Friends, family and supporters gathered on Wednesday at the Nahum Gutman Museum of Art in Tel Aviv to mark what would have been Shani Louk’s 23rd birthday with an exhibition of work that runs through Feb. 21.
On Oct. 7, Louk became a symbol of Hamas’s unfolding atrocities as terrorists paraded her lifeless body on a pickup truck through the streets of Gaza, with crowds cheering and spitting on her lifeless body.
“We wanted to keep Shani’s memory alive through her passion for dancing and tattoo art,” Nissim Louk, Shani’s father, told JNS.
Nissim last heard from his daughter when she attempted to escape the Supernova Music Festival by car alongside her boyfriend Orion Hernandez Radoux and friend Keshet.
All three were caught in a traffic jam. Shani and Keshet were both killed at the scene while Orion was kidnapped into Gaza, where he remains.
“At 11 a.m., a friend of Shani sent me the picture of a girl in a pickup truck surrounded by terrorists. I was able to identify my daughter through the tattoos on her leg,” Nissim recounted. “It was horrible. My 20-year-old boy could not stop crying when he recognized his sister.”
The Israel Defense Forces informed Nissim that she could still be alive and being held at the Indonesia Hospital in Gaza.
“We kept hoping. We looked for some light amid all the death and destruction,” said Nissim.
A WhatsApp conversation between nurses and doctors intercepted by Israel reinforced the possibility that Shani could indeed still be alive. A video showing a girl resembling Shani emerged shortly thereafter.
“At that point, we thought she could still return to us,” said Nissim.
Eventually, however, members of a special unit gathering blood samples and bone fragments from the area of the Supernova rave told Nissim that they had found a piece of Shani’s skull that she could not have survived without.
Nissim has since joined an organization called Aza LaOlam (Gaza to the World), whose purpose is to find countries willing to take in displaced Gazans.
“A friend of mine created this organization. We are growing, we have lawyers working with us in compliance with international laws,” Nissim explained.
“We are not looking to take people out and throw them on a boat. We want each person to have the financial ability to leave in the best way possible and build a better future elsewhere,” he continued.
“The war must continue until Gaza is completely destroyed. The next logical step is to find the residents a new place to live away from the enclave. There is no hope or future for them in the Strip,” added Nissim.
While initially Israelis rejected this notion, with time many are coming to view it as a legitimate option, he said.
“Children have no future in Gaza under Hamas oppression,” said Nissim. “It just makes a lot more sense for them to find another place to live, with better jobs, healthcare and education.”
Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized that Israel does not intend to occupy Gaza permanently nor to displace its civilian population.
“Israel is fighting Hamas terrorists, not the Palestinian population, and we are doing so in full compliance with international law,” he said in a video message.
“Our goal is to rid Gaza of Hamas terrorists and free our hostages,” he added. “Once this is achieved, Gaza can be demilitarized and de-radicalized, thereby creating a possibility for a better future for Israel and Palestinians alike.”
Over the past few months, Nissim has met with Israeli and U.N. officials. Last week, he flew to New York City, where he met former U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
“Robert Kennedy entered speaking of a two-state solution but after our three-and-a-half-hour talk, he accepted that voluntary migration might be a viable alternative,” said Nissim.
Nissim then traveled to Denver, where he toured universities and met with U.S. senators.
Shortly after Netanyahu’s statement on Israel’s intent with regard to Gaza’s civilian population, a leading Israeli lawmaker said that a proposal to encourage voluntary emigration of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip was no longer being considered due to opposition from the Biden administration.
The idea, which former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon of the ruling Likud Party and Knesset member Ram Ben Barak of the opposition Yesh Atid Party raised in a meeting with dozens of foreign diplomats at the Knesset, was not on the government agenda due to American pressure, Danon told JNS.
He spoke a day after visiting Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States unequivocally rejects any proposals advocating for the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza, and that Netanyahu reaffirmed that this is not the policy of the Israeli government.
“We were thrust into a war we did not seek,” Nissim told JNS. “We withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and one morning Hamas terrorists decided to breach our border to rape and slaughter our people. We will not forget it.”
Initially, Nissim kept a low profile over fear his background as an army officer and member of the security establishment could further endanger his daughter.
“Once Shani was declared dead, I decided to start speaking. If the people of Gaza stay, they will attack us again. They say that they will do so and I believe them. The only solution is for them to leave,” he said.
Regarding ongoing hostage negotiations, Nissim believes the government cannot afford to pay any more for the captives’ release.
“We are already risking the lives of our soldiers. We have a better chance to get them back and capture [Hamas chief Yahyah] Sinwar through military pressure,” he said.
Nissim insists that Oct. 7 was a tipping point that will lead to a new security reality.
“For thousands of years, the Jews were persecuted. Now, we are done running away. Israel will stand as a free and strong country ready to do whatever is necessary to defend its people,” he said.
“We must think of the future of our children and of our grandchildren. When our enemies see the Gazans relocating, they will think twice before attacking us again. This, alone, will bring peace to the Middle East,” said Nissim.