Arbel Ashkenazy had a memorable experience at the Supernova festival. The festival, which took place during the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot, blended Brazilian psy trance music with an atmosphere of free love, spirit, and environmental preservation. However, this vibrant event took a turn for the worse when Hamas militants infiltrated the festival. In the early hours of Saturday morning, chaos erupted as the militants began indiscriminate shooting, causing immense havoc and tragic loss of life.
The situation escalated rapidly as Hamas launched thousands of rockets from Gaza into Israel and deployed fighters to other southern border towns. Alarm and distress engulfed the partygoers as news about over 100 Israeli hostages taken by Hamas spread. The death toll, unfortunately, continued to rise, reaching devastating numbers on both sides. The Supernova festival, unfortunately, suffered a high concentration of casualties, with the recovery of more than 260 bodies so far.
Arbel Ashkenazy vividly recalls the intense moments when the party came to a halt. The music ceased, and the blaring sounds of sirens pierced the air. Rockets soared overhead as an unsettling reminder of the danger everyone faced. Despite the initial lack of stress, the atmosphere soon changed as people started leaving, defying the instructions to remain in place. Arbel began searching for her best friend, Eden, feeling an urgent need to ensure her safety.
With persistent determination, Arbel and her friend eventually found Eden and made a swift decision to leave the party. As they headed towards the cars around 7 a.m., anxiety started to creep in, but the full extent of the unfolding events remained unclear. As they joined the stream of departing vehicles, the volume of traffic reached unprecedented levels due to the large crowd of 3,000 attendees. Shockingly, they encountered cars with shattered windows, a haunting testimony to the shots fired during the attack.
Amidst the chaotic scene, cries for medical assistance added to the confusion, leaving Arbel and her companions uncertain about their next steps. Trapped in their vehicles, they hesitated until a cry reverberated through the air, urging everyone to get out of their cars. Faced with this urgent plea, they abandoned their vehicles and embarked on a desperate escape. The vast, open field nearby seemed like their best chance of eluding danger, despite the continuous sound of gunfire and the chilling echoes of the phrase ‘Allahu Akbar’.
Running through the barren landscape, Arbel and her fellow survivors caught glimpses of the menacing Hamas militants in all-black attire, concealed behind masks and armed with imposing firearms. Seeking refuge, they temporarily concealed themselves in bushes before resuming their journey eastward. However, their plight intensified when partygoers approaching from the opposite direction warned them of more terrorists. Feeling surrounded from every side, Arbel and her group changed course, guided by this invaluable information.
In the midst of this turmoil, a moment of hope appeared. Arbel spotted a savior in the form of a stranger with a white van. In an act bordering on the miraculous, the driver managed to gather frightened individuals into the van, including Arbel and her friend. Forging ahead, dodging bullets in the open field, they miraculously arrived at a police station in Netivot around 10:30 a.m. Though the situation remained far from ‘calm’, they found temporary respite at the station as evening approached.
News arrived that some of the perpetrators had been apprehended in their area, bringing a slight sense of relief for those who were fortunate to escape. Arbel learned of her friend Eden’s harrowing experience during the gunshots, as she remained on a phone call with her mother for four hours, the phone serving as a lifeline. Sadly, during that call, a voice from the Hamas captors interrupted, sending a chilling message before the line abruptly went dead. The search for Eden continued, but their efforts gave no leads so far.
Witnessing the aftermath of such senseless violence proved deeply distressing for Arbel. The sight of young bodies, her peers, strewn across the floor, soaked in blood, shattered her spirit. Within the chaotic environment, she counted herself fortunate to have survived by what she can only describe as a miracle. Her deepest desire is for her friends, including Eden, to return safely, to find peace once more. The unfathomable experience feels like a never-ending nightmare that needs closure. Such harrowing ordeals should be alien to any country or place, and Arbel hopes for an end to this incomprehensible tragedy. For her, survival serves as a constant reminder of the importance of life and the ardent wish for Eden’s safe return.