Erez's resilience after defending his family from a Hamas attack inspires hope and showcases the triumph of the human spirit.

Two months ago, 71-year-old accountant Luis Har was rescued from the hands of his captives by the IDF and airlifted to Sheba where he was reunited with his family and received treatment for the mentally and physical trauma he sustained in captivity. Now, he’s opening up about his time in Gaza for the first time. He talks about how he and his family were treated, what they felt and what kept him going throughout the whole ordeal.

Luis’ Terrifying Ordeal on October 7th

Going back to October 7th, Luis, his partner, Clara Marman, her brother Fernando, sister Gabriela Leimberg, Gabriela’s daughter, 17-year-old Mia Leimberg, and their pet dog Bella were all kidnapped from their homes in Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak by Hamas terrorists. They were led by gunpoint to a white truck, as their home and the surrounding homes were being torched to the ground. They were then sped out of Israel and into Gaza.

As Luis recalls, “It was like a movie. Their barbarism…They didn’t consider us at all, as if we were animals or dogs. They just trampled all over us freely. Real barbarians. As if we weren’t human beings.”

They were then taken into a tunnel, where they were marched barefoot for 3 to 4 hours in pitch blackness that was only mildly lit by cell phone flashlight. At the time, the terrorists even made them crawl barefoot. He remembers the lack of air in those tunnels and the distinct feeling he had that he would never get out of there.

Coping While in Captivity

Emerging from a 40-meter climb, they surfaced near a geese coop, unaware that it would mark their last glimpse of sunlight for months until their eventual release. Following two days in one building, they were relocated to a second apartment, enduring 50 days in a windowless room under the scrutiny of harsh armed guards who taunted them. To maintain privacy, they used Spanish nicknames for their captors and limited their Hebrew conversations to avoid being understood.

They were under constant psychological abuse by their captors, they would make passes at Mia, threaten the family with a large butcher knife and made sure to talk about every single IDF failure and about every soldier that passed while in battle. What might have been the worst aspect of their captivity was the hunger. They had to survive off of scraps of pita bread and nothing more.

After a period of 52 days, Clara, Gabriella, and Mia received the news that they would be granted their freedom. Upon realizing that they would not be exchanged, Luis and Fernado suffered a day of extreme depression. However, they soon came to accept their circumstances. Over the course of three months, they remained together under armed guard.

Accepting Their Fate

Luis and Fernando would daily remind each other of the date and the duration of their confinement. Amidst the monotony, Har experienced vivid dreams of his ten grandchildren, whose ages ranged from one to 17. He described these dreams as deeply immersive, feeling their hugs and warmth as if they were physically present. He confided, “I felt them all the time. Many times it was like I was talking to them, a feeling of closeness.” These emotional experiences often moved him to tears, though he would quickly conceal his emotions from guards and fellow hostages. Even on the eve of their release, the sensation of one of his grandchildren hugging him felt incredibly real to him.

On February 11, Luis went to bed with a bad stomach only to be awakened by an explosion at 2AM. Gunfire rang in all directions, as a loud voice cried through the smoke that it was the IDF. They immediately took hold of him and Fernando. Luis recalls, “’We were completely in their hands, really completely. There was a feeling of complete security. We did everything they told us”.

They dragged the men toward a chopper and immediately lifted them out of Gaza. Luis recalled, “Being in the helicopter was ecstatic.All the tension was gone, we saw we were going home when we saw the sea, and when we saw Ashdod from above with all the lights in the dark.”

Reuniting With Family and The Road to Recovery

The two men were brought to Sheba where Luis’ dreams came true. He was finally united with his grandchildren. Two months on and he has been undergoing a gradual process of reintegration since his ordeal, during which he has been informed of the loss of many friends from his Kibbutz. Due to the fragile state of his mind, he continues to refrain from watching television.

Despite the challenges he has faced, Luis remains committed to advocating for the return of the 134 hostages still held in Gaza. As someone with firsthand experience of their suffering, he emphasizes the urgency of bringing back all the hostages and ensuring their safe return.

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