Liora’s Story: A Personal Account

ליאורה בן צור עם אמה ע"ה Liora Ben Tzur and her mother of blessed memory

She Gave Birth on Thursday and Lost Her Mother on Shabbat: “They Found Her Shot, Holding Candy to Give The Children.”

Marsel Talya (65) came to Kibbutz Ein HaShelosha to visit her daughter, Liora Ben Tsur, who had just given birth – and was murdered. “I phoned my brothers. They came to the kibbutz alone, armed with guns, and saved my family.”

Orit Marlin-Rosenzweig, 9 Oct. 2023

On Thursday evening, two days before Hamas attacked Israel, Liora Ben Tsur gave birth to her third daughter, Asif. Friday morning, Liora asked her mother, Marsel Talya, to join them for Simchat Torah festivities at their kibbutz, Ein HaShelosha. “I wanted my mother to celebrate with us,” Liora recalls in a phone conversation only a few hours after her mother’s funeral. “A big celebration had been organized, the first event to take place at the kibbutz, and I wanted her to be part of it.”

Liora Ben Tsur (29) is a strong and special woman. She is taking a break in the middle of the shiva (week of mourning) for her mother to be interviewed and declares, “Nothing has to be published that will hurt the nation’s morale. Now is the time for all of us to hold hands.” Liora previously worked as an army correspondent for Radio South, after which she was a photo producer for Ha’aretz newspaper. For the past two years, Liora has been spokesperson for ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran rehabilitation village.

Liora last saw her mother in the hospital, following the birth of her daughter. “One of the gifts I received from my mother just before she was murdered was her visit to me in the hospital to see my little baby, who we named Asif. I told her, ‘I’m not telling you her name. G-d willing, we will announce the name in synagogue on Simchat Torah’,” she says. “I had a somewhat complicated pregnancy and we wanted to thank G-d for the miracle he bestowed upon us. After my mother was murdered, I was sorry that I hadn’t take a picture of her with Asif. It really ate me up inside that there was no record of her with the last grandchild she held. All of sudden, Dor, my husband, sent me a picture of my mother with Asif. It turns out he took a picture of them in the hospital. I told him, ‘Asif was the last descendent my mother got to hold, and we didn’t know it’.”

War Crimes that Cannot be Forgiven

The “Color Red” siren found Liora on Shabbat morning in the protected maternity ward at Assuta Hospital in Ashdod. “I understood that something was happening, but no one knew for sure and there were no news reports,” she recalls. “I heard a warning siren, and even though I observe the Sabbath, I called my husband. There was no reception. He returned my call and said, ‘We are entering the bomb shelter and I don’t know where your mother is. We’ll try to locate her between bombings.’ I tried to reach her to tell her to stay in a protected area and she didn’t answer me. A few minutes later, I received an update that 40 terrorists infiltrated the kibbutz. Unfortunately, there were only five people in the emergency unit. Our security commander’s life ended in a cruel manner shortly after he got the message out that the kibbutz had been penetrated. When they saw Kalashnikov cartridges all over the place, the emergency unit understood a mega-event was underway and they began to organize.”

When did you understand that the situation was really bad?

“Dor called me an hour later and said, ‘Baby, call everyone you know. The situation in the kibbutz is really bad. There is no army presence and I don’t know where your mother is.’ I set up a War Room in the maternity ward and every time I was messaged by people in the kibbutz I made countless calls. I called army generals and police – I know everyone because I was an army reporter. I called my boss, Major-Gen. (Res.) Doron Almog, and described what was happening. I told him, ‘Terrorists are going from house to house and trying to break into the protected rooms. Help me recruit whoever you can.’ He said he was on it. I kept getting phone numbers of army generals who were in the area and apprising them of the situation, telling them they had to get there because there were only five security personnel on the kibbutz.”

Who helped you?

“When I understood the situation, I started to stress. I was hosting my 65-year-old mother in a guest apartment in the kibbutz because I wanted her to be a as comfortable as possible. I didn’t want her sleeping at our house on the sofa. She was with us for all the holidays. We merited having her with us, thank G-d. It was a few hours into the situation, and my mother still didn’t answer. We saw she didn’t try to reach our house, which was not like her. I decided to call my brothers, Betzalel and Yedidya. They had been combat soldiers in the army and were at our family farm. They saved my family. They went alone, armed with guns, in the direction of the kibbutz. They didn’t have time to recruit dozens of friends. I told them, ‘Don’t go alone. You also have families and children and there are terrorists everywhere. I don’t want you to take chances that something will happen to you.’ They answered back, ‘We’re not asking you. Be useful and give us reference points within the kibbutz.’ They went in by foot, leaving their car outside, far away. I decided not to let the sadness overcome me. I held Asif and sent them reference points. I messaged my brothers that terrorists were banging on the door to my house and they should go there. My brothers got there, called Dor who came out carrying a knife and the gave him a gun. My children were in the protected room. From there, they went to look for my mother.”

How did they find her?

“My brothers found her outside. She was holding a bag of candy for the children and she was shot through holes by a Kalishnikov. These are unforgivable war crimes. The terrorists didn’t ask themselves if these were soldiers or women and children. They purposely murdered families. Sure, you can see worse things going around on social media. I try to not to think about it.”

What was your mother like?

“She was a special lady, modest and sensitive. She always said we have to take care of the Land of Israel. Two years ago, I spoke about my mother during a speech I gave to members of the kibbutz. I told them how once, when I was 14, I threw a piece of gum on the ground and my mother gave it to me good. She said, ‘We don’t throw gum on holy ground.’ I said, ‘Mom, it’s only gum,’ and she went ballistic. ‘It doesn’t matter. You don’t trash up the Land of Israel. This is the only country we have. Pick up the gum and put it in the trash.’ That’s the message I pass on to my children. We pick up trash all over. My mother passed her love for the Land of Israel on to my children.”

Will you return to Ein HaShelosha?

“Yes. That is my home. Dor and I met when we were students in Ofakim and within eight months, we were married. We decided to live in the Gaza Envelope to strengthen the area. My husband is also deeply connected to the Land of Israel. In our kibbutz, at the time, most of the members were over age 70, and we decided that this was the place. We recruited another eight families to re-settle the kibbutz. We fell in love with the people, who take care of us to this day. We wanted to see children running barefoot through the kibbutz. Within four-and-a-half years, the number of children in the kibbutz increased from 30 to 150. From the outset, we understood where we were and what our goal was. If we don’t protect the borders, who will? We have to take care of what we have. The State of Israel is a miracle. It does not matter if I support the reformation or fast on Yom Kippur. That makes no difference to our enemies. They took advantage of us in a moment of weakness.”

We learned how to defend the Land

Liora’s parents, Yaakov and Marsel Talya, moved to Israel from South Africa and settled in Beer Sheva. In 1995, together with their children, they founded Chavat Talya (Talya Farm), a lone farm in southern Har Hevron. The government, headed by Yitzhak Rabin, asked Yaakov to establish the farm for the purpose of settling the area. The farm, east of Beit Yatir, overlooks Rabat Amon, the Dead Sea, Arad, Dimona and Har Hevron. At first, there were only two temporary houses, a storage shed and a guard’s shed set out on the pastures. Talya imported sheep from South Africa. Over the years, the family suffered robberies and clashes with local Arabs and there was a battle over the land with Arabs who claimed the ground as their own. It was in the shadow of these clashes that Ben Tsur grew up to be the woman she is today.

“I had an interesting childhood,” says Liora. “Barefoot, I herded sheep from age five. Keeping track of the sheep, I could identify every rock and every crevice. I grew up together with my brothers. We are very close. All our lives we call out to each other. We are all attached to the Land of Israel and the People. Those are the things we learned are important to safeguard.”

In 2015, Liora’s father was killed in an accident on the agricultural farm when a tractor overturned on him. His children decided to manage the farm after his passing. Ben Tsur took upon herself supervising the flock. She carried a weapon, a fact that led her to be featured in Ayelet Bachar’s movie, “Chamushot,” (Armed). A year later, Liora’s brothers were discharged from the army and took her place. Today, brothers Yedidya and Betzalel and Betzalel’s daughter Shira manage the farm.

Liora left the farm a year after her father’s death and went to study Communications at Sapir College, living in the student residences in the nearby town of Ofakim. Liora’s thesis dealt with bereavement hierarchy in Israel.

In all honesty, do you feel you were abandoned on the kibbutz?

Right now, it is very hard for me to place blame. I’m not there. I don’t want to compare it to the Yom Kippur War. We are dealing with citizens who were murdered and abducted. I ask the People of Israel to rise and stand up. Israel is a miracle that must be protected. I am being interviewed in Hebrew and I am proud to be Jewish and Israeli even during difficult times. We will mend what is torn, we will hold hands, and we will continue. In the end, all we have is each other. One enormous family: the People of Israel.


Translated from the Hebrew,

We need your support!

By donating to ADI Israel, YOU will help us meet our goal to enable each child, regardless of the severity of disability.