I’m an Israeli student and peace activist. Here’s what being in Tel Aviv has been like since Hamas attacked

Tel Aviv — On Saturday (Oct. 7), I woke up at 7:30 a.m. to the sound of sirens. My wife and I quickly went down the staircase of our building and waited to hear distant explosions, which would mean that Israel’s defense system was functioning. When we went back to our apartment, we read the news. Hamas terrorists attacked Israel.

I’m a 31-year-old Ph.D candidate studying climate change. I’m a peace activist and I’ve protested against all previous Israeli operations in Gaza.


Luckily, my family members who live near the Gaza border were not in Israel this weekend. But Ayelet, my wife, found out that two of her cousins in their early 20s were staying with their grandmother in a kibbutz on the Gaza border.

When they first heard the bombings they hid in the in-house shelter like they have done before. Then they heard gunshots. Then terrorists shouting inside their house.

They locked the door to the shelter and held the doorknob shut as hard as possible. Soon they heard people using a hammer to try to break down the door. Then they smelled smoke coming in under the door and through the window. They did not have food or water.

They still managed to wet some clothes and push them into the gaps between the window and the wall so they would not suffocate. They stayed there in the dark, in silence, for many hours, fighting to keep the door closed. Finally, they were rescued and the army evacuated them to another location in the village.

When they left the shelter, they saw that everything in the house was burned. Most of their belongings were missing. I can’t imagine what they saw when they crossed the village on foot, but they knew they were the lucky ones.

Many people from that village were kidnapped to Gaza on Saturday, babies and grandmothers included. Many more were murdered, women and grandfathers too. Our cousins’ grandmother is right when she says that if it weren’t for her grandchildren, she would be dead, or in Gaza. They are alive, but what life do they have now?

This coming weekend there was supposed to be an indie music festival next to the Gaza border. My friends and I were planning to go — we’ve missed it the last few years. My wife’s brother and my cousin had tickets too. I can hear distant explosions as I write and one thought keeps running through my head: What if the attack had happened next weekend? What life would I have?

Hamas murdered hundreds of innocent people at a music festival during their attacks on Saturday. They kidnapped scores of others and took them to Gaza on that bloody morning. My social media is still full of photos of them. They have beautiful smiles, some are in their 20s, and others in their 70s. I’m scared to go on social media because I might see a familiar face in these photos. There are so many horrible videos from this festival; watching them could scar one’s soul till the end of one’s life.

What Hamas did is inhumane. Murdering, kidnapping and assaulting hundreds of people is not a fight for liberation.

On Saturday I saw the death toll rise to 50, then 100. Reporters wrote that the number will get much higher.

The death toll was 150 when Hamas declared it was going to bomb Tel Aviv at 8 p.m. Saturday night. We already know the drill of going down from our rooftop apartment (I hear another distant explosion) and staying in the staircase, which is considered safer.

Our staircase is not safe. It has windows facing south, toward Gaza, and if a rocket hits the building, we’ll die. At 7:15 p.m. we decided to leave and go to my wife’s grandparents, where they have a shelter. We couldn’t feel safe in our home.

At 8 p.m. Hamas shot rockets on Tel Aviv. One rocket fell in my neighborhood 90 seconds later. I know it was 90 seconds because in Tel Aviv that’s how long we have to get to a safe space in a rocket attack.

The rocket exploded and destroyed a few buildings close to my home. We were safe in the shelter with my wife’s 90-year-old grandparents and our 2-week-old niece. We left our cat in our apartment and it has been hiding under the bed ever since.

The Israeli death toll is now more than 1,000. Reporters say it will get higher. That’s the news. I’m fortunate to be alive. That’s my life right now.

Itamar Karbi is an Israeli peace activist and PhD student who lives in Tel Aviv. @itamar922