 28 after spending 53 days as a hostage in Gaza. On the day of her release, while it looked like the hostages received very specific instructions from the terrorist to act like they are fine, and everything is great, Rimon did not agree to play along and can be seen in a video looking straight into the terrorist’s eyes with a defiant look, not allowing him to touch her, and walking toward the red cross bus with her back straight and her head held high. This became an iconic moment with many people praising her bravery to look the enemy in the eyes and not go along with the show they were trying to orchestrate. While Rimon is safely back home, her partner is still in Gaza, and she is spending days and nights advocating for his release.

These are only five stories among the countless acts of bravery witnessed on October 7. I encourage you to read about the heroism that occurred that day and the days following  to get a sense of how strong the Jewish people are, even in times of tragedy. As Jews we value life, and that is something I will always be proud of.

To learn more about Israel and Israel-related programming, contact Maian Rahvalschi.