After running to a bomb shelter on the morning of October 7, Rachel and David Edri returned to their home in the southern Israeli town of Ofakim, to find five Hamas terrorists waiting for them inside.
The attackers, brandishing a rocket launcher, grenades and Kalashnikov rifles, terrorized the couple. They broke their cell phones and ransacked the house, threatening to kill them.
Praying silently, Rachel fought to remain composed. She hoped that their sons, both local police officers, would realize what was happening and bring the YAMAM counterterrorism squad before it was too late.
For 20 hours, Rachel – who speaks Arabic – kept their captors calm with conversation and even bandaged the hand of the injured terrorist.
She also plied them with food. She is a Jewish mother, after all. She knew hunger can be a dangerous trigger.
“I saw they were mad, and I asked them if they were hungry,” she said. “I made them coffee and gave them cookies.” She gave the wounded terrorist water and canned pineapple, feigning concern for his discomfort.
The counterterrorism squad did come to the house, and to avoid accidentally hurting the Edris they tried to negotiate rather than storm the house.
To let the rescuers know that there were five terrorists in the house, Rachel stood near the window and held five fingers up to her cheek, explaining to the suspicious terrorists that her head hurt.
At one point, a terrorist stepped outside and was shot dead, while another was wounded. But resolving the crisis took a very long time.
Their son drew a detailed sketch of the house and the SWAT team, along with a rescue dog, eventually managed to enter through the roof and kill the remaining four terrorists, freeing the Edris.
David Edri, who has a heart condition, said he threw himself on his wife when a grenade was thrown in the wee hours of the morning. He and his wife told reporters that they were determined to die together, holding hands, if that was to be their fate.
Thank God, they survived and are working through their trauma by sharing their extraordinary story.
Never underestimate the power of a good cookie!— Evy. D. (@evyaduek) October 9, 2023
Rachel along with her husband, David, was held hostage for 20 hours in her apartment in Ofakim.
Thanks to her personality she was able to stall the terrorists by offering coffee and cookies until the SWAT team finally rescued… pic.twitter.com/KN3SrjedQn
And Rachel became a folk hero overnight.
Israelis have created many memes celebrating the courage, and cookies, of “Savta” (Grandma) Rachel.
Some compare her to the biblical heroine Yael, who felled an evil general by feeding him sleep-inducing dairy curds and then hammering a tent pin into his head.
Others are calling for Rachel to lead the country. And many others just want to know what she put in those cookies.