Omer Wenkert went to the Tribe of Nova music festival near Kibbutz Reim for a night of music and dancing under the stars with his childhood friend Kim Damti.
The joy of the night was broken in the early morning as festival goers noticed rockets in the sky.
The 22-year-old restaurant manager from Gedera spoke to his family on Saturday morning, telling them that there were so many rockets that he and other festival goers were lying on the ground to protect themselves. After a while, he updated them that he had found a shelter and everything was fine.
Except it wasn’t.
He soon messaged his mother that there was gunfire. A few minutes later, he sent his final, heartbreaking message that simply said, “Mom, I’m terrified.”
Later on that terrible day, footage emerged of Omer being beaten and assaulted by Hamas gunmen and transported in a white pickup truck to Gaza.
The video was widely shared on the organization’s Telegram channel and shows Omer tied up, being beaten, and lying in the back of the truck, staring into the camera. Omer’s friend Kim was among the more than 260 party goers murdered in cold blood.
Adding to the family’s grief is that Omer suffers from colitis (the inflammation of the inner lining of the colon) and desperately needs medication to keep the condition under control. Hamas denied a Red Cross appeal to hand over his medications.
But, even in these darkest days, the Wenkert family is doing everything they can to stay positive. “We believe with all our hearts that Omer will return home,” says his mother. “We are preparing the home for his return and praying for his safe return. I have a strong faith that my Omer is coming home. I pray every day; we know he is strong. We wait to embrace him; I already feel his embrace.”