Survivors and the families of victims of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre converged on Jan. 5 at the site of the Supernova music festival to call for the release of hostages still being held in Gaza.
Located near Kibbutz Re’im some three miles from the Gaza border, the site of the rave has been transformed into a war memorial, replete with posters of the 364 revelers killed and the additional 40 kidnapped from the festival by Hamas.
“It’s hard being here, but I wanted to see what Romi saw last before she was kidnapped,” Yarden Gonen, whose sister Romi, 23, was abducted, told JNS. “I wanted to be in the place where she felt the happiest right before being the most terrified in her life.”
On Oct. 7, Hamas invaded the northwestern Negev, rampaging through villages and towns and killing some 1,200 people. Terrorists kidnapped around 240 others into Gaza, including Romi, who was shot in the arm during her abduction.
“Every second counts. At any moment, Hamas could decide to abuse them, physically, mentally or sexually. They can’t even resist as it could cost them their lives,” Yarden said.
In late November, 105 captives were freed as part of a weeklong ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Some of them confirmed that Romi was still alive, albeit in serious condition due to her wound.
“The week of the release was very hard. Every day, we expected to receive a phone call from the authorities telling us that Romi was on the list [of hostages to be exchanged for terrorists held by Israel],” Yarden explained.
“On Dec. 1, we woke up to find out that there wasn’t even a list because Hamas had breached the ceasefire and the war resumed,” she added.
The same day, Yarden attended the funeral of Ofir Tzarfati, 27, who had tried to escape together with Romi but was severely wounded and also kidnapped into Gaza. The IDF recovered Ofir’s body from the Strip.
Gal Gilboa-Dalal is a survivor of the Supernova festival whose brother Guy, 22, was taken hostage by Hamas.
“Civilians should never be used as currency in this war, and people need to understand that this could happen to anyone,” Gal told JNS at the event on Friday.
The two brothers attended the rave but fled separately when Hamas launched its terror assault. Gal headed to his car while Guy ran away with a group of friends. A few hours later, footage emerged of Guy being kidnapped into Gaza.
Friday’s event included speeches and a screening of video of some of the atrocities that took place at the music festival on Oct. 7.
Returning to the site for the first time was Itay Regev, 18, who was freed from Hamas captivity.
Itay was abducted together with his sister Maya, 21, and their friend Omer Shem Tov, 21. The Regev siblings were released on Nov. 29 while Omer remains in in Gaza with the remaining estimated 135 hostages, some of whom have been declared dead.
“I know what people went through here and what hostages in Gaza have been going through for 90-plus days,” Itay said. “I spent 54 days in Gaza and each one feels like it lasts forever. The conditions are extremely difficult to survive,” he continued.
“I was held with a very good friend of mine, Omer Shem Tov. I don’t know what is happening to him and I don’t know what will happen. Omer and all the other hostages must return immediately,” said Itay.
Omer last spoke to his parents at around 10 a.m. on Oct. 7. He had shared his cell phone-live location with his family, who noticed that the vehicle in which he had escaped was heading in the direction of Gaza.
Omer’s family tried to contact him, in vain. Later, the family identified him by his tattoos on a video posted to a Hamas Telegram channel.
“My brother suffers from severe asthma and celiac disease. From what Itay and Maya told us, he wakes up and can’t breathe,” Amit Shem Tov, Omer’s brother, told JNS at Friday’s gathering.
Their father was filmed last month during a meeting between families of the hostages and Red Cross representatives urging them to take Omer’s inhaler and deliver it to him.
“They give them bread and pita, even though he is allergic to gluten. He eats to survive but it gives him horrible pain. It’s hard to imagine,” Amit said.
As hostages mark nearly 100 days in captivity, family members traveled to Qatar on Friday to meet with Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani and the U.S. envoy in Doha.
Families were expected to push for the resumption of negotiations, which appear to be at a standstill.