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I looked up and saw above me two terrorists with black helmets

  • Carmel S.L's story

There were dozens of terrorists in front of us on motorcycles and they sprayed us with bullets

They told us to write, to release, to share. So I’m trying. I wish this could all be over. I don’t know how to go on from here. I swear, I have no idea.

Shaked, my love. By my side for seven years – in two months exactly. What haven’t we gone through together? I thought we’d gone through everything. I was wrong.

Throughout the years, I saw how Shaked fell in love with trance music, festivals, freedom, and especially – people. He was excited for every party, returning euphoric from each one. Introducing me to people from all over the country. And always emphasizing – such good people. Beautiful people.

In 2021, Nimi called Shaked and suggested he join a new production called Nova. I can’t describe how excited Shaked was. At Nova’s first party, I tagged along to show my support and was astounded by the atmosphere of happiness and love. Whoever doesn’t enjoy the music that much, like me, still has to go at least once, just to feel some of that love.

Friday, October 6 was the night of the party Shaked was so looking forward to. A chance to meet his people again, his music, his loves. I was so happy for him. Dudi asked everyone, all the friends who don’t always show up, to come this time in order to say goodbye to him before his flight. At the last minute, in a snap decision, I decided to join Lilach, and come and surprise Dudi. He was so happy. Those were joyous hours, sitting together in our kanta [tented campsite], the one Racheli called “home,” because that’s how it felt.

Our home. Our friends, all sitting together, happy, in love.

Carmel S. with her partner Shaked at the Nova Festival

"I couldn’t breathe, a panic attack on the way, and Shaked was scared that I’d need my inhaler which I didn’t have on me."

Saturday, October 7, 6:30 a.m. We were excited for the sunrise and headed out towards the dancefloor to see it. I saw a shooting star in the sky. With the enthusiasm of a silly, innocent girl, I laughed and told Dudi to look up at the special star. He smiled back and said there were a lot of them. Shaked said, maybe it’s some special lighting equipment. And suddenly some guy arrived and shattered our innocence – “Rockets!”

Somehow, we all gathered; James arrived and so did Liati, who filmed us all in a chilling last video, before we got separated. We all ran “home” to see if our friends were safe. The security guards yelled at us to get out of there. The rockets shrieked overhead and the music stopped; the microphone blared a red alert siren. Party over. Get out!

I couldn’t breathe, a panic attack on the way, and Shaked was scared that I’d need my inhaler which I didn’t have on me. He understood that he had to get me out of there. We grabbed our stuff and asked all of our friends to run to their cars. I started seeing black spots and called my dad, but he didn’t answer. I had to get home.

Yarden joined Lilach, because I had come with her, but I couldn’t separate from Shaked. James joined us, and we got into the car and started heading towards the party exit.

Yarden called me and said, “Everyone drive to my house in Tel Aviv. We’ll relax, listen to some music, and then head up north.” We only wanted to escape the rockets. Who knew what was about to happen?

About 7:00 a.m., and we were one of the first cars to escape the party. At the exit, cops had blocked the road to the left, so we had to take a right. I was calmer; we’d managed to escape. We would all meet up at Yarden’s house soon, thank God.

“We turned right and came face to face with evil. Monsters. Terror.”

And then came the right-hand turn that changed our lives. My love was at the wheel. We turned right and came face to face with evil. Monsters. Terror. There were dozens of terrorists in front of us on motorcycles and they sprayed us [with bullets]. I’ll never forget the noise. Their proximity. Their look. My Shaked saved us, I don’t know where he found the strength, spinning the car around in U-turns and driving 200 km/h.

Before we had time to grasp that we just experienced a miracle and escaped without a scratch, I yelled, “Lilach!!! We have to call Lilach!” I called and shrieked and pleaded with them not to get on the road. Terrorists. I don’t remember how that conversation ended.

We saw an army jeep on the road. We jumped out of the car and begged them for help. “We were shot at! Drive over there and shoot!” We realized we were at the entrance to a huge army base. We had to get in there to be safe. We ran in and yelled at the soldiers in the entrance (there were about five of them) that we had just been shot at by machine guns. That there were terrorists and that they needed to prepare to shoot! I won’t forget their faces, as they continued smoking their cigarettes. They had no idea what we were talking about.

Shaked yelled at them to give him a weapon, now. No one understood. I called Or, my uncle, and told him to wake up my father. I can barely remember that conversation either. I heard Shaked yelling that terrorists were entering the base. I couldn’t believe it.

“I heard Shaked yelling that terrorists were entering the base. I couldn’t believe it.”

We went into some compound near the base gates, Shaked, Jamie and I, and about 15 other civilians from the party. Everyone was screaming and crying hysterically, until we realized we couldn’t, because we heard bursts of ceaseless gunfire. In my heart, I was still convinced that those were our soldiers saving us, and that all the terrorists were dead.

We decided to lock the door, shut the lights and lie down on the ground. Shaked pushed me under a table, James was on one side of me, and Shaked shielded me with his body. Why wasn’t there an end to the shooting?! Why couldn’t we hear our soldiers??

Carmel S. with tears in her eyes and behind her partner Shaked

Incessant shooting. Another hour passed. Then another. We heard the monsters. We heard them speaking Arabic. Laughing. Replenishing their ammunition. A malfunction. Fixing it. Everything slowly, slowly. And they kept shooting.

“Then they tried to open the door. We were silent, shaking with fear.”

Bullets hit the building we were in. They caused a burst in a water pipe. Then they tried to open the door. We were silent, shaking with fear. A guy next to me was praying Shir Lama’alot [Psalms 121]. Another one said Shema Yisrael [Jewish prayer said in moments of great anxiety]. I thought of my parents. While all of this was happening, I updated whoever I could about what was going on on Whatsapp. They had to know.

I realized this was the end. I thought of parents who lost their children without being able to speak to them one last time. I decided to write to my parents, tell them that I love them.

I managed to send a message to Noam as well. I forced Shaked to write to his parents. I told Shaked over and over that I love him. I looked at Jamie, who tried to comfort me with his eyes. Hours passed. Where was our army?! I didn’t know that our country was being devasted.

After a few more hours of shooting, at about 15:00, we heard some Hebrew mixed with Arabic. Our eyes shone. We stayed completely silent, listening. Too terrified to leave. Slowly, a guy who was with us rose to peek through a window. Some yelled at him, and an argument broke out in the room. He peeked anyway, and thank God, he saw soldiers.

They came to us. We broke down completely. We exited that horrendous room, single file. Terrorist bodies were all around me. I felt like I was in a movie. Suddenly, the commander who was leading us stopped in his tracks. “Get down!” In front of our eyes, he shot another terrorist. I collapsed.

We arrived at an operations center. More and more civilians arrived. More and more hours passed. I started to notice the hunger. At least they had a bathroom and I didn’t need to go in a bucket next to everyone. We couldn’t see the end in sight. It was nearing midnight. Again and again, more terrorists entered the base. We couldn’t leave.

Throughout it all, I was worried for my father and Shaked’s father, the heroes who had set out to rescue us. They had to get through the most dangerous areas. They saw the worst of the horrors. I’m so sorry they had to come after us into that hell.

Suddenly, at about 01:00, he arrived. Our angel. If only I could find you. He promised that he’d take us to a safe place. We climbed aboard a truck covered in blood. We drove, following him and an ambulance in a convoy. We saw our car. We saw all the bullet holes in it, and still couldn’t believe that we’d made it out alive.

We reached my dad and Menash. Throughout our escape journey, rockets continued to fall ceaselessly from the sky. Unfathomable sights on the roads. I slowly found out which of my friends had made it home. We made it, we returned alive. Some of us didn’t. I can only be grateful for the privilege of being here. I can’t take it for granted.

Thank you to Shaked for shielding me with his body, knowing he was risking his life.

For protecting me every second and helping me stay strong. To my Jamie, my childhood friend who never deserted me, even now. To our soldiers who fought the terrorists, and eventually reached us. To my father and Shaked’s father (who’s a little bit my father too), for doing everything to bring us home. And I mean everything.

May they rest in peace. All those men, women, babies, children, elderly, soldiers. My heart is shattered, and I will never forget you. I don’t know how to go on from here. I swear, I have no idea. All I know is that Am Yisrael Chai [the people of Israel live]. We have to get through this together.

Carmel S.L.