Nightmare in Ofakim

Nightmare in Ofakim

Heroic police officer tells his chilling story locally

In Israel, Itamar Alus tells his story to American visitors.
In Israel, Itamar Alus tells his story to American visitors.

On a four-day trip to Israel in December, a group of 20 men from Great Neck, Long Island, met Itamar Alus, an Israeli police officer whose harrowing experiences on October 7 told the story of the day — Hamas’s savagery and the heroism of the underprepared, outnumbered Israelis who were in place and fought back of in an unforgettable way.

Those men have brought Mr. Alus to the metropolitan area, including to Woodcliff Lake and Wanaque, to tell his story. (See below.)

“Itamar is one of a handful of police officers who, from 6:30 am through late in the evening of October 7, 2023, with nothing but a pistol, courageously fought back against 16 Hamas terrorists whose intent was to torture and kill as many Israelis as possible,” Yehuda Goltche of Great Neck said. Mr. Goltche was one of the coordinators of the trip, which the group made with support from the World Zionist Organization.

Mr. Alus, 39, an officer in the Negev traffic police, left his home in Ofakim’s Mishor HaKerem neighborhood on the morning of October 7. It was Shabbat; he was going to shul when he heard blaring security alarms and staccato gunfire. He had no way of knowing the scale of the problem, but he knew that something was very wrong. So “he ran home, changed his clothes, got his gun, and told his wife, Esther, and their four children to lock themselves in,” Mr. Goltche said.

Mr. Alus and two other officers, Shai Abouxis, who grabbed his police radio from his car, and Roni Abuharon, sprang into action, running in different directions to try and figure out the situation.

“The well-timed Shabbat morning ambush shocked the residents of Ofakim,” Mr. Goltche said.

“Itamar describes the day of fierce, prolonged fighting as nonstop action — he does not know from where his strength came,” he continued. “Helping as many civilians as possible to safety in bomb shelters, communicating with other officers who were just coming off duty, doing what he could to stave off terrorists who were breaking down doors and shooting through windows, administering first aid to those wounded in their homes or in their cars, dragging injured people in the streets to safety by their belts, tying makeshift tourniquets to temporarily control bleeding body parts, grabbing unused ammunition and explosive devices from the dead militants, and reloading magazines from the guns taken from fellow officers who had perished — he did all of these things.”

Two groups visiting Israel with the World Zionist Organization stand with Israeli flags.

The terrorists, armed with a cache of military assault weapons, grenades, plastic explosives, and anti-tank rockets, were prepared to strike when their captors were most vulnerable. ”The houses in the region are atypical for buildings in Israel,” Mr. Goltche said. “Many of the older buildings are made out of wood instead of stone, and the bomb shelters are outside of the homes, making anyone running for shelter an easy target.

“It was only later that Mr. Alus understood that the terrorists had come through a main street and stopped there with two pickup trucks,” he continued. “There were 16 terrorists who entered the neighborhood from several alleys. They simply shot at anyone they saw and anything that moved. Due to the rocket alarms, people came out of their local bomb shelters or stairwell rooms and there, they were killed.

“The terrorists even entered houses and shot people there.”

Mr. Alus’s story is part of a vividly written account in the New York Times by Adam Goldman and Gal Koplewitz. According to that October 26 report, the Israeli Defense Force’s absence meant that the city’s police and its civilians had to defend Ofakim by themselves.

“The police saved us,” the Times story quoted Cochy Abuharon, Officer Roni Abuharon’s older sister,” as saying. “Without their courage, there would have been more slaughter.”

Mr. Goltche and his friends on the trip met Mr. Alus in Ofakim, and the Israeli police officer showed the visitors the parts of the city that Hamas attacked. “We were deeply affected by Mr. Alus’s remarkable story of horror and bravery during our visit to Israel in December,” Mr. Goltche said. “Itamar described his experiences as we walked with him through the alleys and neighborhoods where he and his fellow officers staved off the terrorists for hours.

“He talked about those who survived and those who perished, those who’d been injured and were driven to hospitals and whose lives were miraculously saved, and those who somehow hid for hours behind solar panels on roofs or remained huddled in shelters, ensuring their babies stayed silent so as not to alert their captors of their whereabouts. We ended the tour at the home of an elderly couple, who somehow distracted and staved off terrorists for hours, cooking and serving them food.”

Mr. Alus dances with visitors as emotions run high.

The relationship between Mr. Alus and the visitors from Great Neck did not end with their trip. “Itamar continues to communicate with many of us in Great Neck via WhatsApp,” Mr. Goltche said.

Rabbi Zalman Baumgarten of Chabad of Great Neck was on the trip. When he returned home, he received a 20-page letter from Mr. Alus, which he translated  into English. In that letter, Mr. Alus wrote: “It will haunt me, that I didn’t stop by the slain and inquire about their names, maybe offer a last embrace. I remembered them only by their body structure, their hair color, or what they wore.

“But each of them is an entire world, a shattered family.”

Mr. Alus believes that God saved his life, that his survival was a miracle, and that now it is his duty to tell his story. “He insists on continuing to spread the message, no matter how distraught he is,” Mr. Goltche said.

So with WZO’s support, the group from Great Neck arranged a trip to the United States for Mr. Alus and his family. “For the first week, he will speak to audiences in New York and New Jersey,” Mr. Goltche said. “And after a week of speaking engagements, we’re sending him and his family to relax on the beach in Miami before returning to Israel.”

Mr. Alus and his family arrived in the United States on February 9; that evening, he received a proclamation of gratitude from Dr. Pedram Bral, the mayor of Great Neck.

He was scheduled to speak at Valley Chabad in Woodcliff Lake on February 15, and in Wanaque on February 20.

Who: Itamar Alus

What: Will tell his story of horror, death, and survival

When: On Tuesday, February 20, at 7 p.m.

Where: At the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Wanaque

To learn more: Go to or call (201) 696-7609

read more: