newsOctober 7

‘We will dance again,’ assures New York exhibit on Nova music festival

“It’s OK for people here to continue their lives, but I think they, as human beings, don’t understand exactly what’s happened,” Sara’Le Lior, whose son was murdered, told JNS.

Israelis visit an exhibition of objects collected from the Nova party massacre in Tel Aviv on Dc. 28, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Israelis visit an exhibition of objects collected from the Nova party massacre in Tel Aviv on Dc. 28, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

An exhibit that captures an inescapable moment in time opened in Manhattan on Sunday, affording New Yorkers the chance to experience the darkness and the light of the Nova music festival in southern Israel.

Following a showing in Tel Aviv in December and January, the 35,000-square-foot multimedia Nova exhibit, “Oct. 7, 6:29 a.m., the Moment Music Stood Still,” consists of video displays from the GoPro devices that Hamas terrorists used to document their atrocities as well as artifacts of the massacre: parts of tents, sandals, blankets, cell phones and prayer books.

Visitors also walk among burnt-out cars and bullet-ridden portable restrooms, as well as the main stage of the festival and its dance area. Screens display video footage of attendees dancing and their frantic messages of despair after the attack began.

The exhibit attempts to recreate the scene of the Nova massacre, where Hamas terrorists paraglided into a festival of peace and music, turning it into a killing ground, murdering 364 people and taking others hostage, while committing acts of sexual violence and other barbarity. 

Tomer Meir, 21, who escaped the festival with 14 of his friends, was on hand at the exhibit press preview. Meir, who lives in Givatayim, east of Tel Aviv, told JNS that he has lost some 15 friends in the war after Oct. 7.

He told JNS that it’s important for Americans to truly comprehend what type of evil Israel is dealing with and that the world faces as well.

“I hope they will understand that it doesn’t matter who you are because they just want to kill everyone,” Meir said of Hamas. “If I’m a boy or a girl, a baby, if I just wanted a chance to dance with my friends—they just want to kill anyone.”

“I hope that people that came to the exhibit will get the idea that Hamas is the worst thing that we have in the world right now, and they will help Israel stop them,” Meir said.

Sara’Le Lior and her husband, parents of Matan Lior, the soundman of the festival whom Hamas terrorists murdered, also attended the press viewing of the exhibit. The younger Lior reportedly saved some 100 festival attendees through his quick thinking, giving evacuation orders over the sound system.

He also bravely guided attendees to escape routes or hiding routes on the sidelines of the festival—and did so at the cost of his own life.

“I really hope people will not be blind,” Sara’Le Lior told JNS. “It’s OK for people here to continue their lives, but I think they, as human beings, don’t understand exactly what’s happened—what’s really happened.”

Seeing is believing

Candle holders with Matan Lior’s likeness, and the lyrics of a song written in his honor, are incorporated into the exhibition, near the stage.

Despite the difficulty viewing the exhibit, Sara’Le Lior told JNS that one must see the treachery with one’s own eyes to fully grasp it.

“They butchered, murdered, they put special chemicals in the cars—you can see what’s happened,” she said, referring to charred vehicles in the exhibit. “You can imagine what happened with the people inside.”

“I want people to understand it can happen everywhere,” she said. “I expect it to open the eyes of the people.”

Survivors visiting the exhibit told JNS that they don’t want attendees to walk away shattered. They also want to emphasize the strength—and fragility—through which they and others are preserving, in a true community effort.

Hope

The exhibit is dimly lit, with trance music pulsating softly throughout. It opens with tribute areas for those murdered and those still being held hostage in Gaza. A healing center represents the survivors trying to piece their lives together with each other’s support.

The final portion is a brightly lit, open space, with shelves of Nova festival T-shirts, records and pictures of tattoos sketched in commemoration of Oct. 7.

“It’s hard for me to talk about it, but this space is giving me hope,” Meir, the 21-year-old survivor, told JNS.

“At the start of the exhibit, I was very angry to see the videos again,” he said. “But right now, when I’m standing here, I want to give this hope to the world. This is my voice, to spread your love and stop violence. You’re human. I’m human. This is what we are here for. This is what I hope for.”

A lavender-lit space with a long curtain has a neon sign, reading “We will dance again.”

That statement, survivors said, is a guiding principle, not just an empty slogan.

“I think we are sure to dance again. Even my murdered child, Matan, said to us a week before that we need to live our life, not our death,” Sara’Le Lior told JNS.

Music was so much a part of her son’s life, she said.

“We need to live, but we need to remember and to know what’s happened and why it’s happened,” she said. “But yes, we will continue to dance, and we continue to live because Israel and Jews survive forever.”

The exhibit, on view in Manhattan’s financial district, closes on May 25.

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