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A young Israeli woman, Noa, who was also at the music festival, was kidnapped and taken into Gaza. (via X)

I Was at a Music Festival When the Terror Began

We hid in a grove of banana plants and made a t-shirt tourniquet for a friend who was shot by terrorists.

My friends and I love trance music, so when we heard about a 16-hour party in the desert, with DJs coming in from abroad, we bought tickets and drove down from the northern part of Israel. We arrived on Friday night at around 11 p.m. and set up camp.

The event was held a few miles from the Gaza border, but there was no announcement from the army that the area was under threat, or anything like that. The event was amazing. We stayed up all night, and around 6:30 a.m. we were still on the dance floor. DJ NoFace was playing his set when we heard rockets above us—it almost seemed like fireworks—and the words Tzeva Adom, or Code Red, over and over. 

Arad and his friend, who was later shot by terrorists while fleeing the festival. (Courtesy of the author)

I realized what was happening, that we were in the worst possible place—in a crowd of people in the middle of a flat expanse—and that we needed to get out of there immediately.

My friends and I packed into our car and drove as fast as we could. We saw rockets falling from the sky all around us. We tried to make jokes and keep it calm among us. My commander—I’m 20, so I’m in the army, in an intelligence unit—texted to ask if I was okay, and I texted back, joking, “Yeah. I’m fine, I’m in Gaza.” 

Two minutes later, we were on the highway. This part happened so quickly that it’s hard for me to remember every detail. Three terrorists surrounded our car and started shooting. We all ducked immediately, and all I could hear was ringing. Bullets had torn up the side of my car, which my friend was still driving. 

One of my friends was shot in his thigh, but we kept moving. Soon, maybe a minute later, we saw someone in a uniform ahead. He looked like a security guard. Next to him was a white car with a machine gun attached to it. The next thing I knew, he was pointing the gun at us and shooting. Again, we all ducked. 

At this point our car started to die, so my friend drove it to the side of the road and we ditched it. We walked into the bushes that surrounded us, and quickly met an off-duty police officer who was also hiding. Ten minutes later, we saw someone walking by. He was dressed in an army uniform, but something seemed off. It could be that he stole the uniform, or maybe he really was an Israeli. But we weren’t sure. 

We stayed quiet. I was so scared. We all were. 

When that guy passed us, we ran deeper into the bushes, away from the highway. Soon we were among some banana plants, and went as deeply into the grove as we could. We kept hearing gunshots and booming sounds above us. Someone took off his t-shirt and made a tourniquet for my friend’s leg. We covered ourselves in leaves, and for two and a half hours, we hid. That friend, the one who was shot, is a hero. He stayed perfectly quiet like the rest of us.

Eventually, the off-duty police officer’s friend showed up in a car. We piled in, and he drove us to safety. We were driving in Otef Aza, or the Gaza envelope, the area inside Israel that is within the range of Gaza rockets. Eventually we arrived at an army post, and soldiers there told us we were safe and could go home. My friend who was shot was taken to the hospital. Another friend’s dad came to pick us up. We drove as fast as we could as we headed back north. All around me, I saw fires from the bombings. 

I heard that two minutes after we left the festival, there was a traffic jam because everyone was trying to get out. I heard that the terrorists showed up and started killing people in their cars. I heard of people who sprinted away from their cars while terrorists shot at them. I have friends who were there who still haven’t been found. I don’t know where they are.

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