Opinion | The Arab Israeli Feels the Pain Twice

As a Bedouin, Ziadna had intimate knowledge of the terrain that proved lifesaving. He was able to cut a route through fields and avoid the main thoroughfare near where Hamas terrorists were ambushing escapees from the music festival. Many other escaping cars then also jumped off the road and followed Ziadna’s minibus through the fields, he said. He told The Times of Israel, which profiled him, that he crammed some 30 people into his vehicle, even though it was licensed for only 14 passengers.

A few days later, he said he got a call from a phone number he did not recognize but that he believed was from Gaza, and a voice said in Arabic: “Are you Youssef Ziadna? You saved the lives of Jews? We’re going to kill you.”

He reported the call to the Israeli police. It’s just one reason, he said, that he still needs daily phone calls with a psychologist to try to overcome his trauma from Oct. 7.

Another family member at our gathering, Daham Ziadna, 35, said a total of four of their family members were abducted by Hamas; one was killed for sure, and three others are still missing. Two of them were last seen lying on the ground in a TikTok video released by Hamas, with two gun-toting Hamas fighters standing over them. For Hamas, said Daham, “everyone who lives in Israel is a Jew.”

Daham told me that a few days ago he had gone to the local bank to withdraw some money from the A.T.M., and two Israeli Jews passed him on the sidewalk. “One had a Russian accent. As they walked past me, the Russian guy said, ‘Here’s another Arab.’ I said to him: ‘These “Arabs” you are talking about on the morning of Oct. 7 were on the border of Gaza fighting for the Israeli state — regardless of Jews or Arabs — and the ones who destroy the country are people like you who incite poison.’”

Israeli Arabs live between a rock and a hard place, he added: “Many Jews look at us as if we are all Hamas, and the Hamas people look at us as if we are all Jews.”

A few miles away, in Rahat, el-Sana introduced me to the al-Qrinawi family, who had their own remarkable tale to tell. Their family spokesman, Ismail, led me through the drama, flanked by his male cousins and a giant platter of rice, chicken and chickpeas.

On the morning of Oct. 7, as word spread of the Hamas attack, they discovered through their family’s WhatsApp group that three of their cousins who worked in the dining room at Kibbutz Be’eri had apparently been abducted. Around 10 a.m., one family member got a call from the phone of an Israeli woman named Aya Medan that was strange. It turned out she had met up with one of their missing cousins, Hisham, and they were hiding together from the Hamas terrorists in the same thorny bush near Be’eri. Hisham used her cellphone to call his Bedouin clan for help. Their other two cousins had fled in another direction.

Their uncle, the family patriarch, ordered four of his nephews to get in the family Land Cruiser and go rescue them, since the area was normally about 30 minutes away — but not that day. They grabbed two handguns and sped off.

“When we got close, we found that all the roads were closed,” Ismail told me. “So we went through the woods and through a deep wadi in order to go around. Our car almost flipped over in the wadi.”

First, “we bumped into people running away from the party,” he said. “We gave them our phones to call their parents and made sure that they got into other cars that were driven by Israelis. We managed to rescue 30 or 40 people at the party. But all the time, I am talking to Aya, trying to locate her and Hisham.”

It was taking forever. After two and half hours of dodging gunfire and Hamas rockets, Ismail said, they managed to find Aya and Hisham hiding in bushes very close to Kibbutz Be’eri. The two had sent a cellphone picture of the area where they were hiding so they could be more easily located. Minutes later, Aya recalled for The Times of Israel, Hisham tugged at her, saying, “Aya, they’re here, they’re actually here.”

The cousins opened the car doors, Aya and Hisham scrambled inside and the Bedouins again used their off-road skills to get them to safety. Sort of.

The most terrifying moment of the day, Ismail told me, was when they got back onto a main road. They got stopped at a makeshift Israeli Army checkpoint, with jittery Israeli soldiers who could not identify friend or foe from afar. “The Israeli soldiers surrounded our car and every one of them was pointing a gun at us. I shouted: ‘We’re Israeli citizens! Don’t shoot!’”

Aya told The Times of Israel that she was asked by an Israeli soldier whether she was being kidnapped. She said, “No, I’m from Be’eri, and they came from Rahat to get us out of there.”

Bedouins saving Israeli Jews from Hamas being saved by a rescued Israeli Jewish woman from being shot by the Israeli Army after they rescued her … kaleidoscopic.

While I was interviewing the al-Qrinawi family, they introduced me to Shir Nosatzki, a co-founder of the Israeli group Have You Seen the Horizon Lately, which promotes Jewish-Arab partnerships. Immediately after learning of the rescue, her husband, Regev Contes, made a seven-minute video in Hebrew to share the tale of the Bedouin rescue team with his fellow Israelis. It has reportedly garnered hundreds of thousands of views in Israel. I asked Nosatzki why they made the video.

“It was to show that Oct. 7 was not a war between Jews and Arabs but between darkness and light,” she said.


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