newsOctober 7

Supernova victim’s father saved many young people searching for his daughter

Shani Gabbay's body was found after 47 days.

Shani Gabbay and her brother Aviel. Credit: Courtesy of Aviel Gabbay.
Shani Gabbay and her brother Aviel. Credit: Courtesy of Aviel Gabbay.

“Somehow, I know that Shani attended the Supernova festival on October 7 for a reason. Had she not, a lot more people would have died,” Aviel Gabbay told JNS on Sunday.

Aviel’s sister, Shani Gabbay, was murdered by Hamas terrorists and later mistakenly buried along with another victim.

“My father [Yaakov] would not have driven three hours from Yokneam [in the Lower Galilee] to Kibbutz Re’im [near Gaza] to look for her and would not have saved many others in the process,” Aviel said. 

Shani was working at the music festival. When her shift ended at 5:30 a.m., she joined her friends Ben and Gali to enjoy the sunrise on the former’s birthday.

An hour later, Hamas launched its terror invasion, firing hundreds of rockets at the northwestern Negev. The three friends entered their car and started driving north, stopping at a bomb shelter near Kibbutz Alumim.

At 7:15 a.m., Hamas terrorists threw four grenades into the shelter. Both Ben and Gali lost their right legs, while Shani escaped unscathed. 

Certain that her friends had died, she ran out of the shelter to her car but was shot in the leg. She managed to drive back to the area of the festival to seek medical attention.

On her way, she saw a group of revelers and signaled them to drive east towards Moshav Patish, saving many from certain death.

“I spoke to her around 9 a.m., told her to relax, breathe, and that our father was on his way to her. He had almost reached Re’im. I asked her to be in contact with him,” Aviel told JNS.

“Shortly thereafter, police officers told everyone to ‘run and save yourselves,’ but my sister couldn’t run on her own. Four women—Noam Shalom, Karin Journo, Lior Atun and Moriah Or Swissa—helped her,” he added.

They hid inside an abandoned ambulance along with 15 other people. Hamas terrorists threw in grenades, shot at people hiding under the vehicle and then fired rocket-propelled grenades. Eighteen of the 20 people inside were killed; only two managed to escape.

Shani Gabbay (third from right) with her parents Yaakov (right) and Michal (second from right), and siblings Aviel (second from left) and Nitzan (third from left). Credit: Courtesy of Aviel Gabbay.

He rescued many young people

“My father arrived onsite at 9:30 a.m., unarmed and with the belief that he would find Shani. The place was on fire and full of terrorists,” Aviel recounted.

“Hamas fired RPG rockets at 9:25 a.m. My dad saw the burnt ambulance but did not immediately understand what had happened. Had he left a few minutes earlier, Shani might have come home,” he said.

Yaakov arrived at Re’im before the security forces to search for his daughter. He rescued many young people, driving them away from the area of the festival.

On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists murdered 364 people at the Supernova site.

Yaakov stayed in Re’im for five days, subsequently joined by Aviel, to examine bodies in hopes of identifying Shani.

She was considered a missing person for 47 days. Then a necklace was found containing her DNA and that of another woman. Israeli authorities opened the grave of the second victim and found two burnt bodies buried together as one.

On Nov. 23, the family was informed that Shani’s remains had been located.

“Shani turned 26 on Nov. 29. We ended our shiva on her birthday,” said Aviel.

He described her as “the coolest girl in the world.

“Shani had a unique laugh. When you heard it, you knew it was hers. She managed to achieve every goal she had set for herself. She graduated from college with a law degree. She loved to sing, surf and go to the beach,” he continued.

“She enjoyed and took advantage of every minute of her life. She traveled, went to dance at festivals and did everything she liked when she wanted to,” he added.

In memory of Shani, her family renovated a dog park in Yokneam and opened an association to protect the environment.

Israel marked its first post-Oct. 7 Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron) on Sunday, starting at sundown and extending into Monday.

“Yom Hazikaron is hard for us. We attended two ceremonies and lots of meetings to tell her story,” Aviel told JNS. “It’s not easy, but it’s important for me. I want to talk about her. I want everyone to know her and understand what the world has lost. My sister was a fighter.

“Hug your brothers and sisters. Cherish your family. Love them. Our world collapsed on a bright sunny day, and it can happen to anyone. Be good to your family and bring our hostages back now,” he said.

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