From the Rubble of ‘Be’eri’: A Kibbutz Mourns Its Dead and Vows to Rebuild | Photo Essay

Sharon Israel
Sharon Shani stands amid the ruins of the elementary school in Kibbutz Be’eri, taken over by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 (Photo by Sharon Waxman)

From the Rubble of ‘Be’eri’: a Kibbutz Mourns Its Dead and Vows to Rebuild | Photo Essay

TheWrap gets a rare glimpse inside a devastated community five months after a murderous rampage by Hamas terrorists, the first in a series

KIBBUTZ BE’ERI, Israel — Ela Shani Kozin turned 15 in January, just three months after she survived the Hamas terrorist attack on her kibbutz, Be’eri, a few kilometers from Israel’s border with Gaza. 

On the dark day of Oct. 7, 2023, when 1,200 people were murdered in Israel, Be’eri suffered the worst losses among three kibbutzim attacked. About 100 of its 1,200 residents were killed, and dozens more taken hostage. The violence was unspeakable. Families were burned in their homes. Survivors spoke of hearing hours of torture while cowering in their safe rooms. Two teenage girls were found naked and murdered, with rape presumed. Their father is a hostage.


Shani’s father, 72-year-old Itzik Kozin, was killed and his house burned to a cinder. The next street over lifelong peace activist Vivian Silver, 74, was killed. Shani’s teenaged cousin Amit was taken hostage, as was 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz and 9-year-old Irish-Israeli Emily Hand. They all returned to Israel in a hostage exchange in November. But Lifshitz’s husband Oded, 83, is still held by Hamas.

Five months after the deadly attack that triggered yet another Mideast war, I returned to Israel to better understand the impact of this devastating massacre, whose aftermath has rippled throughout the world, including in California’s corridors of popular culture. 

Far from the screaming crowds on college campuses and beyond the angry activists ripping up photos of hostages, there is Be’eri, where people have family members who are actually hostages, and are trying to reclaim their lives after the horror. 

Last December, Ela spoke about her experiences at TheWrap’s Power Women Summit. She recently returned and invited me to tour the devastated kibbutz with her and her mother Sharon, who has been living at a hotel in the Dead Sea since the attack. On this day she visited her father’s house for only the second time since Oct. 7. 

Be’eri was founded in 1946, two years before the establishment of the state of Israel, by members of the left-wing Zionist youth movement called HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed. It was named for one of the founders of Labor Zionism, which is tied to the worker’s movement. Back then, Be’eri was a tiny community with a population of 150, reclaiming desert land and planting trees. They were joined in subsequent years by young Jews from Iraq. 

Over time, the kibbutz prospered and became wealthy, and for decades has been known for its thriving print business in addition to its agriculture. Jews came to settle there decades ago from as far away as Argentina. 

The community is exceedingly close knit. Everyone knows every other family. Generations have grown up here, and stayed. Now traumatized and mourning, residents are slowly returning to the kibbutz to occupy those homes that were not destroyed. The homes incinerated by Hamas have not yet been touched, and many remain as testimonials to the residents who were killed there. 

The kibbutz does not usually allow journalists to enter so this is a rare glimpse of a community coping with the aftermath of Oct. 7., and the tour of sorrow when their nightmares came to life.

Here is Ela’s speech to the Power Women Summit in December: