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I heard a volley of gunfire and felt a bullet in my back

  • Itamar Y.'s story

As I raised my head, he shot me

For those who don’t know me, I am Itamar and I’ve been going to Trance music events for 11 years, and working at these events for two years. My job is to recruit visual artists to contribute to the production by performing during the event. 

For the Nova festival, I recruited ten talented artists. We arrived at the festival, set up our equipment, and started working. It was amazing. The festival was amazing, the production was amazing, many of the performers are good friends of mine. Everything was going like clockwork, incredibly precise. Until… 

At 6:30 in the morning, the red alert sirens started. I don’t get really concerned by these sirens; I served in the Gaza Division and have family in the south, so this wasn’t new to me. It’s important to note also that I wasn’t under the influence of any hard drugs, or drugs of any kind, so I was relatively clear-minded. 

Itamar Y.

Without panicking unnecessarily, I drove the car into the festival complex, opposite the stage which was called “Mushroom.” The artists’ area was there, so I just stood with my car and packed up all my equipment. At around 6:45 or a little after, we started hearing the sound of gunfire from all directions, from the left and the right, honestly I wasn’t stressed.

I didn’t guess what was happening outside the festival complex. The festival was surrounded by an iron fence covered in black material, so it was difficult to see what was happening outside. 

I met up with my group of artists (there were three artists) and we had a smoke at the bar next to the small stage, we still didn’t really understand what was happening. In the meantime, there was the sound of gunfire from all directions. Mainly from the field and the direction of the road. 

"The terrorists came into the complex and started to slaughter and kidnap."

After a short while, we started to hear Arabic and the shooting got closer to the complex.

I joined up with one of the producers and his girlfriend, and a few other people, and we hid under the main stage. The shooting didn’t stop and people started to escape, also under the stage. 

Before the terrorists came into the complex, we had covered the entrance under the stage with rafts and wooden boards so they wouldn’t see us. We divided up tasks, I watched behind the left side of the stage, and a few others watched the other sides. At the end, the terrorists came into the complex and started to slaughter and kidnap. At some point, a gun fight began which prevented the terrorists from getting to the area of the main stage. 

In a split-second decision, we decided to escape from the left side of the stage (my side), towards the camping area. The terrorists started shooting at us, people started falling, and we split up. As we were running, we saw the bodies of two young girls on the ground (the whole field was covered with bodies, and people who had been shot and needed help, but there was just no way to help them). We checked their pulses while there was shooting. They didn’t have a pulse. We continued running, and everyone split up to go their own way. 

“They shot at us, they shot near us, they shot at our friends, and all around us."

I stayed with a couple of friends (Itai and Hila, pseudonyms for this story). We escaped into a wadi between two hills. They shot at us, they shot near us, they shot at our friends, and all around us. We just lay there for about 20 minutes until we decided that we had to get out of there. Itai is an army guy so I told him that I trust him, that he could read the field best and lead the way.

He pointed to a hill opposite us and to a tree there. We decided to run in turns to the tree, and decide where to go from there. With shooting and complications, Itai ran to the hill. He got there safely and signaled to Hila to get there, too. When Hila got up, they started shooting volleys of gunfire at us. We lay on the ground and waited for it to end. After a few minutes, when the barrage calmed down, Itai signaled again and Hila ran at full speed to the hill. She got there safely, then I got there, all three of us safely on the hill. 

We started to move forward, keeping low behind the hill we were hiding behind. We saw a shot up car with two civilians, probably wounded, I didn’t really notice, running away.

We started to pass the car and suddenly we saw a group of around nine Arabs that Itai thought were Bedouins.   

There was a wadi near us of about 2.5, maybe 3 meters. The Bedouins [sic] signaled to us to come, and that everything was ok. “Ta’el, ta’el,” [“Come, come”] they said. Itai, God bless him, is an aggressive guy, not afraid, and he tried to speak to them. I immediately realized that something was suspicious. They tried to rob him, so he punched them and we started to run to the wadi. We jumped in and ran full speed, we didn’t know who they were and what they wanted. It turns out that they were Gazans who had come through with the terrorists, around 20-24 years old. Young people, with murder in their eyes.        

We ran in the wadi and reached another group of people who had been at the party and were also hiding there. We joined up with them, and started making phone calls to rescue us. No one helped us. I spoke to a clerk by the name of Hila, an army clerk. She put me on hold for 6 minutes while there was gunfire. Such indifference, such failure. 

The Gazans came back to harass us, they scared us and started threatening us. After joining up with the other group of survivors, we were a group of around thirty people. When the Gazans came and tried to cause trouble, it scared the girls who were with us and created panic. We decided that we would fight back. We told everyone to find a plank, sticks and stones, anything they could get their hands on, and we started to shout at them, “Ta’el, Ta’el [Come, come]. We will screw your mothers.” 

They drew back and left our area. How did we know they were Gazans? They were in their twenties, walking through a battlefield like they owned it, laughing at us. At some point, I saw someone suspicious with a bag on his back around 300 meters away from us, even less. Much less. I told Itai that there was someone there with a big black bag on his back who was looking directly at us. We started telling the people who were sitting around us, and created a reaction among the people sitting with us. He looked at us and had a black bag on his back.   

At some point, a girl next to him stood up and pointed at us. The second she pointed at us, he got into a kneeling position. At that moment we understood - we started to run and split up, and someone in the background yelled, “RPG!!”

“He shot a rocket at us. It hit our spot precisely and lifted us into the air.”.

Less than 3 seconds passed and he shot a rocket at us. It hit our spot precisely and lifted us into the air. God was watching over me at that moment. I had a strange instinct to distance myself slightly from the area that we had been sitting in when I saw that guy, and that’s what saved me and many others. After the explosion, everyone scattered, some to the left, some to the right. 

After aiming the rocket at us, they started shooting bursts of gunfire at us, so that we had to escape completely, there was nowhere else to hide. I separated from the group and was alone. They started to shoot at me specifically. Bullets whistled past my ears and exploded next to me. Dust shot up from the ground with every bullet. That was the scariest run of my life. A run of life or death.    

I threw myself on the ground behind a tree there, right by an agricultural field. I remember that three or four bullets hit the tree. I felt and heard them hit. I waited a little. All the while, friends from the group ran while being shot at. Some fell, some continued. Behind me was a large agricultural field. It was built such that it was made up of relatively deep ditches that could be used for hiding. So I decided that I would roll backwards into the first ditch, and that’s what I did. 

At that time, my glasses broke and I was left with one lens, and I had lost my phone. I lay in the ditch with my face looking up at the sky. I said, “Shema yisrael adonai elohaynu adonai echad,” [Jewish prayer said in moments of great anxiety]. I said, “Mom, I trust you to get me out of here.” 

"It seemed that one of the terrorists or one of their snipers noticed me, and as I lifted my head, he shot at me."

I took the lens out of the glasses, put it close to my left eye, and lifted my head slightly to see what was happening, and if I could continue going. It seemed that one of the terrorists or one of their snipers noticed me, and as I raised my head, he shot at me. I immediately got down and the bullet went right by, just above my nose, and exploded in the ditch beside me. There were two more shots, which shattered right near my head, and then it stopped. 

I waited in that ditch for about 20 minutes. An exchange of funfire began and I decided that this was my moment. He [the terrorist] was distracted and maybe he wouldn’t notice me. I strategically jumped across a few more ditches. Every time, I threw myself face-first into the ditch and threw myself inside. I did this slowly and thoughtfully. At some point, I noticed that there was a certain glare from the direction of the terrorists which was directed towards me. I was afraid it was a sniper targeting my area, so I stayed in the same ditch for another quarter of an hour. 

At some point, I started to feel dehydrated. Many hours without water, on the run - it was obviously going to happen. I started feeling dizzy and not well. I lifted my head slightly to find a source of water. I realized that there were many sprinklers throughout the entire agricultural field, and decided to head towards them. 

I continued jumping between ditches until I got to a sprinkler where I had the opportunity to grab it and bring it down with me. I did all of this while lying down in the field. I took it and just completely broke it apart, God knows where I found the strength to break it (my apologies to the owners of the field). Wow. It was as dry as a stone. Not a drop of water in there. 

At that point I said to myself, “Okay Itamar, you have to survive. Breathe and get some of your saliva around your mouth.” I started to control my breathing and make movements to moisten my mouth a little, and I managed. At some point, I looked in the other direction of the field (the direction I was moving towards) and  noticed that it lead to a road. I started to run through a few ditches at the same time, rather than one by one. A barrage of fire began and I lay on the ground. The bullets whistled just above my head. I lay there. I started to look around. For some reason, I was courageous and wasn’t afraid to lift half my body out of the ditch. I saw a police car next to the road with a few survivors. Within seconds I heard screams. 

“Ruuuuunnnnnnn!!!!!!” “Ruuuuunnnnnnn!!!!!!” So I started running towards the car, while behind it there was a tank that probably took an anti-tank missile. I ran like I have never run before in my life. I got there, stripped, and they let me join them. I lay on the ground and they brought me water. Friends that recognized me came over and comforted me, “You are alive, Itamar.” 

After drinking a few sips of water that I needed so much, I was panting badly, I looked at the sky, I looked at my mother, at my uncle Danny, at my grandfather and grandmother, at God and said, “Thank you.” With tears in my eyes, just, “Thank you.”

Afterwards, we started driving towards the Ofakim police station. The driver I was with lost the convoy and accidentally drove into the Re’im settlement [the area of the Nova festival]. What was there was simply horrible. Pure evil. I don’t want to describe to you the scene, it 

was so horrifying. 

We realized that Re’im was not the right address, so we did a U-turn and they [terrorists] started shooting at us, at the car. We hit the gas and sped away at 200 km/h. We went back to the area where they had found me. We waited for another convoy to get to Ofakim. It arrived, we joined them and we drove to Ofakim. I reached Ofakim and met a lot of friends there, friends who had hid with me, and I was so happy to see them. There were also a lot of friends who I didn’t see there. 

And that’s it. At that moment, I realized that I was saved. I could take a breath and understand that I had survived. God, you were with me every second there. I prayed to you as I have never prayed in my life. To you and to my mother. Mom, thank you. How you saved me! I am proud of you. And a little proud of myself that I succeeded. 

And I can’t believe that I succeeded. So that’s it, that’s my story. Itamar’s story. One story among so many horror stories. This story was told briefly, and I left out all the horrors we experienced there. The unbearable sights. The friends who were killed in front of us. Kidnapped, raped, who went missing. 

“We experienced a slaughter and were saved by a miracle.”

I ask of you, tell your story. Every story brings a little more light to the event, another piece of news, another message. Let’s not deal with this alone. Come over, share with me, tell me stories, I am inviting you. We experienced a slaughter and were saved by a miracle. 

I pray to God that we find and bring back each of the missing people and hostages. I wish luck to our soldiers who are currently fighting in emergency reserve duty. Take our revenge for us. Aim for the head. The people of Israel are with you. I was Itamar. Share also. We want to hear. 

Itamar Y.


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