“There’s a shooting in the village from the gate!” he texted after militants fired at his car as he drove past the main entrance. Attackers later blew open a pedestrian gate nearby with explosives and flooded into the kibbutz.
Kaplan rushed home to grab his armored vest, helmet and M16 rifle, then drove off to check another gate on the northwest corner. There he found armed men were already inside the razor-wire security fence that encircled the community.
“Terrorists in the kibbutz! Terrorists in the kibbutz!” he yelled in a second, panicked voice text, begging his men to hurry. Gunshots sounded in the background. He had trained a dozen men for this moment, a surprise attack from nearby Gaza. Yet 19 minutes after his first alert, none had arrived.
Kaplan left his car and shot at assailants from behind a metal garbage container. One lobbed a hand grenade at him. In a stroke of luck for him and Mefalsim, it didn’t explode.
More than two dozen Hamas fighters from Gaza had arrived with orders to subdue the small security force and herd hostages into the community dining hall. They carried a detailed map of the kibbutz and, like other assault teams in southern Israel that morning, an attack plan labeled “top secret.”
Mefalsim was one place that day where nothing for the Hamas attackers went according to plan.
Soon after Kaplan’s call for help, his volunteers rushed from their homes in helmets and protective vests worn over the T-shirts they had slept in, toting M16 rifles. Outnumbered and fighting alone or in pairs, the men mounted a life-or-death stand, communicating via walkie-talkie and WhatsApp texts to track the militants and send each other help.
They believed they had to hold off the insurgents long enough for the Israeli army to arrive. At first, they hoped the soldiers would be there quickly. But as minutes passed, and the fighting grew worse, they realized they would have to fight alone.
“Where are the tanks?” Yarden Reskin, a 38-year-old landscape architect and security volunteer yelled into his walkie-talkie as the bullets flew. “It became very, very apparent that they weren’t coming,” he said later.