Motti went to rescue his daughter on 7 October and ended up saving more than 30 other survivors

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Motti went to rescue his daughter on 7 October and ended up saving more than 30 other survivors

Nitzan and her cousin attended the Nova music festival but survived the terror attack by hiding under dead bodies

Motti and Nizan
Motti and Nizan

We caught up with Motti Ezra the morning after a huge Gratitude Feast he held at his house in the center of Israel. Three and a half weeks back, this isn’t something he could’ve imagined. In fact, he couldn’t think of anything besides his immediate mission: rescuing his daughter, Nitzan, a survivor of the Nova rave. He left the house determined to bring her back home and while he was at it, ended up rescuing more than 30 other survivors.

The main reason for the Gratitude Feast was that his son, Amit’s, wife is pregnant with a baby daughter. “It was a very emotional evening. The Rabbi of our community came to give his blessing; we had bards singing, and a lot of friends,” Motti shares. His testimony of the events of October 7th shows that thanks to his heroics, they had much more to be grateful for.

His daughter-in-law announced the pregnancy on Sunday, 8 October, the day after the hideous Hamas massacre. “My instinct was to slap my son silly. If I would’ve known, I would’ve never let him come with me on my rescue mission the day before.”

October 7th started as a lazy morning for Motti, who tends to disconnect from his phone during Shabbat. The sirens didn’t go out in his community like in many other parts of the country, at 6:30 am. At 7:30, he received a text from his daughter, Nitzan, that everything is OK. He didn’t even know she was at the Nova rave. Suddenly, the phone wouldn’t stop ringing. His older daughter, Chen, was on her honeymoon in Thailand. She said that people around her are going crazy after hearing the news of what’s happening in the south. At this point, Motti was still sure this was just a barrage of rockets, not uncommon for the southern region, and if a few terrorists crossed the border, they would be easily and quickly blocked by the security forces.

Meanwhile, his son, Amit, began to understand that this is not the case, and made his way to his parents house, 15 minutes away from where he lives. Once he arrived, he made it clear to his father that Nitzan is in danger, and they need to go rescue her. His wife, Sandy, almost ripped her hair off and instructed them: “Go bring back my daughter.”

Amit on the rescue mission in a ceramic vest borrowed from a police volunteer

They speeded down the highway, and what was supposed to be a 1:30 hour drive took about 40 minutes. Motti tells about his first encounter with the battlefield: “We reached a roadblock near the army base in Urim. Bullets were coming at us from all directions. Soldiers were fending off terrorists from taking control of the base. You could hear on the radio that everyone is in complete shock, with multiple dead and injured. I instructed Amit to take cover behind the tires of our car.”

After the base was cleared, they continued towards the location that Nitzan sent them, a reinforced concrete structure in the open field, aimed for taking cover from rockets. Every now and then, Nitzan texted Amit that terrorists are throwing more and more grenades at the group of party-goers who tried to hide there. Motti instructed her to hide underneath the bodies.

On his way, he began getting a picture of what was happening. “I see an endless line of destroyed cars, bodies inside them, laying on the ground, everywhere. I see the soldiers, who in my mind should be the hunters, slaughtered by swarms of terrorists. We got back into the car, and I told Amit that I want him to stay there, in relative safety, while I pursue the search for Nitzan. I told him he has a two-year-old toddler at home, he works in my business, and I need him to be able to take care of the house in my absence. Because if Nitzan is dead, I will end my life as well, there will be no point for me to come back, I won’t sit Shiva over my daughter.”

A month before, Amit’s personal gun was taken from him by the authorities, after he moved from a town in the Northern West Bank, and hence they thought he is no longer in a situation that requires him to be armed. Ever since the war began, acquisition of licenses have eased, and Motti is now demanding that Amit gets his gun back. Despite that, Amit wouldn’t let him continue by himself, insisting that he’ll join him.

Motti’s niece Bat and daughter Nitzan

While they continue on their way to Nitzan, they encounter a civilian in a private vehicle, wearing a volunteer police hat. “After asking what we came for, he immediately offered to help. These are the people of Israel, selfless and brave.” The gunfire continued, and Motti saw an army helicopter being shot down by Hamas. The sight before them was apocalyptic. Suddenly, a bit before Re’im junction, a group of 20 young people jump at his Dodge Ram, pleading for help.

Motti opens up about a dilemma, which sounds like a modern day version of “Sophie’s Choice”: “What do I do? Leave them behind? And if I take them, leave my daughter behind? Amit convinced me that we will be doing something graceful and we’ll be rewarded for it. I loaded them, filling every inch of my truck, and told them to sit down because I will drive fast. I took them to safety in a petrol station that served as an evacuation spot. They hugged me and asked if we have more weapons so they can come help us fight. Obviously, I didn’t have anything. Just my gun and two magazines.”

On his way back, he saw a soldier guarding four live terrorists, handcuffed and with their

eyes covered. Soon, more forces arrived, and when they heard Motti’s story, they let him lead a make-shift team of three vehicles. The convoy made their way to Nitzan’s location, having to move cars blown by RPGs blocking the road. Upon arrival, they spotted Hamas terrorists 450 feet away, in the entrance to Kibbutz Be’eri. Motti ordered everyone to unload from their vehicles and open fire, sending the terrorists to take cover.

“I entered the concrete construction, declaring I am from the IDF, and that I came to rescue Nitzan. All of a sudden I hear a scream: ‘Daddy, I am here, I hid beneath the bodies like you asked me.’ It was dark and pungent, the scent a combination of explosives, flesh, and body parts. I reached Nitzan, moving the bodies away to get to her. All the while, I hear people saying that I am stepping on them. You couldn’t make out anything there, who is alive and who is dead.”

This was at 16:00 pm, seven hours after Motti and Amit departed for their rescue mission. One by one, they extricated two more injured people out of the 40 party-goers who were crammed there, almost everyone dead. His niece, Nitzan’s cousin, survived. The two other friends who went with them were both murdered. On the way back, more sights of the carnage were unveiled, with dead bodies burnt to ashes, destroyed cars, and live terrorists who surrendered, preferring the comfort of Israeli prison than death in combat.

At 23:00 pm, they arrived home, after meeting his brother and dropping off his injured niece at the hospital. Sandy collapsed. Motti couldn’t stop staring at his daughter, rejoicing that she’s with him. “I think I made a deal with God. The 20 survivors who asked me to evacuate them, that was a test. After that, I felt that I had an aura of protection.”

Motti and his family at the Gratitude Feast

Besides being a hero, Motti’s day job is owning a large construction company. He employs 200 Palestinian builders. Due to the situation, following the news that Gazan workers played a role in collecting intelligence and taking part in the massacre, they are not allowed to work in Israeli communities, which means Motti’s business is in a stalemate.

“I am home, with my family. Nitzan sleeps in my bed every night. At some point, she invited friends to sleep over with her, but two nights later she wanted to go back to me. I encourage her to go to work, even for a couple of hours, at the headquarters of one of Israel’s biggest Cafe chains, Roladin. She’s gone through multiple different therapy sessions, including a very unique one through zoom with a therapist from the US. My wife, Sandy, got into a volunteering frenzy, and in the first week of the war, cooked all day long, for anyone who needed: soldiers, police forces, elderly. At the end, she collapsed. Her Doctor told her to take it easy, she was too overwhelmed. I am convincing Amit to go to therapy as well. Me? I do what I can to help. I heard there are soldiers without showers, so I took a team of builders and within a couple of hours they had warm showers.”

As for his business, he has no idea what the future beholds. “The government hasn’t approached us, no one is talking to me. A Palestinian laborer earns 81 GBP per day, a foreign laborer usually makes 133 GBP, but now the agencies are exploiting the high demand and raised the price to 235 GBP. I have no clue when we will be able to continue to build.”

Motti has interesting insights regarding the relationship with his workers. “A lot of the Palestinians saw my rescue video and reached out, they asked how am I doing, and showed sympathy. Many of them voiced that they understand very well that they would not be better off living under Hamas or even the Palestinian Authority’s regime. I always told them to stay away from trouble, I know that they just want to live and provide for their families. I make sure to speak Arabic with them, and conduct myself by their codes, which basically means that they will get what they work for, but I will get what I demand. They respect that.”

Now, between overcoming the trauma, and looking ahead to an optimistic future with another granddaughter en route, Motti also has a message to his country, and the world. “The problem with us Jews, is that we forget quickly. I really enjoyed traveling to Turkey, but seeing the demonstrations there and what Erdogan said in his speeches, I don’t want to go there. All the videos from the atrocities have been recorded and published by Hamas, how can the world turn a blind eye?”

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