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

  • Eyal G.'s story

People were getting shot inside their cars, people were running and falling

Warning: This is going to be long. And triggering.

Prologue: Two weeks after the event, I got on a flight to the Philippines. I couldn’t allow my spirit to sink into despair, pain and especially fear, the existential fear, the panic. Every door that slammed shook me, every water sprinkler that turned on sent me running.

At the airport, I lay down and started hearing a weird noise. I thought I was imagining voices, so I told myself that in order to avoid repressing it, I’ll write. I took my laptop and started spewing everything out. My story from the party.

I thought a lot about whether to publish it or not, but as time goes on, I hear of more people blocking and repressing, locking themselves up in a tightly sealed box, and maybe my story can allow others the opportunity to share theirs as well, either here or on other platforms.

That said, I’ll also mention that I’m looking for some people. I’m searching for the girl who was limping through the field, and we ran together for some minutes. I’m looking for the angel from Nofit and his friends who were sent by some cosmic hand at the end of this nightmare.

Eyal G. in the car with his friends smiling

Supernova: When Razi and I realized that I would be staying in Israel until the 12th, it was clear to both of us that I’d get us into that party. They were planning something big this time, an all-out festival, Nova’s grandest production, an insane investment with sets from Brazil, collaborations with foreign festivals, the greatest artists of the scene, 3,500 people, it was all happening.

About a week in advance, the location was set. Near Gaza. Why not? The trance scene wouldn’t get permission in the center of Israel, like in Park Yarkon or something. It’s always in secluded, magical places, and this location was indeed magical. They planned such a incredible festival, with an insane campground. What did Yagil say? “Every kanta [campsite] has its own tree.” Three dancefloors and sets that were put up right before opening hour. It was all happening.

"The music stopped and we heard Red Alert sirens from the loudspeakers"

Everything went perfectly, according to plan. The entrances are ready by 20:30. Clear signs everywhere. Caravan entrances like for real festivals. Seven attendants, two bouncers, one manager, an emergency coordinator. Everything was tight. We didn’t know then that the real backup we would need was security.

People started to arrive, waiting by the fence for opening hour. Everything was moving smoothly. People were happy, coming to celebrate, to party, they’d been waiting for this for a while. The festival scene elite, old dogs as well as kids at their first nature festival, and some people who only come for Nova events. It was impressive crowd, just as it should be. Happy people who came to celebrate freedom, regardless of religion, race or sex. No black or white, no judgment, pure truth celebrated through the blissful purity of music and happiness.

At 5:45 I told Razi that I was going to take a walk towards the stages. Get my feet moving. That’s what we’d come for, wasn’t it? I walked through the kantas like a proud uncle at his niece’s wedding. Saying hi to everyone and receiving smiles in return, people completely lit, looking like they had had a great night. In between the campsites, I started to see the dance floor with a breathtaking sunrise. The dance floor was kicking, kicking like I hadn’t seen in a while.

I walked towards the sunrise, the dance area on my left, still in the campsite area, and suddenly all of the sound shut off with a boom. I was sure the DJ was tripping us and couldn’t understand how he had managed to create the feeling that the entire set shut down. Two seconds later, another glitch, and again. Something was super weird.

"Panic and screams, all mixed with the calmness of people who were at their highest of highs."

I started hearing booms and didn’t understand what was going on. I jokingly yelled to a friend next to me, “See this production? They even brought fireworks!” A scream from the crowd confused me, and I heard, “You idiot, those aren’t fireworks, they’re [rocket] interceptions.” In a moment, the entire atmosphere changed.

The sky was filled with rockets and missiles chasing them. Literally, the entire sky above us, in front of us, next to us. The booms grew louder and louder. Complete panic all around. The music stopped and we heard Red Alert sirens from the loudspeakers. Panic and screams, all mixed with the calmness of people who were at their highest of highs. After all, it was sunrise, 3,500 people, most of them under some sort of mind-altering substance.

Goddamn. The police started trying to evacuate everybody. I heard chaos in my earpiece and didn’t know what to do. People started running from place to place, confused by their own highs. I lay down on the ground and started to pray to the universe, thinking that maybe the best thing to do was to stay there until things calmed down. It was a rocket barrage, and would be over soon. Prayers, good thoughts, stay calm.

All around me, people were completely losing it. I took my earpiece out and the booms got louder. The blasts got closer. Rocket shrapnel was flying all around. Everything became too scary. I got up and started towards the car. On the way, I called Razi and asked where he was. He said he was at the entrance booth hiding with some other people.

I got there and saw about 30 people huddled inside a f*cking van. I looked at Razi. He was completely shocked. I lay on the ground and started talking to the universe, trusting it wholeheartedly to save me.

One boom that was just too close, too strong and too scary brought us all up on our feet. We got out of the entrance van. I understood that we were going to separate, Razi to his car and me to mine. I went to get my bag from the other entrance booth and set out for the car. It seemed like the longest distance of my life.

I got into the car and understood the utter panic outside. I had to decide whether I should start the car and get stuck in a traffic jam of 3,500 people or stay put and wait for it to end. I didn’t know if I made the right decision or not. It was complete panic all around me, cars almost crashing into each other, a single dirt road that turned into ten lanes, people running between cars.

"A few meters later, we heard screams outside and yelling not to turn left because there was a suspected terrorist infiltration there"

I saw a couple looking for a ride and let them into the car. A nice, cute couple, youngsters after their big trip [a long trip people often take after the army]. In the car, I made two phone calls. To my mother and Sapir. My mother didn’t know where I was, and I didn’t really want to tell her. But she immediately sensed something was going on. I explained that I was in the car and that there were rockets, so we were going to drive somewhere safe. I said the same thing to Sapir. She wanted me to come to Ashdod and I told her, ‘I don’t think so sweetie, let me get out of here first, let me figure out what’s happening.’

I drove as usual, made jokes to keep our spirits up, and prayed to the universe to get us out of this alive. We took a photo, even a video. Missiles were flying above us but we were sure we’d make it to a better place. I came up with a plan. We’d get to Beit Kama [a nearby kibbutz] and Nitzi’s parents would receive us there. I asked Raz (the hitchhiker) to set Waze [the navigation app] to get there. There was no mobile reception, so he started navigating according to a map.

There was a traffic jam on the way to a T-junction. At the junction was a policeman on the left, yelling that no one should turn left. No explanations. A few meters later, we heard screams outside and yelling not to turn left because there was a suspected terrorist infiltration there.

We turned right and continued driving for a few tense, slow minutes, seeing all the other drivers around us shocked and panicked. I tried to stay calm and even upbeat, keeping the people with me busy with my jokes and not thinking about what was happening right now. We reached another left turn. A vehicle approached us with open windows, screams of terror, fear and helplessness, “Don’t drive there!!! Don’t drive there, there are terrorists!” A second later, we heard a burst of gunfire.

“Don’t drive there!!! Don’t drive there, there are terrorists!” A second later, we heard a burst of gunfire"

Six or seven cars ahead of us, I saw what was happening. People were getting shot inside their cars, people were running and falling. The horror movie was beginning, and I understood that I couldn’t let the panic of what I’d just witnessed into the car. I distracted the people with me so that they wouldn’t look ahead.

Without a second thought, I spun the car around. Cars almost hit me and I almost hit them. The road turned dicey, cars in both directions on either lane. A policeman on his motorcycle arrived from the other direction, yelling in terror, “Don’t go there! There are terrorists!!!” Silence in the car and prayers in our hearts. What do we do now? We started hearing gunfire exchanges from our left, from the area of the party, and sounds of heavier explosions. We guessed that the terrorists that we had just escaped from had reached the party entrance and we heard shouts of “Get down!” “There’s one over there!” “Watch out!” People were throwing rocks, hiding, falling, getting shot, getting slaughtered. A warzone. We got out of the car and left it running. It was complete mayhem on the road. Whoever ran the wrong way was shot.

“It was complete mayhem on the road. Whoever ran the wrong way was shot.”

We hid in a trench by side of the road until we started hearing shots much closer, much louder. We understood by then what was happening. There were terrorists there, and they were right behind us. We ran a few meters towards the fields and hid inside a thicket tree. Our escape journey had begun.

Screams of terror, a scattered flock seeking guidance, one person yelled a direction and everyone ran after him. People were getting shot and changing direction, running faster as the explosions grew louder. We couldn’t understand where the shooting was coming from. All of this, of course, was accompanied by endless rockets and explosions above us and from all sides. Whoever ran fast enough, survived. Whoever didn’t, fell.

“Whoever ran fast enough, survived. Whoever didn’t, fell.”

After running for a few kilometers, we reached a sort of cliff. We went to the left, found a deep ravine, and decided to hide in it. Others continued on the cliff edge to the right. We hid in the ravine until we heard a crazy scream from the direction of the cliff. I don’t know if the terrorists got there with their cars or just running and shooting, but people started to jump off the cliff. Literally, jump. Those who jumped, fell…

An insane, horrifying scene. We started running for our lives towards the open fields, with an olive grove to our left. We didn’t know what was right and what was wrong during those moments, which direction to run in, which direction they were coming from. Looking back, we now know they had us surrounded from all directions. They had left us no choice.

We hid inside a thicket tree, about six of us, dozens of confused people all around us. No one knew if we should keep running or hide. Chaos, complete mayhem, insane noises of people and distant shooting and rockets. And then in one second, it all changed. We heard Arabic and gunfire that was much closer than before. I didn’t know exactly what was happening because I was hiding with my hands over my head. But in a single moment, the chaos was silenced. We all held our breaths. Please don’t let them find us.

And then I heard a voice behind me, confident and loud, “Guys, run!!” We left our hiding spot and started running like crazy, running so fast that I threw up as I ran. It was there that I lost the couple who had been with me. I saw them running on my left, up a hill. I didn’t know if I should go back to them or not, so I just ran, ran with all my might.

We reached an open field with rows of ditches one after the other. The ground was swampy and tough, and there were sounds of gunfire and missiles all around. We realized that we were in a shooting range, and people started falling all around us. The people who were injured couldn’t run. I saw a girl I didn’t know up ahead, limping like crazy, and I tried to help her by running with her leaning against me. At some stage, the shots behind us grew louder, and I didn’t look back; I left her behind. That was the moment my heart broke. But I had to take care of myself, I couldn’t stay back. That moment kills me still, and I’m dying to know where she is, and how she is now.

“At some stage, the shots behind us grew louder, and I didn’t look back; I left her behind. That was the moment my heart broke.”

We all ran to the left, about 200 people, running in the open field, with bullets all around us and missiles above us. At one point, I called my parents after sending them my live location, desperate for them to just tell me where to run. What was the right direction? I decided to separate from everyone else and took a sharp right, back towards the party, because I saw birds flying in that direction. I felt that was the safe and right way to go. The universe spoke to me, literally. Whispered in my ear to run where the birds fly. Everything would be okay.

I ran like a lunatic towards the road I saw at the end of the path. Out of nowhere, a guy appeared, with blue eyes. He looked me straight in the eyes. We didn’t know each other, but I trusted him completely, and he told me, “It will be okay. You’re with me now. You’re running with me.” We ran full speed for another kilometer. I had no more air in my lungs, but my survival instinct took over.

He spoke on the phone about some greenhouses or something like that. At the end of that desperate run, we reached a road, and a jeep with six guys inside arrived. We climbed in and started driving. I couldn’t even begin to process what had just happened. They spoke about two of their friends who were still out there, and I thought of my friends who were still out there. I had brought all of them to that party. They were my people. They were my friends. What happened there?

And we drove off to Beit Kama.

Eyal G.

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