JERUSALEM, Israel – There are many heroes in the unfolding tragedy that began on October 7, when Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israeli communities, committing atrocities against men, women and children. CBN News met with some of those who were tasked with clearing the bodies during and after the fight.
Yossi Landau volunteers for ZAKA, an Israeli paramedic, search and rescue organization. His team joined other first responders in arriving quickly to the besieged areas.
"I'm in a dream right now," Landau told journalists, "And it's a very bad dream. I'm not eating. I'm not sleeping. Not only me, it's my entire team that I was with them for the last ten days."
"We arrived to Sderot (near the Gaza border)," he explained. "There were still gunshots. There was a war zone. Police, soldiers screaming at you – just go down because he’s right in back of you, this terrorist. And you see people struggling to live, they’re wounded."
Landau briefed journalists to confirm what they had seen in the massacre. Out of respect for the dead, the volunteers don't photograph the bodies.
"We saw people in cars, people outside – just pedestrians; people in the houses, dead for no reason. Not only Israelis," Landau related.
Volunteers spent 11 hours collecting bodies along one stretch of road that would normally take only 20 minutes to drive, and theyleft the burned bodies temporarily in their cars.
"The people were burned while they were alive. They got a missile, they got a grenade, and they were burned, (so) that we said, okay, we'll keep that for the last because we have to take first the people that were shot. And I can say 70 percent of those victims was shot in the back," he said.
Landau, a 33-year ZAKA volunteer, who survived 9-11 in New York City, described the scene at one shelter near Gaza.
"We saw 20 people – 20 people! They were (hugging). They were hugging themselves, trying to defend themselves," he recalled. "They were all burned to death – just two grenades, hand grenades, that did it, the job."
Dozens of ZAKA volunteers joined in, respectfully collecting remains throughout the communities.
Landau said wistfully, "Those bodies that we had to take apart from that shelter were just talking to us: 'We only tried to defend ourselves. We all, we didn't try to harm anybody. We came over here to enjoy ourself, to sing.' And this is what happened. They were all youngsters."
Further down the road, they found a van with 6 dead people who were not Jews.
"They were Palestinians, they were shot, with Israeli (license) plates and we put them into the bags, the same things like we did to the Jews," Landau said. "Respect – that’s our mission – to respect every human being."
Next came Kibbutz Be-eri, where they found a mother and a father tied together, along with their two children, in the same position.
"The bodies were tortured, while now (I) start to use the imagination: who was tortured before, who saw if this was (done) on purpose? If this was the children looking at the parents being tortured, the parents seeing (their children tortured). And when I say tortured, I would say missing body pieces.
Landau continued, "In the middle, there's a table those terrorists were sitting in, eating the Saturday meal that was prepared for this family. They ate this meal while torturing this children and the parents."
In another house, they found an example of almost unspeakable cruelty.
"We (had) to turn her over in order to put her into the body bag. She was a pregnant woman. Her stomach was butchered. Open. The baby that was connected to the cord was stabbed. She (the woman) was shot in the back."
When they finished their task, they moved to collect bodies of the Hamas terrorists, showing the same respect they gave to the Israeli families. Suddenly, they found an Israeli teenager with his head chopped off.
"The evil, the horror is crying – it’s crying, and I don’t know why this has to happen," Landau said painfully.
"We go home, we can’t talk to the wife, we can’t talk to the children. We can’t tell them anything. The smell when I came home, I woke up my wife in the middle of the night asking her, ‘Are you sure you put everything in the fridge, don’t you have any meat outside that's out for a couple of days already?’
"And she knew, she knew what I’m going through," he explained. "We have the smell, that’s what we’re smelling, that’s what we’re eating. And that just started from a nice, beautiful holiday, with no warning before, with nothing (happening) to them before."
Avi Kovalski has been a ZAKA volunteer for 3 years.
He told us, "We move (to) each house – you haven't been there but they killed. They killed (at) each house like they want to terminate, the Jewish, the Jewish people."
Kovalski added, struggling for words, "And so, one woman with a brain out, it's – and I couldn't stand it with the smell. It smells something horrible a few times. I see a chicken and it's disgusting me, and I don't get used (to) it, but we have nothing like that, And I saw it, and I puked.
In the next house, they found a burned and beheaded baby.
"I'm religious and I have seven children and one five years old, and I play with him, and I told him a joke and I play with him or something like that, Kovalski said, comparing the scenes he witnessed. "I couldn't stop thinking about what I see. Well, it's –horrible things. It could happen to my son, it could happen to anybody. It's something that – whoa."
Kovalski says Israel is not an occupier.
"We don't want to be brutal. We just want to live in peace," he stated. "We don't have a wars so that we want to capture (people). We want just live in peace. We willing to give lands of our homeland in order to have a peace. We left them the Gaza Strip."
Please, I ask you to have a prayer. Pray for us, that we should be able to raise our children with no damages," Landau pleaded, "that we should be a normal father, normal grandfather, that’s all what we need."
No one knows where this conflict is heading in the near future, but Israelis say the country will never be the same again.
Originally from Webpage "CBN News"
CCD edited and reprinted with permission