ISRAELIS have showered support for the Filipina caregiver who bravely rescued her 95-year-old Israeli ward from Hamas atrocities on October 7.
However, Camille Jesalva shuns those affectionate hugs and offers for help. Her mind is now preoccupied with her son in the Philippines, who seemed to have been traumatized as well by her near-death experience in southern Israel, and she is torn between the boy and keeping her promise to her ward to be by her side til her death.
‘We never forget’
On October 7, Hamas militants broke into her employer’s house in Kibbutz Nerim.
She recalls being resigned to dying but despite her fears, she took courage to plead with the Hamas fighter to spare her and her ward, Nitza Hefetz. The Hamas terrorist spared her life and instead took away her savings worth NIS 1,500 (around P20,000), which she planned to bring home to her family in the Philippines.
Jesalva never expected the attention she has been getting after Israeli and Philippine media published her story of heroism. A fund raising was set up to bring back the money that she paid to Hamas and there are also a lot of letters of gratitude.
“I said, ‘No, I’m not a hero.’ And then you know, Israeli people are hugging me and making me feel OK and helping me a lot. But I said, ‘No, I’m strong. I don’t need anything,’” she said in an online news conference facilitated by the Israeli Embassy in Manila.
But when it rained, she finally accepted help because theyhad fled the burning kibbutz without bringing any clothes or other belongings.
“The Israelis kept hugging me and showing me support that I never seen before…And I was thinking, ‘I just do what I need to do and what she [ward] deserves.’ But for them, they said, ‘No. We never forget. We never forget who helped us in the time of calamities,’” she said.
‘Mama is coming home’
Jesalva was scheduled to fly on October 9 to the Philippines for a 40-day vacation.
Her employer said she can still continue her vacation, but she opted to stay for the sake of her employer.
“Ang matanda po kasi kapag iniwan mo sa iba, mamamatay po yan. Mas lalo sa ganitong sitwasyon. Kaya po kinansel ko na lang yung flight ko dahil sa kanya [When “Yung matanda ko po kasi tuwing nagbabakasyon ako, nao-ospital before and after. Tapos dinudugo po sya ngayon kasi bad diet. Kaya sabi ko, ‘No, pagagalingin ko muna ang Mama niyo [Every time I go home for vacation, my ward lands in hospital. And now, she’s bleeding because the diet is bad. So, I said, I’ll help her heal first],’” Jesalva explained.
She said it seems now that her ward is slowly recovering, she may push through with her vacation by mid-November and spend her Christmas with her family.
The 31-year-old single mom said she spoke with her teenage son who is in Nueva Ecija a few days. And he begged her to come home.
“Son, I’m coming home, don’t worry. Mama’s okay. And I won’t die. I will do everything, so the two of us can live. You won’t die, son, because if you die, I will also die,” she said between sobs, in Filipino.
She said she will return to Israel after her vacation despite the danger in Israel.
But she said she had already made a pact with her ward that she will never leave her side till her last breath.
When asked if she is not afraid of the risks in Israel, she replied, in Filipino, “Yes, I’m scared because I don’t want my son to be an orphan. But why should I leave the person [her ward] by whose side I promised to be with?”