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He saw beloved friends of ours, some shot all over their bodies, others burnt alive

  • Maya E.'s story

I started preparing, as best I could, to die

This morning I woke up and decided to share my story. I’m not sure why. Maybe so I could validate it. Maybe in order for the whole world to know what horrors we went through. Maybe, for it to be written down so I will never forget how I almost lost my life offhandedly, in a horrifying event where I was supposed to be celebrating with loved ones and unwind after going through some rough times.


Maya E dances at the supernova festival

We arrived at the party, me and Yuval, who I met somewhere in Columbia and fate would have it, how crazy, that our first party together was this one. So we arrived, Yuval and I, his friend Yoav, who I met that day, and Shani, who I also met that day. We arrived at the party, and dumped our gear in the Kanta (resting area). We went for a stroll around the party area but I felt quite tired and couldn’t be bothered to party. I went to the Kanta to relax, and at some point fell asleep.


When I woke up there were blasts. It was about 6:30 am, and the darkness was starting to lift. I thought to myself, “ok, we’re near the Gaza border, but there’s no way there are red alerts now. It must be fireworks”. That thought lasted for about a second, when policemen, who were at the party as it was a secured event, started telling everyone to evacuate as fast as possible. Those who know the wonderful world of trance parties, know that 6:30am is one of the highlights of a party, a peak of joy. You welcome the morning with dancing, with extreme joyfulness in your head. I assume a lot of the people around me were under the influence, but luckily I wasn’t, as I decided I came just to enjoy the music and unload all the burdens I needed to unload.


"A policeman shouted that everyone must get out of the cars and run to the fields, because there are terrorists around"

I started crying, and I panicked. I didn’t know what we were supposed to do. Great, we can go home, but right now driving to Yuval’s (house) in Beer Sheba is dangerous and will take time. We organized ourselves and collected our belongings. We got to the car and started loading it as normal. At the end of parties like this, there’s always a car outside playing music, and I heard a modus track that I love and suddenly an urge to dance was ignited in me. I started dancing. I remembered the Ozura opening, two years earlier, how happy I was with this track playing and how I shouted to my friends “Let me die in a trance”. I didn’t realize the meaning those words would soon take on. I only meant that I will always love this music, and I will forever be joyful and dance alongside it.


Suddenly a policeman shouted that everyone must get out of the cars and run to the fields, because there are terrorists around.


Within a few minutes we were in the car. Just as we were ready to go, I couldn’t find my cell phone. Yuval and I quickly ran to the Kanta to check if I left it there. Immediately I found it in my bag. We were about to go back to the car, but couldn’t find Yoav’s car in the huge chaos of hundreds of cars trying to leave simultaneously. We tried to locate Yoav and Shani and keep cool in the meantime. We sat at the exit of the parking lot when suddenly I heard someone screaming and crying that her car was shot at.


I couldn’t believe what I heard. I still didn’t understand what’s coming, when suddenly we discovered that there’s a girl who was shot in her leg and Yuval, who is a paramedic, ran to help her. We finally found Yoav and returned to the traffic jam. Shani was very frightened, but I guess I didn't understand the gravity of the situation as I already opened a Cheetos snack bag and started eating.


We started driving, making really slow progress, when suddenly a policeman or a security person shouted that everyone must get out of the cars and run to the fields, because there were terrorists around. There was a huge panic, yet even at that hysterical and crazy moment I still didn’t realize or believe what’s coming and how great the danger was.


"After running for about 40 minutes we decided to hide. In retrospect, this decision saved our lives"

We started running, hundreds or thousands of people in an open field, while in the background hearing red alert sirens, explosions, and later on gunshots. I remember asking Yuval, “What are we doing”? I understood that everyone is running together, but wondered whether that was the right thing to do. I realized that this was life endangering, but there was nothing else we could do other than run and fight for our lives and trust our instincts. There was nothing else we could do.


Along the way, we tried to be as smart as possible. My mom called and asked what was happening. I said I didn't know, that there was a terrible mess, but i’m sure that the police and army forces would arrive soon and deal with the situation.That’s what I thought. I was terrified and after running for about 40 minutes we decided to hide. In retrospect, this decision saved our lives. Quite far from the road leading to the party, under a big tree, we found a sort of indentation in the ground. We immediately got in. Yoav thought perhaps he should remain outside (the indentation) but got in as well, as we were hearing shooting over our heads. We weren’t sitting on bare ground but on these big and wide splinters, like wooden skewers but thicker.


Yoav and Yuval lied on one side and Shani and I tried to sit, entwined together. The splinters really hurt, and it took time to get used to them, but as time went on we became submerged into them and we just got used to the pain, and forgot about it. As time passed, any movement I made affected Shani who got pricked, and vice versa. We tried to move as gently as possible. We couldn’t really break the splinters and create a clear area to sit on, and we got pricked everywhere. Luckily, I was wearing long fleece pants. Originally I thought, “Oh shit, I should have changed into something short, i’m going to be so hot”. In retrospect the pants guarded me from the splinters.


From the moment we laid down in that indentation, the sounds of gunshot bursts and rockets didn’t cease. We put our cell phones on flight mode, fearing that somehow they (the terrorists) would track our location. After about 30-40 minutes my left leg became numb and I instantly tried moving it, but there was nowhere to move it to. Every movement I made hurt Shani, but I felt the numbness in my leg, and it drove me nuts. I tried to move it as little as I could, while understanding this wasn’t a normal situation and my body will have to endure uncomfortable positions and difficult moments. All this in order for us to be able, at some point, to get out of this (situation).


I then checked my phone for the time and realized we had been hiding in this bush for an hour. I couldn’t believe it. I said to myself, ‘this is going to be long’. In the beginning I imagined how a helicopter or armored vehicle would arrive and rescue us. But slowly, this thought disappeared and I couldn’t imagine it anymore. “Why isn’t this stopping?", Shani asked, and I also couldn’t believe that there was such a heavy barrage and that the shooting wasn't stopping. We had no idea what was happening out there. We were sort of below ground and we couldn’t peek out because we were afraid we would get spotted. I didn’t know what to expect. Will I see the ground burning outside?


Suddenly, all the commotion and noise from before just ceased. We no longer heard people shouting. Only silence and bullets being fired. I can’t forget the sound of those bullets, I never heard it so realistically. It’s incomprehensible.

I said to myself, ‘Maya, you’ve been in extreme situations before, and it is known you have a crazy lifestyle, but what is going on here? This is too much’. I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing.


"We decided to stay in the bush and pray for our lives"

After about an hour, we decided to muster some courage and call our families and friends. Yoav spoke to some intelligence officer and consulted with him as to what we should do. He suggested we go to a nearby town, but using Google Maps we realized that the closest town is 40 minutes away by foot, and walking even one minute might be dangerous. We decided to stay in the bush and pray for our lives. Yoav also managed to text his girlfriend who called the police. I called my father, Yoni and Lidor. I knew my mother would probably be hysterical so I deliberately didn’t call her and thought it’s better for her to panic now than have something really happen to me, and then she’ll be sad.


I made calls whenever I could. Together we tried to find the right moments to call, and whisper, hoping the other side could hear. We whispered that we were hiding in a bush, and asked people to please call the police and ask them to rescue us. I can’t imagine what it was like for those on the other side of the call to hear such things. Shani spoke with her partner and he contacted her commander and various other people who could help. I tried to send people text messages saying “Call the police to rescue us”, but the texts weren't sent for some reason. I had enough service to be able to receive text messages, but not in order to send them.


I was in a (whatsapp) group of another party which took place in the area, and they were texting about the Nova (party) things like, “There are terrorists there shooting indiscriminately”, and “There are casualties”, while I’m actually there, with those events happening around me, and I couldn’t believe it. What is actually happening here? It was insane reading all this. We all tried saying to ourselves, no matter what happens, by the end of this day, we will get back to our homes! We really believed it.


The shooting and the rockets didn’t stop and time went on. As time passed, I found it hard to comprehend what we were going through, and asked myself whether I'll survive this in order to tell people what I went through. It didn’t sink in. Even as I was there, every explosion I heard I covered my head with my hands and asked myself, ‘every bullet can hit me and every rocket can fall on me so what does it matter if I cover my head?’ I answered myself that at least if I get hit I will protect my head so I won’t be brain damaged.


Every explosion I heard I couldn't believe that another one went on and another one, and hundreds or thousands of bullets and gunshots and rockets above our heads, not having mentioned the hand grenades that were thrown (I just don’t know if it was in our area). We heard such a variety of blasts, that I couldn’t even distinguish between them. I wondered whether the boom sound I was hearing was a (rocket) interception or a hit, because if it was a rocket that hit, it could have hit me, and it could still happen at any given moment.

Every passing moment could have been my last.


"I started preparing, as best I could, to die"

After about two hours, there were still many rockets and gunshots, but there were also breaks. During each break I thought to myself, ‘There! It has ended, there’s a break!’, and then realized it hasn’t. After one of these breaks we started hearing the terrorists shouting. Initially we were wondering whether it was Hebrew or Arabic, and unfortunately it was Arabic. It was the scariest moment during this whole event.


We became silent, a silence which wouldn’t shame Anne Frank in the attic. No one breathed, we were dead silent. We prayed they wouldn't come closer. The voices sounded pretty close, but as we were below ground level we knew nothing about what was happening outside. Suddenly there was a burnt smell. I was frightened. I don’t know how but I kept relatively calm during the whole time we were in the bush. Anyone who knows me well knows how sensitive I am yet I hardly cried despite what was going through my head. I don’t know where it came from, but I asked Yoav, “Do you think we’ll make it?” He said, “I’m certain we will'', “How are you so certain”?, I asked, and he said, “It’s a feeling. "


The sounds of the terrorists shook me, but I didn’t share this feeling with my friends. I started preparing, as best I could, to die. I told myself, you can be optimistic as much as you want, tell yourself this is not your time to die, that you have so many plans and people to love and dreams to fulfill. But no one asks to die and neither did you. I was preparing myself for a tragedy. I was preparing to not be saved. I said to myself, it has been over two or three hours or maybe more and no one has come to your rescue. If they didn’t come until now, when will they come? Will they come at all?


I imagined us staying there until nightfall. Picturing what we would do when it’s dark and how we would handle the situation. I imagined myself being wounded and trying to deal with it in complete silence. I imagined one of us getting shot and all of us screaming out his name. Truthfully, I imagined it was me. I imagined my mother, devastated. I imagined how they would find us, and how the last thing I would see would be masked terrorists pointing their weapons at us. I imagined what i’d do if I got wounded, even in my finger. How would I deal now with such a thing? I thought of calling Lidor and saying my farewells but I didn’t.


Suddenly I thought, I can’t live in this country, even though I love it, it’s just impossible to live like this. All I did was go to a party!!! I looked a lot at the four of us. At a certain point we kind of fell asleep. We were dozing off. We were all so tired and exhausted and I saw we were all shutting our eyes. When we looked at each other with a half open gaze, we were saying everything yet saying nothing. I tried to guess what each of us was thinking and feeling right now, but didn’t have the guts to ask. I wanted to say how lucky we are, having this tree, but I wasn’t brave enough to say it out loud until we get out of here, because I was afraid that suddenly this tree would be the cause of our death.


Shani told me she was scared, and for the first time in my life, I think, I had nothing to say. I always have something to say, and ways to cheer people up. All I could say was “me too”.

I also showed her my bracelet, which said “everything happens as it should”, a phrase I said once, somewhere out there in Guatemala before an amazing high. She started crying and showed me her necklace which said “may he guard you” (regarding god), and I, who had been shaken up a few times in the passing year by the meaning of my phrase, wondered to myself, was my being there really intentional? Was that situation happening to me on purpose? Was the purpose of me being there so that I will get through it and become stronger? Or was the purpose of all that to bring my story to an end, and that’s it? We stopped thinking, and just let time pass by and tried to stay calm.


"I imagined how they would find us, and how the last thing I would see would be masked terrorists pointing their weapons at us"

We heard the terrorists a few times, every time the sounds dimmed and disappeared. Everytime I heard them, I just wanted the voices to stop. I heard their voices and then a barrage of gunshots and I couldn’t figure out if it was a gunfight with police forces or the army, or was it just them shooting people who were hiding, like us.


Yuval said we were far enough from them and we shouldn’t worry. But I told myself, if they were now going around killing everyone, then eventually they would get to us. Everything was vague. I contemplated moving and lying by Yoav and Yuval because it seemed from my angle that there was room there, and maybe I could spread out more but I didn't dare move. Everytime I reminded myself that this wasn't going to be comfortable, but under these circumstances, we would prevail and there was nothing more to do.


We knew that close to us, on the other side of the bush there were other people but we didn’t know how many. I imagined they must be more exposed than us and every time there was a boom sound I pushed my head further down, as much as I could, even when it touched the splinters. I did everything in my power so that even an inch of my body wouldn’t get hurt. Anything I could do, I did, and that’s what I kept telling myself, ‘you do the best you can. Other than that, all that’s left to do is pray they won’t reach us’.


About an hour before the end, a couple of the people close to us asked if they could join us, and we said yes, but we don’t really have where to move to. So they should come in quickly and carefully. They were a bit complacent and the girl who was wearing flip-flops and shorts got pricked a lot by the splinters and she started bleeding. It was very hard for her and she didn’t understand that we were in that same situation and that she must accept the splinters if she really wanted to stay alive. She moaned of pain and it took her a good few minutes to finish getting into a sitting position and the guy who was with her sat somewhere else and the whole time we were trying to make him go lower. I remember asking him, “how are you”?, and he looked at me with a look saying he was ok. I was scared that us being responsible and resourceful would get ruined by the two and we tried to help them both get in the same state of mind as us.


Suddenly Shani started crying. When I asked her what’s the matter (as if everything going on wasn’t a good enough reason to cry), she said that her iPhone’s location was finally detected through her iPad, and there was this moment of hope. It was already much quieter but there were still explosions. The shooting was coming to an end. We were all quiet and in fact, when I think of it, during that whole time we didn’t really speak with words, but with our eyes or with an occasional whisper - mostly about important things. Whenever someone peeped, we immediately said “shhh”. Suddenly someone came and called the name of the guy who joined us, Yam, and he immediately stood up and said “Yes”. We started shouting at him, “what are you doing?!”, as we were afraid this was a trap. But God protected us until the end and sent us this angel who, as I understand, was a volunteer who came into the area which was like a fire range and rescued us.


I will never forget how we ran to him so fast, and suddenly about 15 people who I didn’t even know were there, came out of the trees and got into the small van, one on top of another. He started driving and I couldn’t believe that this was happening. This moment that I couldn’t even imagine, yet it was happening.


I didn’t dare call my mother until we arrived at a safe place. We all sat squeezed together, one on top of another, crying. I could tell by the looks in their eyes, without saying a word, that they have gone through exactly what we’ve been through. Many of the boys pants’ were ripped, some stained. After a minute of driving I saw a sight I couldn’t believe, more people hiding in bushes just like us. I shouted to the man who picked us up, “Stop!! There are more people here”. He saved the location and drove us to a safe place and then came back to get them. On the way we could still hear blasts who, I think, were Iron Dome interceptions.


I couldn’t believe we were rescued. When I noticed some of the people were informing their families, I decided to put my mom out of her misery and called her. I have never heard her cry like that. I was so happy this was over for her and over for me. I couldn’t believe this was happening.I told her I will speak to her when we arrive at a safe place. Suddenly the girl who was sitting close to me turned around and it was Yael. I was shocked. “Maya, I can’t believe you were with me under the tree that whole time”. We were in a loss for words. We were both stunned that we were both here, that we both survived and that we experienced it all together but separately.


"Death was at my doorstep and decided to leave. Death has met those who are close to me"

They left us in an open area which, they said, was safe. We were greeted by volunteers, lovely people, who gave us water. Within a few minutes cars came and drove us to a town in the area. We were then greeted by additional volunteers who immediately wrote each one of our names in order to confirm we were saved. Shani and I went into a hall that was there. We rested on a mattress, drank coke and ate Bamba. Then a lovely person walked amongst us and asked if anyone wanted to take a shower. He took me and Shani and another girl to shower in his home.


He hosted us like no one has ever hosted me before. He gave us towels. I looked in the mirror and my hair was full of dust. We showered and cleaned ourselves well and went out. He gave us food, and offered us all he had. I filled my plate and we sat at the table and ate so much. I thanked him and hugged him. His name is Benzi. Benzi, from the town of Maslul, if this reaches you somehow, you should know I will never forget you. We drank tea, and I ate a banana and we went back to the area where they gathered everyone.


I sat for a bit with Yael and we tried talking about what had happened. We didn’t really know what to say, and every look shared with someone in that area revealed it all. There was no need to say anything. It's like when you see someone on the dance floor and you understand the state of mind he is in and you don’t need him to say anything. That’s how it was.


A bus arrived and took us all to Beer Sheba. When the bus started driving, there was a red alert siren and everyone ran to the shelter in the hall. We debated what to do and what we would do if there was a siren when we were on the way but we decided to go and hope for the best. God saved us again and brought us safely to Beer Sheba. Shani’s boyfriend took us to Yuval’s house where I started to break down. One of the girls there let me shower again and gave me her clothes and said, “you’ve been through enough for one day”. I couldn’t even believe that i was there. I took a shower and freshened up again. It was so good to put on fresh clean clothes.


At the end of the day I arrived at my father’s house in Hadera, and have been here ever since. Until today, I already heard about four people who I knew that were murdered. Two women are still missing and I pray they come back safely. Each one of them has such a soul.


Death was at my doorstep and decided to leave. Death has met those who are close to me. We all know someone who is related to someone. I wish for myself and for my incredible people, to all of us, to see how we managed to hold everything together during more than a week into this chaos, alone with no leaders. Using our kindness, our willingness to give and to help. Thank you, the people of Israel. Thank you to the volunteers who saved my life.


Don’t let all the good that is now happening in our country end. Don’t let this solidarity end. Focus on that. Everyone just wants to live a peaceful life here. Let’s grow from this. We are not here for nothing. Spread love. Hopefully we will all be filled with happiness very soon.


Maya E.

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