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Hagit Yaso, winner of "A Star is Born", hid from terrorist gunfire - and survived

00:00 / 01:04

By Tzippi Roman

Published: 18.10.23, 07:52

Three years ago, Hagit Yaso joined the Sderot Front Runners running group, which soon became an important part of her life. "Three times a week we used to go for runs all together," she says. "In the middle of the week in the evening, and on Saturday - in the mornings."

On Saturday, October 7, she also went running. "I was supposed to go jogging with three friends," she says. "But they intended to drive in a car as far as Mordechai and from there run to Zikim. Since I keep Shabbat, I didn't go with them. I arranged to go with a friend, and when she was late I went out alone. At six in the morning I hid my key and watch in a certain place at the entrance to the city, because it is forbidden to carry things on Shabbat, and I ran towards the Negev Gate. At half past six, when I reached the entrance of Sapir College, there was a 'red alert and barrages of missiles began. I went into the shelter and waited for it to end, but the barrages continued. When they became silent, I tried to get out and saw Lior Weizman from the runners' group, who was riding a bicycle. We spoke briefly, and when we started hearing gunshots, he told me, 'Take care of yourself!', he continued riding, and turned back towards Sderot. I never saw him again. Immediately after turning at the intersection, I heard gunshots."

If the name Hagit Yaso sounds familiar to you, it’s no coincidence. Yaso, who lives in Sderot, won first place in the ninth season of Kohav Nolad (A Star is Born, an Israeli singing talent competition TV show) in 2011. Today, at the age of 34, in addition to her performances as a singer in various settings, she works as a secretary in a company for infrastructures and roads.

What did you do when you heard gunshots?

"I started running towards the Negev Gate. When the shots got closer, I entered the police station at the intersection. I stayed there and looked, and suddenly I saw a white van with 6-7 terrorists dressed in black with bandanas, shooting and shouting 'Allah Akbar!' They were about a hundred meters from me, but luckily they didn't see me and continued. When they passed I left the shelter and went into the bushes. Then another van of terrorists arrived shooting in every direction. I decided to stay in the bushes until I saw the army or the police. I was sure they would come.

"Meanwhile, Israeli vehicles began to arrive, and when they stopped at the red light at the intersection, the terrorists - who were positioned a few tens of meters from me - shot at them. I saw a person shot who shouted: 'Please, don't kill me, let me live!', then he reversed and continued towards the 'Alonit' gas station at the Gabim intersection. The Arab guy from the gas station loaded him and the wounded girl who was with him into a car and drove towards the intersection where I was hiding. When he saw the terrorists, he got out of the car and started running. I came out of the bushes and said to him, 'Help me!', and he said: 'Run, don't Stop.' He also signaled to the people who were driving on the road to stop, but they did not understand him and continued straight towards the terrorists.

I ran after him, we entered the direction of the gas station and there were 11 people there, all of whom had gathered there because of the 'red code’ alarm. They did not know about the terrorists, And when I told them, they didn't believe me. One of them said: 'I'm from an elite unit. That can't be. If a bird goes through the fence, they'll know about it right away.'

"The guy from 'Alonit' locked the door and we sat in the shelter in silence. Within five minutes the terrorists reached us, but when they tried to open the door and failed, they didn’t persist and continued on. We saw all this on the security cameras. We were there for about six hours. We kept trying to call the Sderot police, but they couldn't help us."

Were you scared? Did you understand what was happening?

"Because I keep Shabbat, I didn't look on the Internet and didn't know what was going on. I wasn't told the magnitude of the event. I believe that keeping Shabbat saved my life, after all, they say that whoever keeps Shabbat, Shabbat keeps him, and what happened to me definitely proves that. Only when someone told me about the party in Re’im did I realize that this was an event of a magnitude that we’ve never known before."

When did your family find out about what was happening with you?

"At a certain point, they told me that I had to call my family, because it was considered danger to life. I didn't know that I had actually been considered missing for six hours. "The Arab guy called my mother, and then my sister said she was sending me people from Kibbutz Gabim's emergency room for rescue. When they arrived, we didn't believe they were Israeli until one of them asked, 'Who is Hagit? I came to get her.'” Then I said, 'Open up, it's one of ours.' I stayed to sleep there with Adi and Nimrod, my sister's friends, and the next day I returned home. Last night, when I could talk on the phone, I asked directly about Lior Weizman, the one who was riding the bike. Then I realized that he was gone. He was murdered minutes after we met."

What about the friends from the running group?

"Two of them, Kobi Parintah and Naomi Shitrit Azoulai, with whom I had arranged to meet, were murdered. The third, Ram Hayon, was wounded. After a week I learned that the policeman Avi Amar from the group also fell in battle, in Kibbutz Be’eri."

Where are you now?

"On Monday, the entire extended family - eight adults and seven children - evacuated to Tel Aviv, to places that my sister's friend arranged for us. But when we got there and heard alarms, we did not feel safe. A friend who is abroad let us use his house in Hadera for a few days, and from Thursday we’ve been at the Leonardo Hotel in Jerusalem."

How are you?

"I'm relatively fine, but I have nightmares. Today I saw a white van like the terrorists’, and I became anxious. Everything scares me. But mostly I think of Naomi from our running group. We were very close. She was a supportive 'mama' with a child's soul, and she would spur me on with the runs. I will miss the four friends who were and are no more. They were the beating heart of the group. I don't know how we will continue without them."

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