My 51-year-old dad disappeared trying to rescue my sister after Hamas launched its attacks on Israel. We traced his phone — but his whereabouts, and his fate, are a mystery. – DAVID RAUDALES


Businessman, musician / former Full Stack Developer


My 51-year-old dad disappeared trying to rescue my sister after Hamas launched its attacks on Israel. We traced his phone — but his whereabouts, and his fate, are a mystery.

Gilad Peretz, left, is searching for his father Mark, who vanished after Hamas fighters launched an attack on Israel on Saturday.

Courtesy of Jessica Cohen and Gilad Peretz

On Saturday, Hamas militants entered Israel and launched a devastating attack by land, sea, and air.The opening salvo saw hundreds killed at the Tribe of Nova festival, not far from the Gaza border.The son of a man who vanished trying to rescue his daughter from the festival is scrambling to locate him.

This first-person, as-told-to-story is based on an interview conducted by Insider correspondent Reed Alexander with Gilad Peretz, 26. Peretz’s father, Mark, 51, went missing on Saturday, shortly after the Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked Israel.

Mark Peretz vanished after attempting to reach the site of the Tribe of Nova festival, a large gathering featuring live music and dancing where his daughter Maya had gone with friends. At least 260 bodies were found at the site following Hamas’ incursion. Since then, Gilad Perez says that Mark’s whereabouts are unclear, and it is unknown whether he is hiding, dead, or may have been taken hostage by Hamas fighters.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

We woke up on Saturday morning at about 6:30 a.m., to bombs and rockets and alerts that we needed to go to our shelters and hide.

I live in a house about 20 minutes south of Tel Aviv, Israel, with my wife and family, including my parents. That morning, my father knew that my little sister Maya was not in the house and tried contacting her. She was at the Tribe of Nova festival, where she had been since about midnight with some friends. We called her. She was very scared. My father thought that, if we didn’t do something, she could be kidnapped by Hamas fighters.

So he decided to start driving south. The music festival was about 40 miles away. At this point, we started getting news reports that Hamas fighters were breaking through the border and coming from the air on parachutes, and by the sea. It was really shocking. Nothing and nowhere was safe, and my father was already reaching the danger zone.

I called him and tried to convince him to come back, but he’s very stubborn. When it comes to anything related to his kids, he never gives up. So he continued to drive.

‘I’m Israeli, I’m Israeli. Don’t shoot me!’

By 8:48 a.m. on Saturday, we had lost contact. The last thing I heard through the phone was my father’s voice, screaming: “No, I’m Israeli, I’m Israeli. Don’t shoot me!”

Then there were gunshots, and the line went dead.

We wondered if Israeli soldiers were shooting at him. But we figured out much later that some Hamas fighters had dressed in uniform as Israeli soldiers, so we wondered if that was the case. We couldn’t be sure.

From that moment on, the only thing we’ve tried to do is find my father. We have no idea what happened. It could be that he was taken to the hospital, but we’ve been to the hospitals and haven’t found him anywhere. There are still a lot of missing people and we don’t have a full list of all the hostages. And there are a lot of people in the hospitals that we can’t recognize.

My sister managed to get away from the festival — she made it back to us safely — but we cannot find my dad.

What happened is a mystery

It is too dangerous to travel to the southern part of the country yet, so we’ve tried tracking him through his devices. We did succeed in tracking his phone to a gas station not far from where he went missing. The assumption is that maybe he tried to escape there on foot.

His route would have started by going south to the music festival to try to reach my sister, by which point we think he recognized that the party was shut down and a lot of attendees had found ways to get away. Then he would have turned around to go back north, reached the gas station, and then we don’t know what happened after that. We’re not sure if he went into hiding, if he died — we just don’t know.

Local authorities are telling us that we need to be patient and understanding — that this situation is huge. I served in the Israeli army for seven years and the events we’re seeing now are new to all of us.

We’re approaching anyone and everyone we think might have seen him, publishing his face and photos with symbols like the bracelet he wears or the scars on his body to help identify him. We keep hoping maybe someone will recognize him.

Everything looked so different hours before the attack

My father is a family guy who loves us all and has a big heart.

I hope he isn’t alone right now. I hope he’s with someone so he’s not going through all these terrifying things by himself. I hope he’s hiding somewhere, taking care of himself, finding something to eat, something to drink, just waiting for all this to be over. Then, perhaps, the army will rescue him.

On the news, we spotted his car — a white Audi A4 sedan. One of our friends was brave enough to go to the site for us and confirmed that it was his car. My dad, of course, was nowhere to be found.

When I think back to Friday night, before all this began, the situation looked completely different by about 180 degrees.

We all sat at home together. There were no talks of war. My sister got ready for the party with her group of five or six friends. My parents sat in the living room, watched a movie, and went to sleep. That was it. And then everything changed.

‘We love you and we’re waiting for you to come home’

My sister is trying to digest the whole situation and is working with us to track my father. We try to make sure she doesn’t have any feelings of regret about attending the Tribe of Nova festival — it’s not her fault.

My mother Nirit is handling this situation well. She’s a strong, positive person and understands the situation. A lot of people are coming to support us. People from my father’s company have come to our house to let us know they’re here and available all the time, and to hug us. That’s what we need right now — people to be with us. We need friends.

But we are going to be okay. We are a strong nation, and we’re not sitting in the house crying. We have hope. Everyone in this country is here for one another, and everyone just wants everyone to be safe.

I remember the last conversation I had with my dad. We talked earlier on Friday afternoon about normal things. He asked me how I am; we caught up.

If I could talk to my father right now, if he could hear my voice, I would tell him: You are strong. We know that you are alive. I’m taking care of my siblings and everything here is going to be alright.

We love you, and we are waiting for you to come home.

Are you affected by the crisis in Israel and Gaza, or do you know someone who is and is willing to share their story? Reed Alexander can be reached via email at [email protected] or SMS/the encrypted app Signal at +1 561 247 5758.

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