I’m sitting in my apartment in Tel Aviv and trying to think of what to write, whether to write at all, and I’m not exactly sure what to do.
This is the first time since the atrocity that I am alone, surrounded by neither family nor friends. The last few days have been harrowing, acknowledging, on the one hand, how fragile and temporary life is and, on the other, how much love and support surrounds me. Something for which I am deeply grateful for.
I have decided to share my story with the world.
The story begins on a Friday evening. My family and I are celebrating my father’s birthday in a restaurant in Netanya. Ironically, my dad was born during the Yom Kippur War outbreak. After the gathering, I picked up my friends, Ron from Tel Aviv, and Yuval from Rehovot. We drove to the party we had been eagerly anticipating for so long.
The roads were calm and pleasant. I was driving my 2009 Nissan Tiida, a gift that had become the official festival vehicle of our group. We drove to the location provided in a text message by the party organizers.
It’s worth mentioning that knowing the location in advance, rather than revealing it on the day of the event, reduces the excitement. The party is at the Gaza border region. I remember being in the same area for another nature party, ‘Moksha,’ about two years ago. I felt confident returning there.
Yuval and I had been looking forward to this party for a long time. Yuval was working on an election campaign, and I was eager to celebrate after a long break from parties.
During the trip, I learned from Ron that he had purchased a ticket from someone through messages, transferred money via the ‘Bit’ app, and received the barcode. In the days leading up to the party, all the posts stated explicitly that ticket transfers were not allowed, and those with tickets not matching their ID card would be denied entry. We didn’t think much of it, and when we arrived at the event, I was quite anxious about the ticket check, but Ron got in without a problem.
Upon entering the party, we still didn’t know what to expect, given it was a large party, and we usually attended smaller, more intimate events. It felt strange arriving there. The main stage had a significant delay, so we decided to head to the secondary stage, where we got a taste of the party’s atmosphere. I was impressed by the beautiful people, costumes, and the overall festive atmosphere.
At six o’clock in the morning, the sunrise marked the beginning of the actual party. Suddenly, there were noises and explosions, and within seconds, the organizers announced the party’s cancellation and turned off the music. Yuval and I took cover near my friend Ofek’s booth. He had been helping us since our arrival, as we were unorganized and lacking equipment. After several missiles were fired in our direction, we realized it was safer to move away. We decided to collect a few belongings and search for a protected place to stay.
The emergency exits of the complex opened, and people started leaving in a panic. We were about to look for our vehicle, and those moments of innocence would forever be engraved in my memory.
While running, I tried to call the police, and finally they answered. All I could do was scream, “Terrorists are shooting at us!”
As we got into the car, we drove on a dirt road with many other vehicles. I hoped the people nearby would drive carefully and stay safe at the exit.
Road 232 is a memory that I will never forget. The exits from the party led to the same road, with a right turn leading south and a left turn leading north. The police officers, for some reason, directed us to go right, although we needed to drive north to return home. We didn’t question them; we followed their instructions.
We headed south, with Yuval next to me and Ron behind him. The bombings continued. I shouted to my friends in the car to call the police for instructions or guidance, but there was no response.
After about ten minutes of driving, we noticed a few cars on the road and decided to turn back. We started driving north and suddenly saw a white police car with a police number plate. It slowed down and signaled for us to stop. We rolled down the window, and the officer shouted, “Terrorists!”
The rush of adrenaline was unimaginable. I felt real danger for the first time in my life. A second after the officer’s scream, we saw them on the horizon, a black-clad group that seemed to signal, ‘We are the enemy.’
We turned around, and despite my inner turmoil, I tried to maintain a brave face for my friends. We sped south again as fast as possible in my trustworthy 2009 Nissan Tiida. After a minute or two, or so, I’m not sure, I spotted something on the other side of the road on the horizon. It was black once more. I couldn’t get a proper look, and then chaos erupted.
Gunfire and explosions rattled the car, with the windshield shattered. Yuval and I ducked our heads, and I heard Ron calmly say from behind me, “Bro, they shot me; I’m dead.”
I contemplated running them over for a moment, but the vehicle lost speed rapidly. The gas pedal didn’t work, and the brakes failed. At that moment, I felt like I was facing death, like in a computer game where you make a wrong turn and then start over with a retry option.
In addition to accepting death, I felt it didn’t make sense; my story couldn’t end this way; I had other plans. I don’t know what came over me, but I shifted into ‘park,’ lifted the handbrake, and the car slid to the right. I unbuckled my seatbelt, grabbed the cell phone from the aux connection, and opened the door. I’ll never forget that run, driven by instinct, expecting a bullet to finish me off.
I ran, and Yuval followed, and I screamed at the top of my lungs, calling for Yuval. Suddenly, Yuval was no longer running behind me. Yuval was dead, and so was Ron.
While running, I tried to call the police, and finally they answered. All I could do was scream, “Terrorists are shooting at us. I’m at a party in the south, and I don’t know where I am”. I saw some people, Thai workers in the fields. I attempted to explain what had happened, but I quickly gave up.
I continued running until I reached Moshav Yesha. I saw residential houses and started screaming for help. I knocked on the door, an elderly woman answered, and I began shouting about armed terrorists. She slammed her door shut, and I moved to the next house, where they kindly let me inside.
The moment I stepped inside, I called my mother. She thought I was calling to inquire about bombings in Rehovot, but my words were, “Mom, terrorists shot at us; Yuval and Ron are dead.”’ I joined my friend’s WhatsApp group and saw that Yuval had sent a message just moments ago. I thanked God and learned he was safe, only 100 meters away from me.
The following hours were a mixture of panic, uncertainty, and surrealism. There were no updates from the army or the police, and the father in the house who took me in kept reading the moshav’s WhatsApp group. After spending 27 hours in Moshav Yesha, the place where Yuval and I were reborn, a car came to rescue us. It was Yuval’s uncle, who met us and drove us back home.
The last few days have been some of the most challenging in my life. The hugs we’ve received and the unceasing love we’ve been shown keep us going. Life has officially started again. It’s been a real shock to the system.
I want to convey to everyone that adversity is a part of all our lives. Everyone has been affected here. We’ve endured a devastating loss, but our victory is indisputable. We will only overcome these days by sticking together.
Ron, my dear friend, even though we initially connected through our jobs, our bond was exceptional. We both embraced our emotions and had dreams of the future. I remember how we planned to ‘Party Hard’ in Tel Aviv as bachelors, even though, in the end, I always convinced you to choose a more relaxed gathering in your apartment rather than heading to the ‘Drama’ club (I’m sorry, I could never quite handle the party scene there).
I will always cherish your memory and last words, perfectly matching your calm and rational character. I promise that you will forever remain in my heart, and it feels like you still sometimes respond to me.
Yuval, my hero and anchor, the person with whom I will forever share this experience. We made it. But this is just the beginning. We are bound together indefinitely, and nothing can be done about it. We are strong, and we will conquer this together.
Life continues, and it’s both the happiest and saddest thing simultaneously. Nothing happens without a reason, and we already have found a new meaning in this new life. Our victory lies in unity, and the nation of Israel will persist and thrive.