Elad Kidar (left) and Maayan Barkai speak about their experiences on Oct. 7 at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco on Feb. 1. (Screenshot/KTVU)
Elad Kidar (left) and Maayan Barkai speak about their experiences on Oct. 7 at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco on Feb. 1. (Screenshot/KTVU)

Oct. 7 survivors from Kibbutz Be’eri describe Hamas brutality in S.F. visit

Two survivors of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre visited San Francisco last week and described the unsparingly brutal, prolonged terrorist attack on their kibbutz that lasted into the next day.

Maayan Barkai, 44, and Elad Kidar, 45, escaped with their lives from Kibbutz Be’eri, a farming community where Hamas murdered more than 90 people — men, women and children — during the deadliest single day for Jews since the Holocaust. Dozens more from Be’eri were taken hostage into Gaza.

The two men addressed an audience of hundreds on Thursday night at Congregation Emanu-El. Attendees sat spellbound as Barkai and Kidar spoke in front of the ark in the main sanctuary. The event was co-organized by the Jewish Agency for Israel, which is raising money to support victims of terrorism.

Barkai told J. in a phone interview the following day about his harrowing story of surviving the massacre.

“It was planned,” he said. “Their evil was organized, and well-performed.”

He was born and raised on Be’eri, a community of about a thousand people, where he lived with his wife, Orit, and their five children.

Around 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 7, an alert sounded that signaled incoming rockets, which wasn’t an unusual event for a kibbutz three miles from the Gaza border. He and his family went into the bomb shelter in their home, a reinforced space also known as a safe room. Such rooms don’t have locks. They are designed to survive rockets, not an invasion.

“We thought it was going to be just a regular thing, with Hamas shooting rockets,” he said. “Eventually it became a horrific scenario. Hamas terrorists came to the kibbutz.”

At least 120 terrorists, some wearing military fatigues, most dressed in civilian clothes, raided Be’eri that day, according to videos captured during the attack and to an Israeli commander who spoke to the New York Times.

Barkai and his family took cover in their home’s bomb shelter as terrorists ransacked the kibbutz. He exchanged frightened messages with neighbors over WhatsApp.

“People wrote on WhatsApp that terrorists are coming inside their houses,” he said. “Me and my wife waited inside the bomb shelter realizing that soon the terrorists would be coming to our house.”

Eventually, they did, around 11:30 a.m. They came in through the kitchen window and immediately went to the bomb shelter, he said, “knowing it cannot be locked.”

Barkai held the doorknob with all his strength as they tried to open it.

“At that point the terrorist thought it was locked, or something, and didn’t continue.” At other homes, terrorists tried to open bomb shelter doors with drills or explosives, but they didn’t at his home.

Instead, they set the house on fire, as they did to so many other homes at Be’eri.

The family stayed put, worried that terrorists would be waiting to gun them down outside the house if they fled.

By 12:30 p.m., “we started to hear screams,” Barkai said. He told his neighbor over WhatsApp that his family would need to run out of the house soon or else they might suffocate. He asked his neighbors to “look outside my house to make sure a terrorist isn’t waiting for us.”

He opened the door of their bomb shelter and ran with his family through the burning house.

They took cover in a neighbor’s house for many more hours, until Israel forces were able to rescue them around 3 a.m. They were evacuated “while the fight was still going on,” he said.

“We saw bodies on the road — terrorist and civilian bodies,” he said.

Barkai said it was clear that Hamas came to the kibbutz to inflict as much horror and destruction as possible. He said they brought barbed wire, using it to tie up families, kids with parents, and “set them on fire while they were alive.”

Elad Kidar also lived at Be’eri with his wife, Inbar, their four children, his parents and other relatives.

Both of Kidar’s parents were murdered by Hamas. His father had Parkinson’s and was killed on Oct. 7, while his mother was taken into Gaza. Almost two months later, he learned that she had been killed.

Both Barkai and Kidar now live in hotels near the Dead Sea with their families and other survivors. Roughly one in 10 residents of Be’eri was killed during the massacre, including many children, elderly people and entire families. One 80-year-old resident, Avlum Miles, told his daughter in a phone call that Hamas had removed the fingers on his left hand, according to the New York Times. He did not survive.

Senior Rabbi Jonathan Singer of Emanu-El, who introduced the speakers, said their stories left the audience members in stunned silence.

“Normally when people are done with a presentation in the Jewish community, there are a lot of questions. When I turned around and said, ‘Any questions?’ Nobody raised their hands,” he said.

“The experience of hearing that and thinking about what these people went through — there was fear of placing yourself in their shoes. It made people stop and pause and just take in how awful it was.”

The Jewish Agency for Israel is aiding victims of terrorism. Altogether, 1,200 people were killed in Israel that day, thousands were wounded and another 240 were taken hostage. An estimated 135 hostages remain in Gaza, but only about 105 are believed to still be alive.

It is vitally important for victims of the attack to tell their stories publicly, Singer said.

“We need to put a face on the evil that occurred,” he said. “These are the experiences of real people. Not statistics.”

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.