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Students Supporting Israel hosts survivor of Oct. 7 Hamas attack

“Faces of October Seventh” brings Matan Boltox to American University

Faces Of October Seventh, an organization that brings survivors of the Oct. 7 Hamas Attack to college campuses, partnered with Students Supporting Israel at American University to bring Matan Boltox, a former Israeli Defense Forces sniper, to speak to AU students on Feb. 26.

Faces of October Seventh aims to create connections between North American communities and victims affected by the attack. 

“We’ve been to over 100 communities, different campuses and communities all over the U.S.” Dana Kraskin, a volunteer from Faces of October Seventh, said. “We have a couple of survivors just like Matan touring the U.S. right now. We’re just hoping to spread love and not antisemitism.”

Matan Boltox is a 23-year-old Israeli American who moved to Israel from New York in 2009. Boltox served in the Israeli Defense Forces for three years as a sniper and is now part of the reserves. 

Kraskin introduced him to the audience saying,“We hope to bear witness and encourage understanding and empathy.”

Boltox was at the NOVA Music Festival during the attack, which happened in southern Israel near the Gaza Strip. Boltox said it is not unusual for festivals to be held in this location. 

Boltox added that he “looked up into the sky and saw lots of rockets being fired at Israel, which was definitely very disturbing.” 

While escaping the festival site, Boltox said he and his friends witnessed gunfire.

“We saw like 500 yards out … two big pickup trucks,” he said. “It was pretty easy to tell that there were terrorists in the back, and they weren’t looking at us, but they were shooting in the other direction.”

He recounted that he and the group were able to find refuge in a stranger’s house, about two hours after the start of the attack.

“We stopped at the first house we saw, we banged on their door until they let us in,” he said. 

Botox attended the festival with two friends, Aner Shapiro and Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who were cornered in a public bomb shelter during the attack. 

“Once Hamas terrorists reached the shelter, they started throwing in hand grenade after hand grenade which [Shapiro] threw out until the ninth one exploded in his hand,” Boltox said. “Right after the explosion, Hamas terrorists came in and basically took [Goldberg-Polin].”

Another member of the group he traveled with was also injured when her car was shot at. The damage caused pieces of the vehicle to break off and hit her in the neck and lip.

“She’s really strong and powerful in just how she was able to drive herself to the ER, so that was really inspiring to me,” Boltox said.

Boltox and a group of friends run every Friday to raise awareness for their friend, Daniel Perez, an IDF soldier who was taken captive in the line of duty during the attacks.

“Once the rockets started, he got into his tank with the rest of his crew and started chasing after terrorists and fighting them,” Boltox said. “He killed about 50 terrorists until several RPGs hit his tank right next to the border, which killed one of their crew, and the other four were taken captive. This has definitely been the hardest thing for my friends and I because it’s just kind of surreal.”

The event finished with a Q&A session.

“It’s not easy being Jewish on college campuses right now,” Boltox said. “The amount of strength that you guys have is really inspiring.”

As part of the Faces of October Seventh organization, Boltox spoke at other universities like Dartmouth College and the University of Albany. He said he hopes speaking to college students will “… spread the message of how Jews need to stick together and to share my story.”

“There’s so much denial going on. I’m literally here telling my story live; how can you still deny what’s going on after you receive the live testimony?” he asked.

This article was edited by Kathryn Squyres, Zoe Bell, Abigail Turner and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Ariana Kavoossi and Romy Hermans.

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