Israel-based Filipino caregiver narrates close call with Hamas attacker
MANILA, Philippines — “Send me a picture of my son because I don’t think I can make it anymore.”
Thirty-one year-old Israel-based Filipino worker Camille Jesalva was all tears when she recalled what transpired on October 7, 2023 — the day when militant group Hamas entered Israel in an unprecedented attack.
Jesalva works as a caregiver for a 95-year-old Israeli named Nitza Hefetz who lives in Kibbutz Nirim.
The Filipina was with Hefetz during the attack.
In an interview on Tuesday, Jesalva told reporters that Hamas militants broke into their home. Jesalva recalled, while raising her hands in the air as a form of defense, that the first words she said to the attacker were “Shalom adoni (Hello).”
According to the Filipina, one of the gunmen was asking for her phone and money. In order to save herself and the 95-year-old woman under her care, she willingly paid off the attacker.
“I opened the wallet. Money, sir? Money, sir? Take [it] all. I [showed him] that I will give everything to him, just [for him] not to hurt us,” said Jesalva.
In earlier reports, Jesalva disclosed that the money amounts to $370 or P21,000.
After taking the money, the gunman went out. Jesalva said she immediately locked the safe room they were staying at, adding that gunshots were immediately heard after the attacker went out of sight.
Filled with panic and fear, Jesalva said she proceeded to hug Hefetz.
“I hugged her. [With the help of a] little light, I saw that she’s so pretty and she smiled like a baby.”
But prior to her encounter with the Hamas gunman, Jesalva said she was certain that she was going to die that day.
“I heard [someone] enter the house. I tiptoed and checked what’s going on. I sneaked a little bit more and saw that Nitza’s window [was wide] open,” recalled Jesalva.
Jesalva said she started asking for help by reaching out to the Hefetz family as well as her kins in the Philippines. At one point, she said she even asked for a picture of her son.
“Sabi ko [sa] mama [ko], patingin po ng picture ng anak ko kasi alam kong hindi na talaga ako mabubuhay. Sabi ko ang last na image na makikita ko ay yung anak ko. Gusto ko siya ang huli kong makita. [Pero] ayoko pa pong mamatay dahil kawawa ang anak ko,” she told reporters.
(I said [to] [my] mom, send me a picture of my son because I know I won’t really live anymore. I said the last image I will see is my son. I want it to be him that I see last. [But] I don’t want to die yet because my son would be devastated.)
But in a miracle of some sort, Jesalva and Hefetz were spared. The Filipina said it’s as if God protected them.
At present, Jesalva is still staying with Hefetz in Jerusalem. She refuses to leave the elderly, but she would soon go back to the Philippines to be with her family.
The Filipina caregiver said she has yet to schedule her flight, but she disclosed that she would extend her vacation to at least 50 days.
“I also want to be with my son and he always asks me to [go home] for Christmas and my birthday,” Jesalva said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Asked if she’ll go back to Israel despite the terrors she endured, Jesalva said she would.
“I won’t leave her because I promised Hefetz that I will not leave her until her last breath. I [wouldn’t be able] to forgive myself if she dies because I left her,” she said.
Earlier into the briefing, Jesalva told her fellow caregivers not to leave elderly people under their care: “Don’t ever leave older people. God will protect you like [he protected] me,” said Jesalva.