Filipino caregiver gives Hamas gunman $370, saves self, Israeli ward
A Filipino caregiver in Israel is being praised for putting her life on the line and giving away her meager savings to protect and save her 95-year-old employer.
Camille Jesalva, 31, works as the caregiver of Nitza Hefetz who lives in Kibbutz Nirim, close to the Gaza border that was breached in an attack by the Islamic group Hamas on Oct. 7. Aviva Klompas, a former speechwriter for Israeli delegates to the United Nations and a communication strategist for different Jewish communities worldwide, posted Jesalva’s story on X (formerly Twitter) on Wednesday.
Jesalva was with Hefetz when Hamas militants barged into their home where the Filipino and her ward could have been killed on the spot or taken hostage, according to Klompas.
But to prevent this from happening, the Filipino caregiver offered one of the gunmen the $370 (P21,000) she had been saving and which she planned to give to her family in the Philippines when she returns.
“I opened my wallet and told him to take everything I had, NIS 1,500 ($370), just to save myself and Nitza,” Jesalva was quoted by Ynet, a news site in Israel, in a report by The Times of Israel on Wednesday.
“I showed him the plane ticket and asked him just not to take that,” she added. Prior to the attack, Jesalva had already booked an Oct. 9 flight to the Philippines so she could spend time with her 7-year-old son whom she had not seen for almost two years.
While talking with the gunmen, Hefetz wanted to “protest” against the militants who started yelling at her, the caregiver said.
“I was scared, I told her ‘Nitza, please be quiet,’ and I looked at him. I saw that he was getting nervous, and I was even more worried. I told him, ‘Please, sir, she is old and doesn’t understand anything. Please don’t do anything,’” she said.
The men “miraculously” took the money and the Filipino caregiver’s phone and left. Jesalva locked herself with Hefetz in a protected room in the house and “hugged” the 95-year-old for about two hours until Israeli defense forces arrived. “I told my mother that I was going to die, and I asked her to send me a picture of my son because I felt that I wouldn’t get out of this alive,” she said.
Her story was confirmed to the Inquirer by the Consul General of the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv, Anthony Mandap.
He said that the Filipino caregiver canceled her flight to the Philippines after the incident. But Jesalva hopes to fly home to the Philippines in a month. Mandap said Jesalva is still working for Hefetz and was “reluctant to leave her.”
“I feel that I cannot leave her. I feel that she is my best friend,” she said.
The Times of Israel published the story with a picture of Jesalva smiling beside Hefetz on her employer’s 95th birthday on Oct. 22 at the Nofim home for the elderly in Jerusalem.
On her Facebook page, Jesalva said: “There’s a Rainbow always after the Rain.”
“Celebrating Nitza’s 95th birthday. New life, new level and season for us …. Thanks to God for this 2nd life. See u soon my son,” she said.
Klompas described Jesalva as an “extraordinary” and “heroic human.”
“If only there were more people like her,” Klompas said.
Hefetz’s daughter, Yael Arieli, 74, called the Filipino caregiver an “angel” for saving her mother’s life.
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