newsOctober 7

‘Be the Witness’

VR project features five survivors of Oct. 7 Hamas massacre

"A window into a world that none of us should have ever had to look into.”

Police officer Remo Salman Alhuziyel drew up this map to show the location of the greenhouse where he dropped off dozens of survivors on Oct. 7. Credit: Remo Salman Alhuziyel.
Police officer Remo Salman Alhuziyel drew up this map to show the location of the greenhouse where he dropped off dozens of survivors on Oct. 7. Credit: Remo Salman Alhuziyel.

“It all started after I joined the fight on October 7 against Hamas terrorists invading the Israeli communities bordering the Gaza Strip,” says Nimrod Palmach, CEO of Israel-is, which partners with producer Stephen D. Smith in the virtual reality “Be the Witness” initiative.

Israel-is an NGO dedicated to improving Israel’s image.

Part of the “Survived to Tell” project, “Be the Witness” features the stories of five survivors of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre. 

Participants in the project wear VR goggles and relive the journey of one of five survivors, including Ofir Engel, who spent 54 days in Hamas captivity, and Mazal Tazazo, who was beaten and tied up by Hamas at the Supernova music festival on Oct. 7 as they shot and killed two of her friends.

“I was shocked by the inhuman barbarism of Hamas. Even though we were in 2023, it felt like 1943,” Palmach, 39, tells JNS. 

“During the inferno, I asked myself who would believe me. I realized that I had become an eyewitness to one of the worst atrocities perpetrated against humankind,” he adds. 

“I was driving towards Jerusalem on October 7 as a barrage of rockets targeted Israel. I had this gut feeling telling me I should head south and drove there, armed only with my pistol,” Palmach says. 

He and a friend, Kiril Shutko, engaged terrorists outside Kibbutz Alumim. When he ran out of ammunition, Palmach took up the weapon of a soldier who died fighting the invaders. 

“The team I fought with prevented 30 Hamas terrorists from entering Kibbutz Alumim. They sought to replicate the massacre in Kibbutz Be’eri,” Palmach says.

Hamas terrorists tortured and murdered more than 100 residents of Be’eri, including children and the elderly. They set homes on fire and gunned down residents hiding in safe rooms as they tried to escape.

Palmach filmed as terrorists shot at him. “I realized that this was a historical moment. I thought to myself, ‘I’m about to die. I might as well capture the moment and leave evidence behind,’”

A few weeks later, he realized he needed to document these stories using the latest technology. He connected with Smith and together they conceived the “Be the Witness” project.

Smith directed and produced all the VR footage. He also produced a section on the “Survived to Tell” site that uses Artificial Intelligence to allow visitors to ask survivors specific questions and get access to pre-recorded answers.

“As always I find the survivors provide a window into a world that none of us should have ever had to look into,” Smith, who has been filming survivors of genocides for more than 30 years and served as director of the USC Shoah Foundation—The Institute for Visual History and Education founded by Steven Spielberg, tells JNS. 

“My research into early testimonies of the Holocaust revealed that the earlier testimony is taken, the more likely that it can be evidential. It helps establish facts and make them part of the historical record,” Smith says. 

“As these five witnesses show, we are all just a moment away from the devastating consequences of hate and racial and religious hatred,” he adds.

Smith converted to Judaism three weeks before Oct. 7. “I am not afraid to be Jewish. Meeting these witnesses only reinforces how proud I am to be Jewish. As Jews, we need to stand by our values of humanity. That’s why we have survived 3,000 years. We will survive this too and be stronger,” he says.

The launch event for the project will be held in London on May 7 and be attended by Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom Tzipi Hotovely.

“‘Be The Witness’ is an incredibly powerful educational tool, which helps communicate the atrocities of Oct. 7,” Hotovely told JNS. 

“With antisemitism on the rise in the U.K. and around the world, I fully support the way in which the ‘Be The Witness’ VR initiative enables people to fully understand the agonizing trauma experienced by victims and survivors of Hamas’s terror attack, in the hope that it can assist in reducing anti-Jewish rhetoric,” she said.

Police officer Remo Salman Alhuziyel rescues attendees at the Supernova music festival massacre, Oct. 7, 2024. Courtesy of Remo Salman Alhuziyel.

“At the music festival, there were Jews, Muslims and Christians who came to enjoy themselves, but the terrorists didn’t care about religion, they only cared about killing and kidnapping,” Sgt. First Class Remo Salman Alhuziyel, a Bedouin police officer who fought the terrorists and saved dozens at Supernova, tells JNS. 

“Their first victim in the area of Kibbutz Re’im was a young Muslim Bedouin woman. She was dressed in a hijab. They shot her as her husband managed to escape with a little child,” he adds.

Alhuziyel arrived at the festival for what he thought would be a quiet shift at 6:22 a.m. on Oct. 7, eight minutes before the assault. He was not supposed to be on duty but agreed to fill in for a colleague. 

Alhuziyel and his comrades fiercely fought the terrorists, outnumbered and outgunned. “I usually only take two bullet magazines. That morning, I put my hand on my gun and I had a strange feeling. A feeling I never had before. I decided to take a third. I wish I had taken more,” he says. 

Forty-two policemen fought 350 terrorists at the music festival; 17 officers did not survive.

Policeman Remo Salman Alhuziyel and his comrades fought the terrorists here on Oct. 7. Photo by Remo Salman Alhuziyel.

When the battle began, Alhuziyel and another dozen officers engaged truckloads of terrorists. At one point, he heard a comrade ask for backup. “It was a hard decision. I had to either go try to help them and die, or focus on saving the civilians in my area instead.

The Supernova festival massacre
Sgt. First Class Remo Salman Alhuziyel, the car he used to save partygoers, and the car’s owner Nir Hadad, who escaped on foot. Photo: Courtesy of Remo Salman Alhuziyel.

“Suddenly, I noticed an abandoned car from a distance. A black Nissan. It was open. It felt like God was telling me to get in. The ignition was on, the fuel tank was full. I told survivors,” Alhuziyel says.

Alhuziyel spent the rest of the day driving east to a greenhouse in the direction of Moshav Patish and back, rescuing dozens of survivors.

“The world needs to know what happened that day, young people need to know. Through the VR goggles, they’ll be able to see it with their own eyes. Everyone will understand that Hamas is terrorism, and that they don’t represent Islam or the Koran,” Alhuziyel says.

“It is written in the Koran: ‘Do not kill.’ They did the opposite of that. As an investigator, I see bodies but what I saw on that day will stay with me forever,” he says.

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war.

JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you.

The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support?

Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Topics
Comments
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates