In the past couple of weeks, Rachel Edri has become a national hero in Israel.
Savta Rachel’s story went viral, and for good reason. On Saturday, October 7th, she saved herself and her husband of 41 years from Hamas by offering the 5 armed terrorists that infiltrated her home cookies and coffee.
Yes, a batch of fresh-baked Maamoul (date cookies) literally saved their lives.
Early that morning, after a siren rang in the southern city of Ofakim, Rachel and David ran to a nearby bomb shelter. Meanwhile, two truckloads of terrorists had entered Ofakim, located just 25 kilometers from Gaza.
The police immediately launched a search operation as the terrorists began firing at civilians. By 9 a.m., Rachel and David, thinking the danger had passed, returned home. To their surprise, instead of enjoying a quiet Shabbat morning together, they were met by armed Hamas terrorists who had entered their home to escape the police.
Trapped and knowing that attempting to leave could be fatal, the couple decided to comply with the terrorists’ demands and even took it a step further, treating them as they would any guest. Rachel Edri later shared in an interview, “Hachnasat orchim, welcoming guests, is an important mitzvah that I take very seriously. So, I welcomed them like they were simply my guests.”
Rachel is known for being an incredibly welcoming and kind member of her community; everyone in the city knew that if they ever needed a meal, Rachel’s door was open. She has also worked at the canteen of the nearby Tze’elim army base since she was 23, earning her the title of “the base mother” among many soldiers.
As the daughter of two immigrants from Iran, Rachel was able to use rudimentary Arabic to communicate with the terrorists.
She engaged them in conversation, sang with them, and even taught them Hebrew words. “At one point I even forgot for a moment that they were terrorists,” she recalled.
She asked them if they wanted Coca Cola and they responded positively. She brought them Cola Zero and they reacted with disgust and asked for regular cola. As a diabetic, she only had Zero in the house and began to talk to them about their health.
Four hours into the hostage situation, as lunchtime approached, Rachel realized that the terrorists might be getting hungry — a dangerous situation.
“I figured, if they’re hungry they’ll kill me.” So, she offered to feed them and make them tea, brought them cola, and gave them cookies. “I even made them chicken!” One of the terrorists said, “You remind me of my mother,” to which she responded, “I am really like your mother. I will help you, I will take care of you. What do you need?”
During this entire time, the police had the house surrounded but knew that if they attempted to take control of the situation, it could cost Rachel and David their lives. One of the police officers at the scene was Rachel and David’s son, Eviatar.
In the afternoon, the police made their first move, managing to kill one and injuring another. Rachel bandaged the injured terrorist’s hand and offered him a place to rest, telling him that he looked pale. She even served him pineapple, a special treat in Israel due to its cost, telling him he deserved something sweet.
To continue buying time, she began to sing songs with them, asked them to teach her Arabic, and repeatedly asked them to let her go to the bathroom. By dinnertime, the terrorists were still holding Rachel and David hostage, so she cooked for them again, continuing to keep them full and happy in hopes they would continue to let them live.
On what is now being called Black Saturday, she and her husband spent 20 hours held captive by the group of terrorists. After a long dance between the police and the terrorists, with the help of her police officer son who knew the house well, the SWAT team was able to take over and the couple escaped to safety at just around two in the morning.
The couple’s house was turned into what Rachel calls “the site of a pogrom” and they have moved in with their son. “I can’t sleep. Every time I close my eyes I see the terrorists,” Rachel said.
Today, Rachel has fan pages and her recipes have gone viral in Israel. She even went live with Noa Kirel on Instagram where the Israeli pop star asked her for her famous cookies. She also met with U.S. President Joe Biden during his wartime trip to Israel.
Originally Published Oct 30, 2023 07:14PM EDT