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“People were dancing and rockets started flying”: Survivors of Gaza border rave share their stories

The Nova music festival took place on the outskirts of the Gaza Strip in Kibbutz Re’im, starting at 10 p.m. on October 6, coinciding with the end of the Sukkot holiday. As the night pulsed with dancing and celebration, the break of dawn saw a harrowing assault by terrorists who had arrived on paragliders. The attack claimed over 200 lives, with multiple people being taken hostage. In the aftermath, survivors recounted their experiences and how they escaped from the attackers to Milan Czerny, The Insider's correspondent in Israel.

“We were told to leave our stuff and just run.”

Mor Levy, Holon

“It started around 6:30 in the morning, I think, because the last picture I took was at 6:29. And the photo was of Hamas in a paraglider. I only looked at them later in the photo, the next day. I was there with a friend, and he looked somewhere and started yelling, and I didn't quite realize what had happened. I thought it was just a mess of people, and then I looked up into the sky and I saw rockets flying. It started when everyone was dancing and people just didn't realize what was going on. There were lots and lots of rockets.

We headed towards our tent, towards our friends. The security guards and police officers who were at the festival told us to leave all our stuff and start evacuating to our cars. They just told us: “Run.”

My friends took me in a different direction than the crowd. Some hid, others headed for the kibbutz, for the moshav. Halfway there, we realized we had another 15 kilometers to go. A friend spotted many cars in the forest's parking lot before the festival. We ran toward that. We met some good people, most of them were leaving, and flagged down the last cars. They provided water, food, and took us to a nearby farm. They called in soldiers to secure the area, and we stayed until about five o'clock in the afternoon. But even there, we didn’t feel safe. Night fell, and then the shooting began.

My friends live in different cities, they’re almost all home by now. The people who were there with us had driven them home. We managed to get in touch with one of them, he was wounded with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), he was shot at, and one girl was missing and she hasn’t been found yet.”

“We were between life and death.”

Tal, Rishpon

“Rockets flew [over us], one of the guards started screaming and we realized something was up. But I was still calm. I was in the army in Gaza and I was used to this kind of thing. And then the music stopped. And then we were told to leave. We packed our things. Some of us came in our cars, while others took a minibus. We left our bags, dropped everything and just ran. We ran for about three hours. We were being shot at, and saw a girl who was wounded in the leg...

I sent messages to my family, telling them everything was okay, and they replied with messages asking what was going on. But I told them I was safe, even when we were being shot at, so they wouldn't worry. I had so many calls and messages. People didn't realize that we were between life and death.

We were hiding in bushes, behind trees — everywhere we could. But I think the thing that helped us the most was that we kept moving. Every five minutes we ran somewhere else, we didn't stay in one place. People were crying, screaming. I did my best to stay calm and focused. When we got far enough away from the shooting, we were walking at a steady pace. It was very hot. We were lucky that one of our friends had some water with him.

We then saw some cars on the right side of the road. But it wasn't very close — about 10 minutes away from us. We walked towards them, the people there were waving at us. They were festival volunteers — they came to rescue us. Like angels.

Then we went to the farm, and waited a long time for the police and security, but no one came. We don't understand how the police and army allowed this party. There’s something wrong [with that].

The CEO of the festival was there at the farm, and he wouldn't stop calling the army. [He was] always on the phone. In the end, we decided to go on our own. We drove home. We had four or five cars in a convoy, and we drove together.

I have one friend, we have no information about her. Her name is Sharona. We've been looking for her for two days, and we're afraid she's been kidnapped.”

“My daughter, if you can hear me, Adi, you’re not alone, everyone is looking for you and you will be rescued.”

Ahuva Miezel, mother of Adi

“Our daughter, Adi, a beautiful and wonderful girl, went to a party in the south of Israel with her best friend and we lost contact with her on Saturday morning — at 7:40 am. It was our last call [to her], during which we heard lots of noises, gunshots, explosions and chaos, total chaos... That was our last call to Adi. Since then, we don't know where she is or what condition she’s in.

We’re just powerless. These are just non-humans — they came to a party, full of mostly young people who came to enjoy themselves and have a happy time. They just came out of nowhere with guns and started shooting in all directions. And then also chased them. They chased them with guns. They broke into private homes and just shot anything that moved — or kidnapped anything that moved. They took small children, old people, and sick people hostage.

On the final day, I got WhatsApp calls from Arabic numbers, and in the background, I heard women screaming, saying, ‘We are Hamas, you have a beautiful daughter.’ I had shared my phone number on social media in our desperate search for our daughter, Adi. It's possible they got the number from there. The terrorists are aware of our grief. My daughter, if you can hear me, Adi, you are not alone, everyone is looking for you and you will be saved.”

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