'They're So Cruel': How Oct. 7 Destroyed an Israeli Peace Activist's Faith in the Palestinians

December 14, 2023

EILAT, Israel—Irit Lahav, 57, was a peace activist who believed in the decency of the Palestinian people. Then, on Oct. 7, ordinary Gazans joined in a terrorist attack that left more than one in four of her neighbors in Kibbutz Nir Oz dead or abducted.

For many members of Nir Oz and other Israelis, the atrocities of Oct. 7—and particularly the broad participation of the Gazan public in the day—destroyed their faith in coexistence with the Palestinians.

Lahav, a manager at a travel company, long participated in peace demonstrations. In recent years, she volunteered for an Israeli charity called Road to Recovery, driving Palestinian children from the border of the Gaza Strip, less than two miles from her home, to Israeli hospitals for life-saving medical care.

"We thought that Palestinians are good people. All they want is peace and prosperity," Lahav told the Washington Free Beacon in an interview from a hotel in this Red Sea resort city where she and most of her community were temporarily relocated. "It's just that Hamas is forcing them to be in this aggressive situation."

When terrorists first shook the door of her safe room on Oct. 7, Lahav was sure that she and her 22-year-old daughter were about to be killed. But a makeshift lock she had fashioned out of an oar and a vacuum cleaner thwarted three separate break-in attempts. The women lay in the darkened room for about 10 hours listening to sounds of automatic gunfire and grenade explosions. At one point, they heard a group of teenagers robbing their house.

Later, Lahav learned from other Nir Oz survivors that Gazan women and children as young as 10 years old had followed Hamas terrorists into the kibbutz, looting, helping the armed terrorists, and apparently enjoying themselves.

"Basically it was sort of an invasion of a community," Lahav said. "That's why for me, I cannot say this was a Hamas action. No, for me, this was a Palestinian action. A whole community had come to our kibbutz, took our things, stole stuff, killed people, and kidnapped others."

"Am I thinking about myself being foolish until now?" Lahav added. "Maybe. But more is that I'm disappointed in them, that they're so cruel, have no values, really lost their human values."

During Israel's ongoing war to destroy Hamas, 40 of the hostages taken from Nir Oz have been released, while 30 remain in Gaza. Several other hostages have been declared dead in recent weeks, bringing the total number of people killed from Nir Oz to 46.

(Videography by Orel Revivo; video editing by Daniel Binsted)