Neta David set out for the widely publicized Supernova music festival On Oct. 6, never dreaming that the weekend rave would transform into part of a massacre that would claim the lives of 1,400 people in Israel—including her two best friends.
She is one of hundreds of soldiers and thousands of civilians who escaped the Oct. 7 massacre by the skin of their teeth. Although she courageously returned the very next day to her duties commanding a unit in the Border Police, the 21-year-old’s story doesn’t end there.
Shock and grief are just setting in, and it will take her a long time to process what occurred and rehabilitate emotionally.
Yet she knows that her situation is infinitely better than others.
The first rockets were fired just before dawn, arcing through the sky over thousands of revelers who had been dancing through the night at the trance music festival. Many party-goers didn’t even hear them because of the thumping music, but at some point, there was an announcement of a red alert. David and her friends, Raz Mizrahi and Kim Dukarker, ran off to a bomb shelter, unaware that terrorists had infiltrated the grounds.
Mizrahi, who had previously been injured in a 2021 Palestinian car-ramming attack, refused to leave the shelter, but David, who suffers from claustrophobia, went outside for fresh air, where she eventually begged a ride from a passing vehicle.
“Suddenly, I looked behind us, and less than 150 meters away was a van filled with Hamas terrorists who sprayed us with bullets,” David recalled.
“The windows exploded. Glass rained down on me, and Sharon, the driver, took a bullet in the arm. He could barely drive, but I screamed at him to floor the accelerator. The car was destroyed, but he drove like a madman away from the barrage of gunfire until the car spluttered and died. We all dived out of the car and sprinted in a zigzag, fleeing a hailstorm of bullets until we found cover,” she said.
“Sharon was bleeding profusely from his arm, and Roi, who was also in the car with us, was injured in his leg and head. I broke branches from the tree and ripped off Sharon’s shirt to create a tourniquet and stop the blood,” she added.
“All along, we were desperately sending our location to anyone who could help, but emergency responders kept replying that they couldn’t reach us due to the heavy fighting. Several times, we heard the terrorists approaching, shouting in Arabic, searching for gun fodder. I recited ‘Shema Yisrael,’ sure that my life was over.”
At some point, David spied four Israeli Border Police officers, and she joined them, grabbing a gun from one of them and covering them while they spirited close to a dozen Israelis to safety.
Several hours later, she learned that terrorists tossed two grenades into the bomb shelter she’d fled, killing Mizrahi and Dukarker, as well as 40 others huddled inside.
At least 260 people were killed at the music festival. The terrorists took others captive back to Gaza as hostages.
Supporting injured soldiers
Reaching out to support David and hundreds of soldiers injured in the Hamas attacks on southern Israel is Belev Echad (“One Heart”). The New York-based nonprofit is dedicated to supporting members of the Israel Defense Forces who are wounded in action, providing respite, rehabilitation and emotional support to soldiers grappling with the psychological aftermath of warfare and trauma, and easing their transition back into mainstream society. It also sponsors trips to North America while they are in the process of recovering.
“We meet wounded soldiers in the hospital, visit them and offer them physical, emotional and financial support,” said Chabad Rabbi Uriel Vigler, who co-founded Belev Echad with his wife, Shevy.
“Now, with the war, we’re working on many fronts simultaneously, both in Israel and the United States, fundraising, sending care packages to soldiers and reservists, and sponsoring therapies.”
Due to immense hospital overflow in Israel, Belev Echad House in Kiryat Ono, where the organization’s regular programs take place, has been converted into a rehabilitation center for wounded soldiers,” he said.
In a tragic twist of fate, Raz Mizrahi was one of Belev Echad’s success stories. She had been seriously injured in a Palestinian car-ramming attack in eastern Jerusalem in May 2021 while serving as a soldier during the IDF’s “Operation Guardian of the Walls.” That was followed by months of rehabilitation, and Belev Echad was with Mizrahi every step of the way. She eventually became the organization’s operations and well-being coordinator.
“There are so many soldiers who were exposed to the worst imaginable sights in the Gaza border communities, gruesome scenes of death and destruction, and they need intensive emotional support to overcome the trauma. Many others need help dealing with the grief and loss of loved ones—parents, siblings and close friends,” said Sharon Shtrachman, Belev Echad’s program director in Israel.
Said David: “Raz and Kim are in a better place now. But I have friends who were seriously wounded. Two are in critical condition. One lost an eye, another a leg—and that’s what the medical world terms ‘lightly wounded.’ Life will never be the same again for any of us.”