Oct. 7 survivors speak at YSU, met with discord

The Youngstown Area Jewish Federation hosted the survivors at the Jewish Community Center following their talk at YSU. Photos courtesy of Elise Skolnick.

By Matthew Sotlar / The Jambar

Youngstown State University’s Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies hosted Surviving Terror: Four Stories from October 7 in DeBartolo Hall on March 18.

The event was coordinated by Adam Fuller, an associate professor of political science, and featured four Israeli speakers who survived the Oct. 7, 2023 attacks known as Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.

One survivor, Inor Roni Kagno, was working as a photographer at the Nova Music Festival during the attacks. Kagno said his mindset has changed since.

“Being in Israel is very strange,” Kagno said. “In our mind, in my mind, when I enter this school, I think, ‘if there was a mass shooting right now, where should I go? Where are the exit points [for] each room I’m in?’ I think subconsciously like that.”

The Oct. 7 attacks were committed by Hamas, an armed Palestinian Islamist militant group, in the Southern District of Israel. Over 1,000 people were killed, and many others were injured or displaced.

Klil Valiano was attending the music festival when the attacks began. Valiano said he and his friends narrowly survived.

“We decided to wait,” Valiano said. “We waited until we heard the gunshots getting closer, then we got into my car, immediately left my parking spot to enter a traffic jam. We used my low car to get under the trees off road and get to the main road.”

Elsewhere in the Southern District, other civilians in Israel fled from the attacks. Gitit Botera, a medical center manager, said she waited out the attacks with her husband and young daughter in a bunker.

“We came back home because it was better to be in a safe place where you know the place. We come back to the house and we heard sirens again, and we ran to our shelter, and before we closed the door to the shelter, I saw some people try to open my house door,” Botera said.

Botera and her family remained in a shelter for 10 hours with no food, water or electricity. She said she still struggles to accept the reality of the attack.

“Something about the 7th of October is broke. We know what is broken, I live with this. I have post trauma because of this — PTSD,” Botera said. “People come to my house, my private place, and want to murder me.”

Eitan Frankl was at his home in Nirim, a kibbutz in southern Israel, during the attacks. Frankl said he also struggles to move past the events.

“I can’t get it out of my head,” Frankl said. “People who are standing outside [yelling] ‘Help, my house is on fire. Somebody help me,’ and there’s nobody there to help them. People were burning alive.”

Frankl began discussing Palestine and said he supports a Palestinian state. Alongside the Russia-Ukraine war, Frankl added he believes the Israel-Hamas war will only lead to more violence.

“We are going to kill one another really soon. The Palestine-Israeli conflict is potent, but not as potent as World War III,” Frankl said. “This is the continuation of everything. World War III started when Russia invaded Ukraine, and now everybody thinks they can do anything and get away with it. ‘Yes, we can kidnap, rape and murder 1,400 people and it would be okay because Free Palestine.’ I’m all about the Palestinian state — I’ve said it before — but not like that.”

Following Frankl’s comments on Palestine, an audience member stood up and asked Frankl if he recognizes “Palestinians are undergoing a genocide right now,” citing 31,000 Palestinians have since been killed by Israeli forces.

Frankl responded saying, “Everybody knows how strong Israel is. If Israel wanted, we could wipe out the Palestinians in like 20 minutes, but we didn’t,” and an exchange continued.

An event organizer interrupted, saying the panelists could discuss “politics” after the event but the speakers were there to share their stories. However, Frankl continued.

“I don’t think there is genocide, I think it’s sad. What’s happening in Gaza — ” Frankl said before the audience member left with two other attendees.

“That’s all we needed to hear. You guys are denying genocide,” the attendee said.

As the attendees began to leave, Botera stood up to address them further saying, “No, it’s propaganda.”

After they left, Botera said to the audience she wished people would listen to their stories.

“This is a problem. People do not listen, only screaming and go. You know? In the kibbutz, we see a little baby murdered, without [a] head, because the terrorists cut [off] the head. I came to speak about everything — but speak, not go. If [they go], the subject is closed,” Botera said.

The event continued after the disruption.

The four speakers shared their stories at the Jewish Community Center later that day for an event hosted by the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation.