Nadav Kipnis Nadav Kipnis  (ANSA)

Nadav Kipnis: 'My parents died on kibbutz where they worked for peace'

The account of the son of Eviatar and Liliach Kipnis, victims of the Hamas terrorist attack on 7 October. Seven of the young man's family members are still being held hostage. "Witnessing gives us the strength we need to bring them back to us."

By Francesca Sabatinelli and Roberto Cetera

As painful as it is, bearing witness "is the best thing" that those who still have family members held captive by Hamas can do.

Nadav Kipnis is the son of Eviatar and Liliach, the Italian-Israeli couple kidnapped in the Be'er kibbutz during the 7 October attack and later killed by Hamas, along with their caregiver and an uncle. Seven other members of his family are still being held hostage. The young man, along with a delegation of relatives of people who have been kidnapped or murdered by Hamas met with some of Italy's institutional leaders during their stay in the country.

He recounts the attack as tells of the anguish of not having any news of his loved ones, adding, however, that those responsible are not the Palestinians of Gaza and that a distinction must be made between them and Hamas. Nadav and his girlfriend relive each of the moments that took place on that 7 October: From being woken up by the alarm of rocket fire to, after deciding to go north, trying to contact his parents, on the kibbutz near the border with the Gaza Strip.

"We thought it was just another rocket launch. They happen every now and then and are a part of normal life" Nadav recalls. "Then we heard people saying that their houses were on fire, that they were choking on smoke, that they were calling for help from the army - which was not there - because they heard gunshots, people shouting in Arabic, were seeing dead bodies and people being kidnapped. Only then did we realise the gravity of the situation. People were trying to lock themselves in the safe rooms".

Nadav, through messages exchanged with his parents via an app used by the inhabitants of the kibbutz, learned that Eviatar and Liliach would be safe. Nadav's father is very ill and the last contact they had was with Paul, his caregiver.

What they later discovered was that Paul's last phone call, to his wife, was interrupted by gunfire. "Since then, we have had no contact with any of them," says Nadav. Among the abductees are his uncles, one of whom he knows has been killed. There are also his cousins, nieces and nephews. Seven people in all. "For now, we assume that they are alive, so we have the strength to keep fighting to get them back", he says.

For the relatives of those kidnapped or killed, it was very difficult to immediately understand what was happening in the homes of their loved ones. They gained a lot of information from videos that emerged from Eviatar and Liliach's neighbourhood.

It it, he says, "you can see the terrorists dragging away the kibbutz civilians, recognisable by their faces". This along with the testimonies of those who escaped the massacre, gave Nadav the dimension of what had happened. "Someone who managed to escape the massacre told us that he saw my cousin's husband tied up with ropes, being put in a car and taken away. So we hope that this will also be the fate of others".

According to information Nadav has, more than a hundred people were killed on his kibbutz. He, like many others who witnessed what happened on 7 October, was reminded of what happened 80 years ago "during the holocaust".  "It was something we never thought would happen again: houses set on fire, children beheaded, children shot", says Nadav.

For the time being, Nadav does not intend to return to his home. Above all, he intends to continue bearing witness to what happened in order to help those who are still in the hands of Hamas, so that nothing happens to them. 

The kibbutz in Be'er was founded in 1946 by Nadav's great-grandparents - his mother's parents, who like their daughter and then Nadav were all born there. On that same kibbutz, he worked in education, as a counsellor to children and young people of different ages.

"My life is with the children. The idea that some of them are no longer there, that their great human potential has been suppressed, terrifies me", says Nadav. Likewise, I am terrified by the idea that those who were my teachers, who educated me in humanity, have also been killed. It's terrible".

"Just imagine that one-tenth of the people in the community where you grew up disappear in one day. These are the people who were my teachers, the people I taught, my friends". What happened on 7 October is an "unimaginable event", continues Nadav, who also explains how living only four and a half kilometres from the border with Gaza had never caused tension in the past.

"We have always felt safe. Of course, there were rocket attacks every now and then, even when I was a child, but we would never have imagined this". Nadav remembers his parents' commitment to peace, as well as that of the many Palestinians they knew. Some, he recalls, were part of the same peace movement for which his mother was one of the Women for Peace leaders. 

"Hamas is in charge", Nadav concludes, and "the people of Gaza are weakened. Hamas creates an image depicting Israel and the Jews as monsters who created the situation. This is not true. Hamas chooses to receive money and instead of creating infrastructure, water, electricity and fuel, it uses it for war".

Even among the kidnapped, he adds, there are those who want peace, and now they are hostages of Hamas.

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25 October 2023, 15:40