About this place

Plan Your Visit

  • Location: Kibbutz Nahal Oz, Sha’ar HaNegev, Israel
  • Open Times: By appointment and with a guided tour
  • Prices: Enquire about tours to Nahal Oz for accurate prices.
  • Average Visit Duration: Half-day and full-day tours are available.
  • Tours: Gaza Envelope Tours are available; Visits must be arranged in advance with a licensed company such as Bein Harim Tourism.

Kibbutz Nahal Oz is a name that will forever be associated with the horrific events of October 7, 2023, and the place will never be the same. The vibrant gardens, expansive fields, and farmlands once provided an idyllic life for the small community. Green lawns connected the kibbutz bungalows, gardens bloomed, and children rode their bikes along the kibbutz pathways. Today, the kibbutz is unrecognizable, and the ruins of the once-thriving community are a testament to the events of October 7.

Kibbutz Nahal OzKibbutz Nahal Oz back in 2015 (Image source: Shlomo Roded, CC BY 2.5)

Before the massacre on October 7th, Nahal Oz was thriving, and growing at a steady pace as new members joined the kibbutz. The community had a dairy farm, crop fields, and a chicken coop. The kibbutz farms specialized in carrots, wheat, cotton, and asparagus. Members of the community also ran a silicon plant and an engineering firm. Residents enjoyed a cultural center, schools, and a local bar. There was also a Visitor Center for Heritage, Security, and Agriculture.  But they lived in the shadow of a constant threat. Rockets, exploding balloons, and burning kites were regularly sent across the border from Gaza, into the Nahal Oz fields. 

Where is Nahal Oz?

Spread across about 140 acres, the kibbutz is located in southern Israel, in the northwestern part of the Negev Desert, not far from the border with the Gaza Strip. Neighboring towns include Sderot and Netivot. 

What Does Nahal Oz Mean?

The literal translation of Nahal is a stream, and Oz means courage. But Nahal is also a Hebrew acronym for Fighting Pioneer Youths, and it is the name of an Israeli army brigade that combines military service with social welfare and educational programs. Before the 1990s, Nahal was also involved in establishing agricultural settlements, often along the country’s borders. The Nahal program helped establish about 108 kibbutzim and agricultural settlements. The first of these settlements was Kibbutz Nahal Oz.

Kibbutz Nahal OzDefense wall around the Nahal Oz Kindergarten (Image source: Dr. Avishai Teicher CC BY 2.5)

In 1951 Nahal Oz was founded as a military post, in 1953 it evolved into a civilian community that lived as a communal farm. In 1955, the kibbutz was officially formed. The group of young, patriotic Israelis had agricultural training and were also able to protect the fledgling kibbutz from any attacks. 

They built, plowed, sowed, and planted on the former land of Be’erot Yitzhak Kibbutz which had moved further inland.  At first, there were no fences, just open fields around the small community. The kibbutz experienced regular infiltrations by thieves, and Fedayeen (Palestinian militants), which culminated in the tragic murder of one of the kibbutz security officers, Ro’i Rothberg in 1956.

On the day of Ro’i Rothberg’s murder, the community was preparing for the wedding of four kibbutz couples, and even the country’s Chief of Staff, Moshe Dayan was invited. In the morning, as food was being prepared, and decorations hung for the weddings, there were reports of an infiltration across the fields. 

Ro’i set out on his horse to chase the infiltrators away, but instead, he was murdered, his body mutilated, and dragged into Gaza. A day that was supposed to be filled with joy, became one of mourning, and instead of singing and dancing, the first grave was dug on the kibbutz.

In the years that followed, Nahal Oz still had to contend with frequent attacks, burned fields, and shelling. Each time they would replant their fields and continue. Fences were built, and rebuilt, but nothing could prepare them for October 7th.

Nahal Oz Massacre on October 7th Attack

By 2023, Nahal Oz had a population of approximately 400-500. The Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah on October 7, 2023, was supposed to be a day of celebration as Nahal Oz marked its 70th anniversary.  But there were no celebrations. In the early hours of October 7, an estimated 100 -150 Hamas terrorists and Palestinian civilians broke through the fence dividing Gaza from Israel and entered Nahal Oz. Nahal Oz was one of several communities in the Gaza envelope targeted that day, as well as an open-air music festival happening nearby. 

The terrorists found families still asleep, or only just waking up. They massacred whole families, took hostages, tortured, raped, and mutilated the residents of Nahal Oz. There was hardly a family that was unaffected by this unimaginable tragedy. Almost a quarter of the kibbutz members were either murdered or kidnapped.

In addition to the bloodshed, the terrorists burned and destroyed property, and stole or destroyed all of the kibbutz’s farming equipment. The Hamas terrorists filmed their attack with GoPro cameras and uploaded evidence of the atrocities to social media. By the early afternoon, Israeli soldiers had arrived,  and by nightfall, Israeli forces had cleared the kibbutz of all infiltrators.

Kibbutz Nahal Oz Since October 7th

The surviving residents were evacuated, and Kibbutz Nahal Oz was declared a closed military area. The residents left behind their homes, land, and belongings, as well as their farms. As the war raged in Gaza, they gradually returned to the kibbutz to work the land and milk the cows. 

However, the Nahal Oz community has not yet made a plan to return to the kibbutz. They have been rehoused in other parts of the country, and are contemplating if and when to return to the place they once called paradise. 

In a hostage exchange deal in November 2023, 40 of the abducted Nahal Oz residents were returned to Israel. Among those still held in Gaza is one-year-old Kfir Bibas, the youngest abductee, but it is still not clear whether he is alive or dead.

Places To Visit In and Around Nahal Oz Kibbutz

  • Kibbutz Nahal Oz is still as it was in the aftermath of October 7th, debris lies on the ground, buildings are pockmarked with bullet holes, and personal items have been abandoned. You can tour the attack sites, and visit the kibbutz dairy farm (the feeding and milking have continued). See the graffiti dedicated to those who lost their lives and those who fought so bravely.
  • Nova Music Festival in Re’im Forest where the October 7 terrorists took the lives of approximately 364 people. There are several memorials at Nova. 
  • Netivot is where the piles, and piles, of destroyed and burned vehicles have been collected from the October 7 attack.
  • Kobi Hill offers an overview of the Gaza Strip.
  • Sderot is one of the frontier towns where you can learn about the bomb shelters and protected bus shelters, and see some of the rockets that have been repurposed or turned into art.
  • Nahal Oz Military Base is not part of the nearby Kibbutz Nahal Oz. It was also attacked on October 7, and It is possible to see the outside of the base.
  • Roadside rest stations offer Israeli soldiers a brief break and provide them with free meals, showers, and laundry services. Here you might be able to meet and chat with some of the soldiers.

Should You Visit the Gaza Envelope?

While the country is at war, the Gaza Envelope remains a volatile area, however, people still live and work in the region, and tours are provided for those who wish to bear witness to the events of October 7. Visiting the Gaza Envelope area is not a matter of gawping at the pain and suffering of others, but rather a gesture of solidarity with the people of Nahal Oz and Israel as a whole.