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The terrorists were at our doorstep. I sat there with my son, petrified

  • Danielle S.'s story

I held onto the hand of the dead body laying on top of me and said thank you for shielding me

This is my story.

We were invited to the Nova Peace Festival and were so excited to dance.

We were supposed to take two cars. One for me, my husband, and my baby, and a car for my dad, his friend Alex, and my cousin Lee. After Shabbat dinner, my mom said she would take care of the baby but only if I promised to be home by sunrise. We all agreed and left him at home.

My cousin Nitzan and her husband called to tell us they were on their way to the party too.

It was about 1:00 am when we left home. The festival was an hour and a half south of Netanya. When we were 30 minutes from the festival, we noticed how close we were to the border with Gaza. We were scared but laughed, because what are the chances that something would happen, right?!

Nova festival sign with the inscription Nova

We arrived at the festival at around 2:30 am. We walked in with 3000 people. Beautiful humans, all so happy to be together, to share our joy and dance. My dad took us to the bar, we ordered drinks and went to dance. Such good energy. Such good vibes. Later, we went to the chill stage to rest a bit. It was dawn. The light of the early morning crossed the sky. I told the people with me that it was time to head home.

Just as the tip of the sun touched the horizon, the music changed and the energy increased. My dad said, "Let's go dance one more time," and I said, "But Dad, I promised Mom…," and my dad said, "Don't worry about Mom, I'll handle her."

Danielle S with her husband and father

I smiled and we ran to the dance floor. We danced. We laughed. We smiled. My dad said, "This is my favorite time of day," and then I said, "Wow Dad, look. Fireworks."

Little did I know that from that moment, my life would change forever. My dad became pale. He was worried, and we rushed to car. When we got to the car, we lay on the ground. At this point, we could see that the entire sky was filled with rockets. We jumped into the car and drove out of the festival. We made a left turn from the festival (the same way we had driven in). My cousin Lee told my dad that she remembered seeing a shelter on the way, so we drove there, about 8 minutes from the festival.

He stopped the car and we got into what's called a migunit. It looks like a bus stop made of concrete. It's small, about 5 ft x 5 ft, and there’s no door. It was painted blue and had a girl smiling on it with bubbles. I was scared for my life. It was my first time ever hearing Red Alert sirens. I begged my dad to get back into the car and drive away. He said no, that this was the safest place to be. A few minutes went by, and more people came to the shelter, screaming that there were terrorist on the road shooting at the cars.

At 7:23, I sent my live location in my family group chat, and sent a voice note saying, "Mom, please take care of Raphael. Natalie, help them. I love you." Still begging my dad to leave, Maor tried to calm me down and I felt my legs giving out from fear. We start hearing gun shots from outside the shelter. Everyone started pushing to get back into the shelter.

The walls of the shelter

The terrorists threw in two grenades and a smoke bomb. I couldn't breathe. Maor yelled “They’re killing us!" He was hovered over me and I was holding on to him for dear life.

A terrorist walked in and fired what sounded like a million bullets. One hit my leg and I whispered to Maor "I'm shot." He said, " I got you, you're ok." A few minutes went by, and it was quiet. The terrorists had left our shelter. I called out, "Dad, Dad, they shot me," and when he didn't respond, I knew that they had murdered him.

“They threw another grenade into our shelter. I felt my left knee boiling and pieces burning my scalp and stomach."

I went silent. I was in no pain. I was numb to my core. I told Maor to get off of me, to throw bodies on me, to check on my Dad and protect himself. He did just that. I lay there under three bodies. I was silent. I closed my eyes and my ears. A few minutes later, we heard a vehicle approaching and then we heard people running and screaming, “Soldiers! It's our soldiers!” and then a million bullets fired again. They threw another grenade into our shelter. I felt my left knee boiling and pieces burning my scalp and stomach. Maor and I made eye contact and I told myself, “You're alive D, you're still here.” I touched my knee and it was still attached.

There was a girl who was in so much pain. Her entire back had been blown up, and we begged her to be quiet. She was in such agony and couldn't keep quiet. They threw in another grenade. I closed my eyes and ears and told myself, “You're alive D, stay strong." Again we heard them outside, firing bullets into the shelter. I prayed. I prayed so hard.

I begged God to get us out of there.

One of the girls inside with me finally reached the police. They told us, "We can't come into the area yet and we can't help you. Please take care of yourselves." Then they said a prayer and the line went dead. I kept telling myself that I'm not going to die. I held onto the hand of the body laying on top of me. I held his hand so tight and said thank you for shielding me. Boom! Another grenade. Hot burning pieces flying all over my body. I prayed again. After a few minutes, I realized that Maor was ripping off shirts and moving around in the shelter instead of playing dead. He was helping other survivors by tying tourniquets on their bodies. I begged him to stop moving, but he insisted. He was talking to them, making sure they stayed conscious. I prayed and begged God not to take him.

“I looked to my left and there was a girl with her face blown off. I looked to the right and saw more dead bodies."

Soon, we heard another vehicle approaching. I saw Maor put a body on top of himself, and I hid under mine. Another grenade. The explosion was so loud, so intense, you felt like you were flying away. I heard the terrifying words and language of a terrorist, "Allahu Akbar," and then the entire shelter, along with the bodies inside of it, rose and came back down. They had fired an RPG into the shelter.

"You're alive D, you're still here," I touched my body to make sure I was intact. I was soaked in blood. Maor and I signaled to one another that we are ok. A car alarm went off outside the shelter. It went on and on, and the terrorists were shooting the car to try and make it stop. I smiled because I imagined that it was my dad driving them crazy. The terrorist were yelling and finally I heard “Chalas,” more Arabic, and they drove off.

It was silent. I was falling asleep. I started to think about my baby and I started singing baby beluga in my head. I prayed again. I took off all my jewelry (not sure why) and hid it in my bra. I heard a girl in our shelter speak to her dad on the phone, and he told her that he was on the way. I began to have hope. I looked to my left and there was a girl with her face blown off. I looked to the right and saw more dead bodies. The strong smell of metal. The smell of corpses.

An hour later, we started hearing gun shots coming closer and closer. I shut my eyes and tried to get as low as possible. Is it them again?! And then we heard, "Any Israelis here? It's the army!" We didn't make a sound, we didn’t move. Again, "Is there anyone alive in there?!" I was holding my breath, thinking they were terrorist pretending to speak Hebrew. Finally the words, "Nitzan it's Dad. Are you in there?" and she replied, "Dad!"

I immediately tried to move and get out of the bodies on top of me. I tried to stand and fell back down. Maor helped me up and I climbed on top of the bodies to try and get out.

He covered my eyes so I wouldn't see my Dad. It was too late. Seven hours inside a shelter and now we were saved. We ran to the pickup truck. I saw my Dad’s car, broken and shot at. Everything that was inside, now on the ground. Nine of us had survived. Nine out of forty.

“Cars were burnt. Dead bodies were on the road. Fire everywhere.. ”

We started driving down the same road. Nitzan's father Moti Ezra and her brother Amit told us not to look outside, to stay calm and quiet. But I couldn't keep my eyes closed. Cars were burnt. Dead bodies were on the road. Fire everywhere. The army drove behind us. We made it to "safety." They transferred us to an ambulance that took us to the hospital in Beer Sheva. They told me that I have a bullet in my leg. I was only able to go into surgery Sunday afternoon. I have pieces of the grenades in my lungs. My eardrums are filled with blood, and every few minutes, I hear a beep. My heart is broken into a million pieces.

The road to recovery will be long and painful, but I made it. I'm alive. I'm breathing. So the question, "How are you?" leaves me speechless. I’m grateful to be with my son. I'm heartbroken they murdered my father, my cousin, her husband, and hundreds of beautiful humans. I'm mad, I'm sad, I'm scared, I'm grateful, I'm blessed, I'm numb, I'm confused, I'm grieving. But most of all, I'm alive. We went to a party, the seven of us, and only three of us came back. I am a survivor.

Danielle is sitting on a chair with her husband standing next to her

Forever in my heart. NEVER AGAIN.

October 7, 2023. RIP Dancing Angels 🪽💔

Danielle S.

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