Gaya Halifa, 24: A ‘gentle, peaceful’ soul who loved music

todayNovember 5, 2023 2

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Gaya Halifa was a month shy of her 25th birthday when she was killed trying to escape the Hamas massacre at the Supernova music festival at Kibbutz Re’im on October 7, 2023.

Her father, Avi, was on the phone with her and believes he heard her last breaths when she and a group of friends came under gunfire as they attempted to flee the area in a vehicle.

The moment was captured on the car’s dashcam as terrorists opened fire at the vehicle, peppering the windshield with bullets. In the footage, the car slows and crashes into another vehicle on the side of the road.

“Then there were two deep breaths, as if she had no oxygen, as if she couldn’t breath, and then a deep, deep silence,” Avi Halifa recounted to the Kan public broadcaster.

Gaya had been in constant touch with her parents that devastating Saturday morning, reassuring them that she was ok when rockets and interceptions started flying overhead. Then she said, “Dad there are gunshots here,” Avi recalled.

Her family was not yet worried. Gaya had served as a combat medic in the Israel Defense Forces’ Duvdevan unit and didn’t lose her cool easily, they said.

She hid and updated her family. She even called her mom, Sigal, asking her to tell her brother, Ido, to stop calling her and to reassure him that she was ok.

But she was texting her dad, telling him that they were being fired upon and asking if the police had somehow given instructions on how to escape. “I didn’t know what to tell her, no one knew anything yet,” he said.

She and a few others, including her friend Romi Gonen, who is missing and presumed captive, stayed hidden and waited.

Gaya then contacted Ben Shimoni, another Supernova partygoer whose story of heroism circulated widely in the Hebrew-language media. Shimoni initially made it to safety, saving frantic strangers from terrorists at the music festival by loading them up in his car and driving away. He made multiple such trips, according to witness accounts.

Gaya’s father said that in her text conversation with Shimoni, she told him not to drive back to the party, that it was too dangerous. But he made it back and picked up Gaya, Romi, and a third passenger, Ofir Tzarfati, also presumed captive.

Gaya sent her dad a text saying, “Ben the hero came to get us, he’s driving around” trying to find a way out, and asked him to meet her in Ashdod.

When Avi and Sigal left for Ashdod, it was with a feeling of relief that Gaya had been saved and that she would be home soon.

He thought the next call from Gaya would be with a meet-up location. But the call was of sounds of terror and gunfire.

“Dad, they’re shooting at us!” he said she was yelling, adding that he didn’t have time to say hello and “it was over, in five or six seconds. You don’t realize that it’s the end.”

Her parents drove to all the hospitals, holding onto hope. Everyone knew but there was silence at home, no one dared say it out loud, the family said. Ido said he acted optimistic for his parents until authorities came to notify them that her body was found, days later.

Sigal insisted on identifying Gaya’s body, despite the family’s protests.

“She lay there as she was, gentle and peaceful, there was nothing on her face. I hugged her, I held onto every bit of her body I could. I told her that I was letting her go and that we will love her. And I think she heard me,” said her mom.

Friends and family members described a sweet, smiling, bright young woman. who has been set to start studying for an academic degree in economics.

“Gaya, our angel, cousin, and in general the most perfect, smiling, pure and kind-hearted woman,” wrote her cousin on Facebook. “You will be missed by so many people.”

At her family home in Kiryat Ono, Gaya’s bedroom remains as it was the night she left for the massive party. She loved music and had been excited to go to the festival.

Gaya’s belongings were returned to her parents and lay on the bed: a pair of grey sweatpants, a package of lollipops she bought for herself and her friends, and her cellphone.

The phone was found strewn on the ground in the vicinity of the shattered car.

Gaya’s parents were able to retrieve a short clip of her and Romi from the party, and a photo she took while hiding from Hamas terrorists. They were also able to see the text exchange with Shimoni, who insisted on coming back to get her and friends in what would be his last heroic attempted rescue.

His body was found five days after October 7.

After the funeral, Gaya’s whole family — Avi, Sigal, Ido, and her sister Noga — each got a tattoo identical to Gaya’s: of a gramophone with a heart built in so she could “stay close.”

Her parents added the date 7.10.2023.

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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