Waiting for Bipin Joshi

Colleagues who survived Hamas attack appeal for fellow Nepali student still missing

Social media campaign for Bipin Joshi by his friends.

This is the 45th instalment of Diaspora Diaries, a regular series in Nepali Times with stories of Nepalis living and working abroad.

Pramod KC, Salyan 

In Israel, we were advised during orientation to run to bunkers when the siren went off. It is a normal part of daily life there. 

But for us 17 Nepalis at Kibbutz Alumim, it was the first time since we landed in Israel a month previously that we heard the siren go off that Saturday morning, and had to run to the bunker near our apartment. 

Nepalis in Iarael Hamas attack
Pramod KC

It soon turned into a nightmare. We were hiding in the bunker, all 17 of us crammed together. Outside, there were gunshots, sirens and explosions,  we also heard increasingly loud and angry voices in Arabic. We did not understand what was being said, but it was evident that something was terribly wrong. 

Hamas had captured the area and armed men were coming near our bunker. 

Birendra Chaudhary, Kailali 

The sounds of firing got closer. One of our friends who was closer to the door got shot in the leg. Another friend tried to explain to the gunmen that we are Nepalis, hoping they would show some mercy, but got shot as well. Both died on the spot. 

Neplais in Iarael Hamas Attack
Birendra Chaudhary

The gunmen then threw two grenades inside our bunker. Bipin Joshi quickly hurled one of them out. But the second one exploded inside, injuring five of our friends, mostly below their waists. I can't describe the scene, their legs were crushed, and they were in a lot of pain. 

Avash Bhattarai, Kailali 

Bipin and Himanchal worked on a farm in a kibbutz 12 km away from mine. The three of us have been inseparable since our undergrad years, and had gone to Israel together. 

Nepalis in Israel Hamas attack
Bipin, Avash and Himanchal had been inseparable since their undergrad years, and had gone to Israel together.

At my farm, Saturday was a workday. We were packing onions and tomatos from 7AM. Our friends had sent us group pictures from the bunker where they were hiding so we knew something was up, but we did not take it seriously. 

The pictures were of happy selfies and them playing ludo on their phones in the bunker. 

But after 8AM, the electricity went off. Things were already getting tense with sounds of sirens and missiles, so our employer told us to stop working and that we would resume when things normalised.  

By now, the news was bad from where Himanchal and Bipin were. I called Himanchal, he did not pick up but sent me a message saying two of our friends had died after getting shot. We were shocked.  

After that he went out of contact. We were terrified. Instead of the bunker, we hid in our apartment because we had already learnt that Hamas gunmen were coming inside bunkers. Bunkers no longer felt safe. 

Pramod KC, Salyan 

Of the 17 of us Nepalis in the bunker, five were injured and two were dead. How do I describe that scene, of watching your friends suffer, die in front of your eyes? 

Three Israeli medical policemen finally arrived at our bunker, which gave us a little bit of hope. They attended to our injured friends. They took the remaining ten of us to another bunker nearby with a kitchen. Bipin Joshi was with us. 

Iareal Hamas attack
Bunkers after the Hamas attack. Source: https://fb.watch/nQj7lvGUpq/

We hid wherever we could in that crammed space, and the location we managed to squeeze ourselves in would later decide our fate. 

Also hiding in the second bunker were workers from Thailand. We got calls from friends who had been injured in the grenade attack, the Israeli police apparently left them there and did not take them immediately to hospital. We called the embassy and other Nepalis but there was no help. Only two of those injured survived. We could do nothing. 

Himanchal Kattel, Tel Aviv

About 90 minutes after we sought shelter in the kitchen bunker, Hamas fighters broke down the door and started shooting at us. I was shot thrice – in my left chest, right chest, and in my finger. 

Nepalis in Isreal Hamas attack
Avash with Himanchal who was shot thrice, and is now recovering in a hospital.

Bipin Joshi was not shot. They took him and three Thai men outside. I do not know what happened there. I was rescued after six hours from the bunker by Israeli soldiers and taken to hospital where I am now recovering. 

Birendra Chaudhary, Kailali 

The gunmen did not pick targets, they just shot mercilessly at whatever they saw and left. At various points I had thought I would die, and had tightly shut my eyes waiting for the end. But somehow, I survived. 

One of the grenades had hurt my leg and it was bleeding. I tried to stay still for hours in the corner, and could not switch positions no matter how much it hurt. It was hard to breathe too because of the tear gas.  

Read also: Bringing Nepal to Israel, Prabha Ghimire

Everything else is a blur. The wounded were asking for water, but I was hiding in the corner trembling with fear and could not help. I waited for hours.  

Later, the Thais heard Hebrew being spoken and said Israeli soldiers had arrived. So they went out, and we followed them. 

Pramod KC, Salyan 

After we were rescued by the Army, I was asked to identify bodies in the bunker. We did not see Bipin anywhere, and we presumed he was taken with the Thais as hostage.  

Nepalis in Iarel Himas attack

To get news, any news, about his whereabouts would help. His family is deeply worried. We hope the government and media can lobby for him. 

I am lucky to have come out of this unhurt. When I first saw the Nepali flag plane that came to Tel Aviv to take us back, I felt I had already reached home. It was a bittersweet feeling to be safe, but I lost all those friends.

I went to visit my friend Prabesh Bhandari’s mother, who is also from Salyan. He was her only son. She is in shock and tells me that she has lost everything and just wants her son’s body (“सास त आएन लास त ल्याइदिनु नि, बाबु”).

Nepalis killed in Israel Hamas attack
The bodies of three of 10 Nepalis killed in Israel, Narayan Prasad Neupane, Lokendra Singh Dhami and Dipesh Raj Bista arrived in Kathmandu on Sunday. Four identified bodies were sent, the body of Ashish Chaudhary will arrive in the afternoon. Photo: SUMAN NEPALI

I cannot sleep properly. I wake up, replaying the trauma in the bunker in my mind, I hear the sound of sirens and voices of friends asking for water. These memories haunt me. The slightest sound frightens me. After a week at home and spending time with family and friends, it has got slightly better. 

I feel this is my second birth. I stared at death in the face twice in those bunkers. 

Avash Bhattarai, Kailali

The first time I communicated with Himanchal after October 7, it was in the hospital where he is now recovering. We spent about an hour chatting before I headed to Nepal, and I call him every day. 

I am of course happy to be with my family who really were under a lot of stress, but I still have mixed feelings about leaving my friends behind, and losing many. 

Bipin is still nowhere to be found. I hope he is ok. The news of two American hostages being freed has given us a tiny flicker of hope. One can only hope and pray that he is safe, and will be returned soon. 

But my mind also goes in different directions: between hope and fearing the worst. His parents and sister are in shock and waiting for him. 

Bipin had said we should join forces for an agriculture startup after we returned from Israel. We had literally gone to Israel to ‘learn and earn’. Look what happened. 

Birendra Chaudhary, Salyan 

It is still difficult to imagine how I survived when so many others died. I had my second session today with an Israeli counsellor. She has helped me relax a bit.

The night before this massacre, it was a Friday and we had cooked chicken together for dinner. Little did we know what lay in store for us the next day. 

For Dasain, we had planned a full goat cookout, our first Dasain away from Nepal.

Nepalis in Israel Hamas attack
Birendra, Pramod and other Nepali students in Isreal before the attack.
Nepali students at the bunker before the Hamas attack on 7 October.
Nepali students in a bunker before the Hamas attack on 7 October.

Translated from a conversation. Diaspora Diaries is a regular column in Nepali Times providing a platform for Nepalis to share their experiences of living, working, studying abroad. 

Authentic and original entries can be sent to [email protected] with ‘Diaspora Diaries’ in the subject line. 

Compiled with help from Nischal Pandey now in Kailali and Ramesh Joshi in Tel Aviv.

  • Most read