Reim Nova
By: Ryan Tsuen

The scars of the October 7th mass terror attacks are etched deep in the minds and hearts of the Israeli people, though surprisingly many have yet to visit the area to see for themselves, due to the ongoing security threat and strict rules on entering the devastated communities.

Pastors Solidarity Tour at Nir Oz

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s close relations with regional councils allowed us to arrange a special tour of the area for local Israeli pastors and ministry leaders. Some twenty ministers were able to join us so they could bear witness first-hand and better minister to their congregations and communities.

Though the traumatic events of that dark day took place eight months ago, a journey to southern Israel today still reveals the carnage of the “Black Shabbat” massacres, which left wounds that linger within the entire nation.

Near the farming village of Tekuma lies a chilling memorial site filled with over 1,300 burned-out vehicles now widely known as the “car graveyard.” Each rusting vehicle holds a story of immense heartbreak, reminding us of the horrific way many victims were murdered by Hamas terrorists. The sheer number of cars, some of which contained entire families at the time, speaks to the brutality that unfolded as many tried to escape for their lives.

As our guide described the towering wall of destruction, she explained that the process of identifying victims was slow and painstaking. Some previously buried ashes were later exhumed in an agonizing search for answers, revealing to some families their worst nightmares of lost loved ones.

The site also contains some of the terrorists’ vehicles as a grim reminder of their meticulous planning. A heap of burned motorcycles, a tractor and even a mobility scooter paint a picture of a ruthless assault that targeted everyone in their path.

Nova music festival site near Re'im

At the Nova music festival site near Re’im, another memorial marks the senseless murder of nearly 400 innocent young lives, and the cruel abduction of some 80 others. The encirclement by Hamas terrorists and the ensuing chaos on the roads left many trapped and unable to flee death or captivity. As the group took time to peruse the many makeshift memorials, it revealed a sobering attempt by the families to hold onto the memories of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.

Briefing from local security chief at Kibbutz Re'im

Continuing on to kibbutz Re’im, this once vibrant community is now reduced to some 50 residents who have chosen to remain in the village and maintain its grounds. Their resilience in the face of such a harsh reality is a sign of hope. A briefing from the local security chief offered a glimpse into the horror of that morning. However, the kibbutz – like other nearby communities – benefited from life-saving communications devices provided by ICEJ donors. This served as a stark reminder of the constant struggle for security in the region.

Our final stop in the South was a visit to one of the hardest-hit communities, Nir Oz. The community now resembles a ghost town, shrouded in silence and in some spots the residue of death. Burned homes, a ravaged community kitchen, and the heavy silence spoke volumes of the great loss suffered there. Yet, amidst all the charred debris, there was a flicker of hope.

A local resident of the area, Iftach, spoke to our group and, on the verge of tears, emphasised the residents’ desire to rebuild the only place they know as home.

As the day drew to a close, all the Israeli pastors on our tour were in deep contemplation. So, we asked the question: “How do you feel after seeing all this?” Sarah responded, “Heart-broken.” Her answer resonated with the whole group. The weight of the tragedy was etched on everyone’s face. Many said the visit would now help them to better minister to their congregations and fellow Israelis still impacted by the immense pain and loss felt across the nation.

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to visit Kibbutzim invaded by Hamas on October 7,” said another ministry leader. ” I have wanted to do this for some time. Sobering to say the least.”

“It was an extremely valuable and challenging experience,” added a pastor’s wife. “We have been talking much together about our impressions. It has given us so much to think about, and we will be praying with more understanding.”

While walking through the destruction at Nir Oz, we listened to the story of a young lady, Sapir Cohen, who was taken hostage from the kibbutz along with her boyfriend Sasha, plus his mother and grandmother. Sapir recounted being drawn to recite Psalm 27 days before the attacks of October 7th, not knowing fully why, until that fateful morning. That’s when she came to realize it would become her light and hope during the long, traumatic days while in captivity in Gaza.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?