40 Hours of Terror In A Safe Room With Hashem, The Rebbe & A Chitas




    Chalukas Shas 5784

    40 Hours of Terror In A Safe Room With Hashem, The Rebbe & A Chitas

    Mrs. Perach Filo, a survivor from Kibbutz Be’eri and her daughter Iris Altbaum, a member of the Chabad community in Petach Tikvah relate the great miracles that they say on the fateful Simchas Torah By Shneur Zalman Noyman, Beis Moshiach Magazine • Full Article

    By Shneur Zalman Noyman, Beis Moshiach Magazine

    Mrs. Perach Filo was born 75 years ago in Hungary, shortly after the Holocaust. As a child, she and her family moved to Eretz Yisrael. At first, they lived in Beer Sheva. A few years later, they moved to Kibbutz Be’eri where she lived all these years and raised a family.

    In her words: The day before the massacre, there was a nice event at Beit HaAm where we celebrated the birthday of the kibbutz (where over 1000 people lived). I spoke and told about coming to the kibbutz and acclimating over sixty years ago. Looking back now, it was actually a goodbye party.

    Shabbos morning, Simchas Torah, around 6:30 there was a siren which jolted me out of my sleep. It’s commonplace in this area, unfortunately. From the beginning and throughout every minute, I had a miracle. Let’s start with on the way to the fortified room (there are only fifteen seconds to get there). For some reason, I took a bottle with some water that I saw on the way, which I wouldn’t normally do since we are usually in that room for only a short time. Right before I clicked close the door, I took a thick blanket from the bedroom (which was very helpful to me later on).

    I heard many explosions, an enormous amount. I did not remember anything like that happening before. After half an hour, I got a text that terrorists had entered the kibbutz and we should lock ourselves in our fortified rooms until the next text.

    We had stories like this in the past but I realized that things were different now. It developed at a dizzying pace. Terrorists getting in is something I wasn’t familiar with but I had thought of it more than once.

    A few years ago, some terrorists exited a tunnel in the area and entered Eretz Yisrael. I told my daughter, “What’s the fortified room worth if terrorists come and I can’t lock it?” We brought a locksmith from Sderot who worked for hours and drilled until he made a lock for me. To me, this was one of the biggest miracles that happened. There is no way I would have been able to keep the door closed for all those hours without it.

    I wrote to Oren, my son, who lives on moshav Kelachim, “They’re going to kill me. I’m afraid.”

    He tried reassuring me. “It will end soon. I will try and come. If I was able to, I’d be there already.” As the day went on, he texted me that he was on his way with three tanks and soldiers from Duvdevan, to get me. He would come soon and I shouldn’t open the door until they said my name.

    We have an internal app for residents of the kibbutz called “Mekomi.” People began reporting about the horrors, the shooting. With residents’ reports, I followed the progress of the terrorists. They started on the side close to Gaza and moved on from there. Unfortunately, they worked very thoroughly, going from house to house. It took some hours until they reached my neighborhood on the eastern side of the kibbutz.

    I wondered what was going on, where was the army, where was everybody.

    Fear. Helplessness.

    Then, emuna and bitachon came to the fore, which were so powerful that I didn’t know I had it in me. I am not religious. My mother came from a religious home, my father less so, but they distanced themselves because of the Holocaust. I grew up in a home with hardly any Judaism but despite it all, over the years, I connected and became closer.

    My youngest daughter, Iris, left life on the kibbutz, became a baalas teshuva and a Chabadnikit. She and her husband Uri Altbaum have a beautiful Lubavitcher family. Slowly, without even being able to realize it, I absorbed things, mainly through the grandchildren, Yossi, Mendy and Shneur.

    For example, I remember when my grandson was just three, he said, “Savta, come and say a bracha on the four minim.” I told him I don’t know how. He said, “I will say it and you say after me.” They taught me about Judaism, about the Rebbe, about simcha, about positive thinking, amazing things. I connected to places inside myself I didn’t know existed and that I could actually connect to them. In the moment of truth, I was able to access the only place that could save me. It’s a fact that nothing can save us but emuna.

    I remembered that in the fortified room there was a small kit that Iris had given to me with a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and a small book of Tanya, Tehillim. I said to myself, it’s not enough that it’s here in this room; I need it close to me, that the Rebbe protect me. I felt around in the dark and found it. I put it on my heart and said to the Rebbe, “Dear Rebbe, you watch over my heart! Nothing should happen to it… thank you!”

    I also took a picture of myself and put it on social media, “Apparently, there really isn’t anyone to rely on. I’ve enlisted the Lubavitcher Rebbe and I’m praying.”


    The daughter, Mrs. Iris Altbaum, of Anash in Petach Tikva, spoke to Beis Moshiach:

    I grew up on kibbutz Be’eri and lived there until after my army service. I began taking an interest in Judaism through a good friend who became a baalas teshuva and a Lubavitcher. A few years earlier, by divine providence, the connection with her which had been severed was renewed just at the right time… when we began to get close to Judaism. Before I married, my husband and I became baalei teshuva and Chassidim of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach.

    Over the years, we didn’t forget kibbutz Be’eri. Every year on Chanuka, we would go with the boys and do a central menorah lighting with music and great simcha.

    During the assault on the kibbutz on Simchas Torah, my mother felt the need to speak to me. Since she knew she would be unable to reach me by phone on Shabbos/Yom Tov, she called my father-in-law who is not yet religious either, and asked him to try and reach me quickly.

    My father-in-law went from Tel Aviv to Petach Tikvah to look for me. I wasn’t at home. I was at a friend for the Yom Tov meal and then planned on going to shul for hakafos. When my father-in-law saw that I wasn’t at home, he went to shul to look for me. My friend, who recognized my father-in-law, went out to him. The rav of the kehilla, Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin, also went out to see how he could be of help.

    My father-in-law told them what was going on. My friend said she would do what she could to find me. The Rav told her to tell me that it was pikuach nefesh and I should call my mother and be in touch with her constantly.

    She went back into the shul and asked, “Does anyone know where Iris is?” By Divine Providence, I had told someone the night before where I would be and the friend found me quickly.

    When I was told the situation, I didn’t grasp what was going on but knew that something had happened and my mother was distraught. It took me another few moments to understand that the rabbi had told me explicitly to call her on Shabbos.

    I called and realized that this wasn’t something that had taken place but was happening now. My mother was terribly frightened. The terrorists, according to the app, were very close to her house. She was afraid to talk and we switched to communicating via whatsapp.

    “The terrorists are in Pessi’s house.”

    “They are in the house next door,” she reported, and my heart was pounding.

    She wrote, “They are breaking in the door of the house. I hear them inside. They are at the door of the fortified room, trying to break in.”

    I was paralyzed with fear and couldn’t breathe. I wrote to her, with the encouragement of my friend, that she was safe and they wouldn’t get to her. They wouldn’t be able to break the door of the fortified room and, with Hashem’s help, nothing would happen to her.

    I said Tehillim, chapter 121, over and over. I couldn’t look at the sefer I was holding. I just kept on saying, “Shir La’maalos, Shir La’maalos.”

    After fifteen minutes, my mother suddenly typed, “It became quiet.”

    I wrote her, “Boruch Hashem,” and began saying “Mizmor l’soda, Mizmor l’soda” over and over.

    She wrote, “I hear them talking outside.” When they moved off, she continued to write to me and I kept strengthening her.

    All day, we wrote using whatsapp, from 12:55 until 6:11. Then her phone ran out of power and she couldn’t charge it. During these hours, the terrorists entered the house and tried to break into the fortified room. That repeated itself four times! Each time, I strengthened her that she was protected and everything would be all right, with G-d’s help.

    She wrote back, “I know. I feel protected. I am protected. The Rebbe is watching over me.”


    Back to Mrs. Filo:

    I found half a package of crackers in the fortified room. I didn’t know how much longer I would have to be there and divided the food. Every few hours I ate two crackers and took a small sip or two of water.

    At some point, around one or one-thirty, the terrorists came to my house. I heard screaming in Arabic, explosions and shooting. For many hours I had no quiet from the terrorists; they were trying to break in, to drill, and blow open the door. For nearly forty hours there was no break in their attempts to get me! I heard people speaking Arabic during those two days and terrible noise from outside. They also tried to break through the window of the room and were unsuccessful. I was extremely tense, even in a panic. Every minute was a miracle.

    With all this hell going around me, I sat down and took a deep breath and kept on saying, “Thank you HaKadosh Baruch Hu, thank you Elokim, I am protected, I am protected, thank you Borei Olam and for your angels. Thank you Lubavitcher Rebbe and thank you to all your Chassidim, the Chabadnikim all over the world who are praying for me. With Hashem’s help, nothing bad will happen to me.”

    I said it over and over, dozens of times. In the meantime, the terrorists continued with their explosions, in all directions. My fortified room shook. At some point, they shouted at me from the direction of the window and tried to convince me to come out. I shrank into my seat and continued thanking Hashem and telling him, “Thank You very much, I am protected, Borei Olam, thank you very much Rebbe.”

    After five hours of writing to Iris who helped and encouraged me all that time, my battery was used up. I was without electricity, without a phone, without a clock, without food, with no one. I was alone, Me and my Creator. I kept saying, “Thank You Elokim and the Rebbe.” This is what gave me strength.

    All this time I was in a small room, two meters by two meters (six feet by six feet) and saying, “Thank you Rebbe, I am protected” while a real war was going on outside. Only afterward did I find out that twelve terrorists had holed up in my house against our forces, right over my head.

    Then I heard some heavy equipment, maybe a power shovel, that began dismantling my entire house. Among the big miracles I experienced, something surreal and unbelievable occurred. A tiny crack appeared in the door of the fortified room but the terrorists did nothing with it. They were destroying the entire house and dust was starting to enter the room. Me, with a lung fifty percent functional; that’s all I needed, not being able to breathe.

    For hours, boom, boom. I thought I would cave in, there was no choice, but I said to myself, not yet. I saw that despite everything, the room was still intact.

    Even after I got out, I was sure the terrorists had destroyed the entire house. I learned that the IDF had brought a d9 bulldozer to eliminate the terrorists.

    If not for the powerful Divine Providence that was upon me I would not be here. The hours passed and my son did not come to extricate me. I did not understand this. At first I thought he was helping evacuate the wounded but after some hours I thought something had happened to him.

    I finished all the water and crackers, down to the last crumb. I also need medication on a regular basis and wasn’t breathing well. I had no strength. I felt I was on the verge of fainting and that I wouldn’t manage without food, water and medicine. The darkness in the little room was very hard for me. I didn’t know what was where.

    It was quiet outside and I felt around for the window. I was about to faint. I managed to get the window open and, ah, I finally got to breathe some air. I looked up at the sky which was a deep blue and saw birds in a unique formation, hundreds, almost not moving. I thought maybe they were planes on the way to Gaza and if so, in another minute there would be missiles flying again, from Gaza toward the kibbutz.

    I fell back into the room, banged myself up a bit and sat down. I think I fainted. For how long? I don’t know. When I woke up it took me a long time to figure out where I was and what was happening. I thought I was somewhere else and with other women until I came back to reality.

    I had no idea how much time passed since I last opened the window. I knew I had no choice but to get up and do something. I was so weak and there was no way I would survive. I barely had the strength to stand on my feet. It was still quiet and starting to get light outside. It was early Monday morning.

    I was never light on my feet, certainly not at age 75. How would I climb up to the window? I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I found a basket in the room and knew it was too weak to hold me. I found a strong stool but it was too low. I found an antique sewing machine and used it to climb. I threw the blanket outside so I’d have a soft landing.

    Elokim helped me! I didn’t know what I was doing and where I was going. I was afraid to jump out but I was just as afraid to stay in the room.

    I managed to reach the window; I really don’t know how, with superhuman strength. It wasn’t me who climbed up to the window. Hashem is the one who picked me up and put me there. Even twenty years ago, there’s no way I would have managed.

    I sat on the windowsill and looked out. Nothing looked the same as what I usually saw out my window. The houses are fairly close to one another in our neighborhood. Each one is a house and garden. I looked at the house opposite me and there was no garden and not much of a house, just the remnants of a house, and I didn’t know what happened. I said to myself, now is not the time to understand. I breathed; thank you Hashem.

    I lowered the mattress that I had with me. I pulled on the edge of the mattress and jumped down. I hurt myself but I landed. I had a very big miracle. There was broken cement and steel from the destruction of the house. In retrospect, it was that which helped me get up. If not for the iron bars, I would not have been able to get up and stand on my feet. It saved me. I said thank You to Hashem again.

    I saw that I wouldn’t be able to go around to the front of the house. Everything was destroyed. I passed by the neighbor’s house and called her name but did not hear an answer. I got to the other side of the house and saw near the entrance a small table with half a bottle of grape juice. I drank it down and it revived me.

    I tried to fill the water bottle from the faucet there but there was no water. I sat in the garden for a few minutes to rest. It was quiet all around. I reached the back of the house and only then did I realize that my entire house (aside from the fortified room) was demolished.

    I left cautiously, and looked past the bushes that separate between us and the road. I didn’t see anyone. I saw a car with the driver’s door open but was afraid to go over and look.

    I continued walking. There is a path to an old building which now serves as a studio. I suddenly saw a big bottle of mineral water on the ground. I said, “Thank You Hashem.” I really needed that. I was dehydrated. I drank and went in the direction of the road, walking slowly, barefoot, with the blanket helping me cushion the road and the rocks.

    I slowly crossed the road  and saw no one. I suddenly saw an electric scooter with a key in the ignition. I thanked Hashem again and got on it. There too, a bottle of water was waiting for me. Thank you Hashem who takes care of me all along.

    I rode toward the gate of the kibbutz, not far away. I didn’t have my glasses and wasn’t sure whether I was seeing soldiers or not. I was afraid and took a left, along the length of the fence. I said to myself, if they weren’t our soldiers, they would have shot already. I went back and saw soldiers in the distance. I yelled to them, “Are you soldiers? Are you Tzahal? Can you help me?”

    They said yes, and I rode toward them. They supported and helped me, were so wonderful, and they told me, “You are a heroine.”

    I saw someone from Be’eri, the son of a big family on the kibbutz and I asked him, “How is your family? Are they all right?” He said, “Some of them.”

    They really took care of me. They brought me food and drinks and checked that I was okay. They put the phone in the charger and I called Iris.

    Then they asked, “Do you want to speak to your son?” I said, “Of course I want to but I’m afraid he won’t answer.” I didn’t know what was going on with him. Meanwhile, he called and I spoke to him. It turned out that he had come to help me. He was only a hundred meters from the house but they didn’t let him get closer because of the heavy fighting with the terrorists that went on for many hours.

    Within less than half an hour we met. We got a military escort with armed soldiers to a quieter spot in the direction of his house, and in the meantime, Iris and her husband also came in our direction.

    Every step I made was an open miracle. How did I deserve this? I don’t know.

    The emuna, which I didn’t know was in me, strengthened me so much and saved me.


    Back to Mrs. Iris Altbaum:

    After her phone was no longer working, I tried to be in contact with anyone I could reach at the kibbutz. I heard that people were being removed from the kibbutz and I pleaded that they go to her house and see how she was doing.

    The answer I kept on getting was that there was heavy fighting with bullets flying and it was impossible to get close. I did not imagine for a moment what we heard later on, that a gang of twelve terrorists had holed up in our house! For about forty hours there was heavy exchange of gunfire. It was only Sunday afternoon that the IDF managed to take control over the terrorists and there was some quiet.

    I was constantly in touch with security forces and with whoever could help me, grasping at any bit of information that I could obtain.

    At some point, I was told that they were sending in a force to get her out. I sent them a picture of her. I was sure she was in the fortified room. I sat there and said, “Mizmor l’soda” again and again. I was sure she was fine and they would just take her out of there and call to say she was fine.

    After about forty minutes of praying and anticipation, they weren’t getting back to me. I called a friend who tried to help and find out what was happening. They told me, “Unfortunately, it’s impossible to find a match to what they found in the fortified room.”

    That sounded terrible! Although they hadn’t officially told me that the ‘story was over,’ this wasn’t good news. And yet, they told me that her glasses were found on the pavement outside the house. This gave us hope and the strength to continue believing that she was alive. Maybe she had been able to run away? Even if, G-d forbid, she had been kidnapped, at least she was alive.

    I called a rabbi and told him that I heard something terrible. I asked what I was supposed to do. The rav questioned me from every angle about what I was actually told. It wasn’t an official announcement but it was very difficult.

    The rabbi said we knew nothing for certain, we had no clear information, and for now, we wouldn’t address the news, just about the glasses outside, which gave us hope that she was alive and, with Hashem’s help, all would be well.

    I felt that this was a huge test of emuna and bitachon in Hashem. The rabbi paskened not to relate to the information we received and we chose to believe.

    We continued to believe, to hope, to pray, and not give in. We had a most difficult evening.

    At the Rebbe, Yom Tov was also over and our son was there on Kevutza. And in Berlin, where my oldest son and his family are on shlichus. We prepared to talk to the children and decided to tell them only the part about emuna, that everything would be fine. The entire family believed with strong faith and said, “Ima, Savta will be fine; there’s no other way. Hashem is protecting her; the Rebbe is protecting her. We’re sure she’s fine.”

    I repeat, we chose emuna and didn’t give in one inch. It was very, very strong. I kept saying, Ima briah u’shleimah, briah u’shleimah, yiheyu besorot tovot (Ima, healthy and whole, healthy and whole, there will be good news).

    We went to sleep at six in the morning with horrible feelings.

    At 7:06 on Monday, I got a phone call from someone in the kibbutz who said to me, “Your mother was saved!”

    I called one of the soldiers who said to me, “She’s not with me; write down this number.” I called and said, “I understand that my mother is with you. I’d like to speak to her.” He said to me, “I’m sorry but she’s being examined now to make sure she’s okay. Write down this number.”

    I felt like a little child crawling toward a certain goal and as she gets closer, the parents move the goal away so she will crawl further. That’s what I felt Hashem was doing to me. He almost, almost brought me to her and it was like He was saying, “Believe another a little bit, believe another little bit…”

    Boruch Hashem, finally, after a few minutes, with my emotions through the roof, I spoke with my mother. Later I learned that the rescue team from whom I had gotten that report, had been at a different fortified room and nobody had gone to her throughout those two days, so the rescue team somehow got the message that there was nobody to save and they didn’t check the house again. Moreover, there were still terrorists in the area.

    After less than two hours, we met and we brought her to our home. When we were on our way, I began to shout to my husband in the car, “We withstood the test! We withstood the test!” We did not stop believing for a minute that everything would be all right.

    I feel that in the merit of our emuna she was saved. Bitachon and emuna literally revived my mother time after time.


    Since that nightmare, Mrs. Perach Filo has been interviewed by various media.

    “I came with faith that my story could strengthen a lot of people.”

    Perach’s amazing story has reached tens of thousands of viewers, listeners and readers of all backgrounds. The story of a miracle, emuna and bitachon. The saying, “Think positively and it will be good” was illustrated most graphically for us.

    She talks about the Rebbe everywhere. “In the merit of emuna, the extent of which I didn’t know I had internalized, I was saved. Thank you Rebbe!”


    Beis Moshiach magazine can be obtained in stores around Crown Heights. To purchase a subscription, please go to: bmoshiach.org


    Never Miss An Update

    Join ChabadInfo's News Roundup and alerts for the HOTTEST Chabad news and updates!


    Add Comment

    *Only proper comments will be allowed

    Related Posts:

    40 Hours of Terror In A Safe Room With Hashem, The Rebbe & A Chitas