Nova Music Fest

by Tanya Kaim Aks

Warning: the article contains graphic descriptions of violence.

During our Hajshara (Shnat Tzafon 2023-2024) there was the 7/10 Hamas missile attack on all of Israel and a ground and air entry into the kibbutzim and villages around Gaza, as well as the Noval Festival that was taking place in that area and in which thousands of young people were participating. Unfortunately, as a consequence of the attack, a war broke out and immediately changed our lives and our way through Shnat. On March 27th we had a visit to what was the Nova Festival, and some affected places during October 7th. The whole experience was a mixture of inexplicable feelings and resilience-filled learnings that I share in the following article.

Arriving first in Sderot, we had a clear view of the Gaza Strip, which was only ten kilometers away from us. In the distance we could see columns of smoke, smoke that was the product of a war that started on October 7. That war is still being fought today, and unfortunately the consequences are still being experienced. Sderot is a city that was evacuated because of the war. We did not succeed in seeing more than ten people in the whole city. Even though it is a beautiful city, Sderot is in great danger, having only fifteen seconds to find shelter if something happens. That is why the city is covered with shelters on every corner, from bus stops to playgrounds.

Then we had a stop at a police station that was completely demolished by the war. On the morning of October 7, terrorists began the attack on the facility, infiltrating inside the station and attacking from inside and outside at the same time. This attack lasted approximately 20 hours, and took with it the lives of 35 policemen who were trying to defend it. Finally it was concluded that the only way to end the battle was to collapse the building, while the terrorists were still inside. At first they tried to demolish it with bulldozers, causing the station to catch fire, then they destroyed it with shells, finally bringing it down completely. Today the building is covered with banners and significant murals, showing what happened and commemorating it.

Half an hour later, we were at the car cemetery in Tkuma. During the Nova massacre, many tried to escape in cars, not knowing that there were terrorists waiting for them in the streets. In Tkuma there are 1600 vehicles including ambulances. Of all of them approximately 300 were set on fire, still with people inside. It was a shock to see all the cars on top of each other, as it put the number of victims of the massacre in scale. One thing I found curious was the silence of the place. It was an eternal reminder of the tragedy, and a pain that crept by, accompanied by a cruel reality that resides in the air. It felt like a promise of respect that we were all subjected to honor, along with an obligation to remember and move on.

Finally, we arrived at the site of the Nova Festival. Today it is only an open field, but deep down it is a place of tragedy and sadness for the whole Israeli society and the Diaspora. It is a place that shows us the importance of the State of Israel and the hatred that still exists towards the Jewish people. In the middle of it all, there is an exhibition, a commemoration of the 364 murdered youths and the 40 kidnapped by Hamas. Each of them surrounded by flowers, candles and Israeli flags. Some with the yellow ribbon and others with items meaningful to them, be it a flag of their home country, a scarf of their favorite team, some piece of clothing or piece of jewelry they left behind, and messages with photos of their loved ones. The moment we arrived at Nova, there was a drastic change. The silence I was talking about before was abruptly and unexpectedly broken. Loud explosions sounded in the distance, coming from the Gaza strip, reminding us with each explosion that the war continues, and will continue until the hostages are returned to their homes. The explosions turned my stomach and made my heart stop for a second. Of course they scared me, I had never in my life thought of hearing them; how the floor trembles every time they fall, the silence that follows, the knowledge of the damage that each one of them carries. However, they also represented the cruel reality and unexpectedness of the attack, each explosion sending a shiver down my spine, and a warning signal to my head. The whole scenario was difficult, a mixture of sadness, anger, anguish and fright that I did not expect.

Since October 7th, we have not been able to live in the same way as before, whether in the diaspora, or in Israel. It was something that caught us off guard and showed us the true colors of the people around us, maybe also of the universities where we want to study, changed the way we celebrate our favorite holidays, or even affected our relationships with friends or family. We were shown what hatred can be at extreme levels, how irritating ignorance can be, and how turned around social networks can be. We were singled out and instantly accused.

Today we have to walk in our respective countries knowing that within us there is a double-edged controversy, knowing what we lived, and knowing what the rest thinks happened. However, today is the day that we take on responsibilities bigger than ourselves, today is the day that we become witnesses of our people and of a historical event. We are the future of our tnuot and we are the voice of our communities. That is why I am here, to use my voice for those who cannot and to encourage you to use yours. It is extremely important for the world to know that we will not go anywhere without our brothers and sisters returning home safely. We will not surrender our Zionism out of fear, and we will not turn our backs on our Judaism or on Israel. Thank G-d we are still here, and here we will remain. Let the world hear us when we shout “WE WILL DANCE AGAIN”.

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