newsOctober 7

Surviving terror

Dor Kapah’s harrowing escape from Hamas massacre

Kapah is among a group of Nova music festival survivors who embarked on a "Survived to Tell" tour in the United States.

Dor Kapah gives a massage to a music festival participant. Photo by Inor Kagno.
Dor Kapah gives a massage to a music festival participant. Photo by Inor Kagno.

Dor Kapah, 30, stood before a group of students at the University of Florida, recounting a harrowing tale that seemed straight out of a war movie. But it wasn’t fiction; it was a gripping account of his escape from Hamas terrorists, relentlessly pursuing him no matter where he fled.

His narrative unfolded with descriptions of shooting, bombing and the kidnapping and murder of his friends. The students listened in stunned silence as Kapah detailed the events of Oct. 7, a day etched in his memory and scarred with terrorism.

It’s one thing to hear about the targeting of 3,000 partygoers at the Supernova music festival by Hamas terrorists, it’s an entirely different experience to hear it firsthand from a survivor.

Kapah is among a group of Supernova survivors who embarked on a “Survived to Tell” tour in the United States—an initiative spearheaded by Israel, in collaboration with the Seed the Dream Foundation. The campaign, in partnership with the Building Israel Connections Engagement Project, toured seven states and a dozen college campuses from March 28 to April 19. It’s especially important to bring the voices of victims to U.S. campuses because of the rise in antisemitism. 

According to Anti-Defamation League CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt, since Oct. 7 “the ADL has documented over 5,500 antisemitic incidents—a staggering 331% increase compared to the previous year. College and university campuses recorded 746 antisemitic incidents during this period, reflecting a remarkable 757% surge from less than 100 incidents reported one year prior.”

Kapah, a massage therapist, had worked at numerous Nova music festivals, but this one changed his life forever.

“I arrived at the party on Oct. 6 at around 8:30 to 9 p.m. I was there with my friend Gilad Karplus, also a masseuse,” Kapah told the Jewish Journal.

“The next day at 6:26 a.m., as we were massaging two partygoers, we noticed rockets above us. I immediately knew this wasn’t an ordinary attack due to the sheer volume of rockets. My first instinct was to pack up all our equipment and [load it into] my jeep. We were waiting with other vendors, including Moran Stela Yanai, who was kidnapped and released back to Israel after 58 days.”

Gilad Karplus in IDF uniform a few weeks after the Supernova music festival. Credit: Courtesy of Dor Kapah.

At first, many attendees were uncertain what to do. Unaware of the invasion by thousands of Hamas terrorists, they assumed staying put until the rockets ceased and the IDF intervened would suffice. But this time, it didn’t. Kapah vividly recalled receiving phone calls alerting him to friends being shot.

“I knew this wasn’t an ordinary attack, and we needed to flee,” he said. “Indeed, at 8:13 a.m., the terrorists arrived at the festival area and opened fire. We heard the gunfire in the distance and initially thought it was Israeli cops engaging the terrorists.”

With his equipment stowed in the jeep, Kapah and his girlfriend, Liel, along with Karplus, embarked on a frantic escape, unsure of their destination but determined to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the terrorists. However, their efforts seemed futile as Hamas terrorists appeared to surround them at every turn. 

“I attempted to head towards the exit but encountered a traffic jam as people tried to escape,” he said. “Suddenly, 50-100 terrorists on foot approached, firing shots. I made a U-turn and opted for an alternate route.”

On the way out of the festival grounds, Kapah picked up two more friends, Ohad and Alex Lubnov, whom Karplus knew from his hometown in Ashkelon.

Drawing on his instincts and training from his service in an elite IDF unit, Kapah steered away from the festival grounds. “We drove until we reached a secluded area outside Kibbutz Be’eri.”

Stopping by a water tower, unaware of the presence of hundreds of terrorists at the kibbutz, the group momentarily paused. Alex stepped out of the vehicle to speak by phone with his frantic, pregnant wife, while Ohad went to relieve himself. Within seconds, Kapah discerned the ominous chant of “Allah hu Akbar” and swiftly accelerated. “Alex and Ohad ran to a nearby grove. I attempted to contact Alex, but he informed me of a motorcyclist hunting for them before abruptly disconnecting.”

Later on, Kapah found out that Alex had been captured by Hamas and taken to Gaza, where he is still being held. Meanwhile, his wife gave birth to their second son. Ohad narrowly evaded capture, managing to flee.

‘The terrorist looked me right in the eyes’

The remaining trio relentlessly sought an exit route, only to find themselves besieged by terrorists at every turn. “Moments before reaching an intersection, we saw three Hamas motorcycles. I urgently signaled to my friends to lower their heads,” Kapah recounted. 

“One of the terrorists was looking me right in the eyes holding a Kalashnikov rifle. He was about five feet away from me. I motioned to him with my head that all is good and he motioned back.”

For a second, Kapah thought he was going to get away. It was clear that the Hamas terrorist thought he was one of them. However, he realized his mistake when he noticed Liel’s head peeking up, and the terrorist aimed his weapon towards Kapah.

“I hit his motorcycle on the side as he was chasing us, but then another motorcycle came from my left,” he said. “I hit him too, and then [I hit] another motorcycle.” The friends started reciting the “Shema,” praying to God that this nightmare would end soon. Death never seemed so close.

Kapah said that during their escape, they witnessed the tragic aftermath of the Hamas attack—burned cars, bullet-riddled vehicles and the lifeless bodies of young Israelis strewn along the way.

During their frantic attempt to flee, a bullet grazed Karplus’s head. Two weeks after receiving medical treatment, he joined his unit and fought Hamas for three months.

As Kapah recounted his story, he kept his composure. Only after he was finished and began to talk about the friends who died did he start to sob.

“[I lost 50 friends], and 10 of them were very close friends,” he said. “That first week, I had to go to funerals daily and then to the shivah.

“Sometimes, I couldn’t go because the funerals were at the same time and sometimes it was just too much to handle,” he said, choking back tears.

Six months later, he still can’t go back to work.

“[Hamas] didn’t take away my love for music, but they took away my work and my trust in humans,” he said. “I can’t trust people and I can’t work anymore. It helps me to tell my story, I feel it’s my mission and duty, so people will know and will never forget what happened.”

Originally published by Jewish Journal.

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